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Chapter 7: Kappa, My Kappa
Clio received Calliope's reply to her letter at breakfast several days later. She hadn't known about the Hogwarts letters, either, but urged Clio to not think too ill of their father.
Big V was still in power when I started school, and he'd only just been overthrown the year before you started.
She changed subjects abruptly to tell Clio that her two children were doing well, and that she thought they might be able to come visit Gran for Christmas. Calliope had always been the peacemaker. She ended with a post script:
P.S. Dad told me what you're doing for them. I wish I could help more, but you know how things are.
Clio sighed, and tucked the letter into her messenger bag. Her mind was still preoccupied with it when she ran into Remus in the main second-floor corridor. She noticed that he was looking slightly less scruffy these days. He looked at her curiously, and to stop him from asking whether she was all right, she asked him again about the grindylow.
"Well, I won't need it for a few weeks. We've still got red caps and kappas to get through," he said.
"Kappas!" she said, smiling. "I have actually caught kappas before."
"Really?" She had captured his full attention, now.
"Salem sits in swampland – the school board likes to call it a 'series of ponds' but it's really a swamp. Anyway, there's a Japanese botanical garden in Boston that a pair of Kappas 'escaped' from once. I have my suspicions that they were liberated by some particularly ambitious students, because they ended up on the school grounds. There're tons of them, now. We used to catch them and put them in the RAs' bathrooms. Oh, an RA is like a prefect."
He smiled, shaking his head. "How'd you catch them?"
"Cucumbers, of course."
He folded his arms across his chest, "I'm having a Kappa delivered this Saturday." He gazed toward a window for a moment, struggling with himself before turning toward her and asking, "Do you want to help wrangle it, if you're not too busy?"
"Sure," she said, without a moment's hesitation.
"Meet me in my office on Saturday at 10."
She was about to walk into her classroom, but stopped and asked, "Where are you going to keep it?"
He smiled, walking backwards down the corridor away from her, a mischievous spark in his eyes, "I'm still working on that. The prefects' bathroom on the fifth floor is an ideal size, but I don't think they would appreciate sharing it."
Later that day, Clio was stowing her first batch of essay assignments in her bag for later grading when Charity called from the doorway.
"Hey, what's up?" Clio said, dropping the grade ledger into her bag and slinging the strap over her shoulder.
"How are the runes holding up? Still keeping Peeves out?"
"So far, so good." Clio joined her friend just outside the door and closed it behind her, renewing the incantation that sealed the door as she did so.
"So, are we still on for Saturday night?" Charity asked.
"Of course. The only other thing I've got going on is kappa wrangling in the morning."
"Huh?" Charity wrinkled her nose.
"I'm helping Remus with a kappa for class."
"Remus, hmm?" Charity said with a sly smile.
"What are you suggesting with your Chesire Cat grin?"
"Just that maybe kappa-wrangling will turn into Lupin-wrangling, and you won't be interested in going out anymore."
"It's not like that," Clio said, hoping that her face didn't look as warm as it felt.
"Are you sure?" Charity teased.
"I'm not saying, 'let's go out and get laid,' I just thought it'd be nice to go out and have some fun."
"It would be nice. Let's go have some fun," Clio said, trying to sound convincing.
"You can always change your mind."
"Stop! We both know I'm just going for the music, anyway."
Charity laughed. "Just checking."
That Saturday morning, Clio dressed in her usual weekend wardrobe of worn-in jeans, Doctor Who t-shirt, and ratty sneakers before strapping her wand to her hip. The weather was growing cooler, so she threw an aging plaid flannel on top. Small holes were beginning to form on the shoulder and cuff of one sleeve. She'd tried repairing it several times, but it just unraveled again later, as if the fabric was determined to expire.
She met Remus in his office just before 10. He seemed startled that she had actually shown up.
"Ready?" she asked.
"Yes," he said, eyes flicking over her casually. "You could pass for a student."
She snorted. "Maybe a few years ago."
He looked at her curiously. "How old are you?"
"22, almost 23. How old are you?"
He grimaced, "33."
"That's not so old," she said, feeling slightly relieved that there was only a ten-year age gap between them.
"Some days I feel much older," he sighed softly.
"So where are we picking this thing up?" she asked, just to change the subject.
"At the front gates, but first we need to stop in the kitchens."
"Correct," he said, smiling.
They strolled through the kitchens, where the house elves were bustling about, already working on preparations for lunch. He grabbed two large handfuls of the vegetables from a cold bin, handing half of them to her. She stuffed them one by one into her shirt and jeans pockets, while he tucked them into the pockets of his robes, each cucumber disappearing so that their pockets seemed to remain empty.
"Is there a cucumber in my pants, or am I just happy to see you?" she said, as the last cucumber disappeared into her front jeans pocket.
He cocked an eyebrow at her.
"Yeah, that line made more sense when my friend, Bernie, would use it."
The delivery wagon was late, so they leaned against the front gates, chatting under the winged boars that guarded them. The dementors loomed in the distance, making it difficult to relax. Remus remained especially wary.
"They at least seem to be keeping their distance today, so far," he commented, handing her a piece of chocolate before biting into one himself.
"Our souls must not smell particularly appetizing," she replied.
He smiled very slightly at her joke, and she suddenly got the courage to ask about something that had been bothering her since the week before.
"So, what do you know about Lucius Malfoy?"
"That came out of the blue."
"Yeah, sorry for the non sequitur, I just happened to think of it now." She waited for him to answer for a moment, and when he didn't she repaeated, “So, what do you know?”
He shifted his feet uneasily. "Well, he comes from a very old pureblood wizarding family, he's on the Board of Governors, and he's not exactly friendly towards muggles, or to anyone who isn't 'pureblood' for that matter. Why do you ask?"
"Just something Snape said. So, is Malfoy a Death Eater?"
Remus looked even more uncomfortable now, and he lowered his voice as he answered, "He's never been convicted of anything, but some of us believe he was in Voldemort's inner circle."
"Some of us?"
"Sorry, long story, and one that I'm not at liberty to tell." His look and the the hushed tone of his voice told her he was serious. Her first impression had been correct, then, she thought. Here was someone who had witnessed the war against Voldemort first hand. She could only speculate about the depths that lay hidden beneath those raincloud eyes.
"How'd he stay out of Azkaban?"
"He claimed he'd been imperiused, like many of the Death Eaters did."
She nodded, contemplating his answers for a moment before asking her next potentially hairy question. "Is that how Snape stayed out?"
Remus waited a long time before answering, a muscle working in his jaw. "No, Dumbledore vouched for him personally. Claimed he'd switched sides, turned spy even before Voldemort's downfall."
"That explains a couple of things," she murmured.
"You seem very interested in Death Eaters," he said, tensely.
"I've been thinking about my grandfather a lot, lately," she said, kicking at a small stone on the ground. He didn't say anything in response, waiting for her to elaborate. After a moment, she did. "No one was ever charged with his murder, and neither my grandmother or father have ever been very forthcoming about that whole time."
"You think maybe Snape can tell you something?" he asked, clenching and unclenching his fists.
She shrugged, "I doubt it, but I don't really have any other leads."
He stared off into the trees for a moment, then asked, "When was your grandfather killed?"
"I was 4, so 18 years ago. Almost 19, now."
His tension eased visibly as he replied, "Snape would have only been 14 then. He wasn't a Death Eater yet, although he was heading in that direction."
She laughed ruefully. "At least I can rule him out. Not that he was ever a suspect."
"I'm afraid I can't tell you any more. You could try to ask him," he said with a grimace.
She laughed again, more naturally this time. "You're much easier to talk to."
He looked away, jaw twitching again. The cart had finally appeared a ways down the road, and was coming rapidly toward them.
"Okay, you might want to get a cucumber ready," he said, pulling one from his robes. She pulled out one of her own and began inscribing her name on it with a snap of her wand, watching him as he marked his.
"What's your middle name?" she asked, craning her neck to see.
"John. Same as my grandfather."
"My dad's name," she said, completing the "s" in Callimachus with a flourish. "My middle name also comes from my grandfather," she said, sighing and moving her thumb so that he could read it.
"I would have been Castor Ambrose if I were a boy," she said, making a face. "Ambrosia is also the name of this really gross muggle dessert made with whipped cream, marshmallows and coconut."
"That doesn't sound so bad."
"I can't stand marshmallows; they're too sweet."
"Your mother's a muggle?"
"Yeah," she sighed. "She was never particularly enamored with magic, either. I don't think she was expecting both her daughters to turn out to be witches. Sorry, I'm just rambling." She felt her face grow warm; she'd forgotten that she was complaining to someone whose own life must have been much worse than hers.
"That's all right," he said softly.
"No, really, whenever I start whining like this, just tell me to stop."
"Look, our kappa is here." He stepped forward to greet the driver and sign the delivery confirmation in return for taking possession of a hissing, thrashing crate. From the way he sped off, it was evident that the driver was very glad to be rid of it. The kappa inside threw its entire weight against first one side of the crate, than another. Boards cracked and nails squealed as they pulled loose from the wood.
"He must be hungry," Remus murmured.
"Ready?" she asked.
"Yes." He lifted the lid of the crate with one hand, wand held ready to stun the creature if necessary. One scaly arm shot out and got a hold of the lid before Clio could toss the cucumbers with their names on them inside. The kappa hissed and spat, trying to maintain its hold on the crate while twisting it's neck around to get the vegetables.
Clio caught a glimpse of its human-like eyes, and felt sympathy despite knowing that (after cucumbers) its favorite food was children. Remus threw his weight onto the lid, slowly forcing the kappa's arm back inside. Finally it withdrew, exchanging freedom for food. It grumbled as it munched through the cucumbers, but was docile and sat quietly in its crate as they floated it between them back up to the castle.
"Where do we go now?" Clio asked when they reached the stairs.
"I've prepared a little pool for it in the second floor girl's bathroom, since no one goes in there other than Moaning Myrtle."
"Smart. I think I'd rather share a bathroom with a Kappa than her." She'd made the mistake of going in there herself one day, since it was so close to her classroom. Myrtle's whining had convinced her that running down to the first floor was not so bad.
The gloomy ghost took one look at the kappa before zooming down into her u-bend with a wail. They released the monster into a 10 by 10 pool, complete with reeds for it to hide in and a big flat rock for it to lay on and sun itself during the day. They fed it a few more cucumbers, and then Clio marked a few runes on the door to keep it from escaping.
She would have liked to spend more time with Remus, and she was almost positive that he would have liked to spend more time with her, but she had had requests from a few students to open the photo lab on Saturdays, and so that's where she spent her entire afternoon.
That evening she cleaned up and made herself pretty to go with Charity to Hogsmeade, again. She couldn't wear the same outfit as last time, and so stepped out in a borrowed skirt and blouse along with her high-heeled boots. The live music that had been advertised turned out to be a male/female pair of singer-songwriters playing cello and lute. They weren't half bad, and Clio ended up talking music with them for a while between sets, while her "date" chatted up the buxom innkeeper. She even gave them a card for an up-and-coming luthier in the States who also happened to be one of her best friends.
"Henry's brilliant," she said. “He's been taking apart and rebuilding guitars since he was 8. He's looking to open his own shop and will accept trade in lieu of cash," she said as they polished off their beers and headed back on stage.
"So, what do you think?" Charity asked her when she returned to their table.
"They're pretty good. I really liked that last song," Clio answered.
"Not the band, Aidan."
Clio shrugged, "It doesn't really matter what I think."
"I think I'm going to tell him he can send me an owl."
"Will you actually respond to it?"
"Maybe." She checked her watch. "We should probably head back in, oh, an hour. Can you hold out that long?" she asked, tilting her head toward Aidan's friend, who was still flirting with Rosmerta.
"Yeah," Clio said, not realizing until then that it was after 11. "That's actually pretty early by my usual standards."
"Yes, well, things close up kind of early around here, unless you want to go to the Hog's Head. That place is pretty sketchy, though. Tt's better with a group. Or with Hagrid, he's like a group unto himself."
Clio ordered another drink and resigned herself to another hour of politely dull conversation (punctuated by her rather raucous clapping and hooting at the conclusion of each song) while Charity and her date engaged in foreplay. And then a funny thing happened. Clio chuckled at her friend, and the guy across from her chuckled at his friend, and their eyes met and rolled, and they bonded over the fact that they were stuck talking to each other. Then their conversation actually started getting interesting as they exchanged stories of bad dates and strange things that had happened to them in bars or out with friends. By the time they all left, he had graduated from the, "Good riddance," trash bin to the, "Maybe I'll see you around," junk drawer.
Charity, meanwhile, was suddenly acting very coolly toward the man who she'd been playing footsie with earlier, and Clio got the distinct impression that the offer to send an owl had been rescinded.
Charity scowled as they walked through the school grounds up to the castle.
"What happened?" Clio asked.
"Oh. What'd he say?"
"That Muggles and wizards shouldn't mix, that it's better for them to stay separate."
"Ahh. That's definitely a deal breaker. What was his reasoning?"
"Does it matter?"
Clio shrugged, "I could see how some people who saw a household like my parents might form that opinion. Not that I agree with it." She added hastily when Charity glared at her.
"How could you defend him? You wouldn't be here if your parents hadn't gotten together!"
"I know, I know! I'm not defending him, I'm just saying that ..." she sighed, knowing that no matter how she phrased her answer, Charity was not going to like it. "I don't have a problem with muggles and wizards marrying and having babies. It's a good thing, if we want there to continue to be wizards. I just have a hard time looking at my parents' relationship and saying 'that's a good thing.' They're the reason I don't go home too often."
"Well, there are plenty of crap pure-blood marriages, too."
"Is that why you couldn't see yourself getting serious with your muggle boyfriend?"
"That's part of it, I guess," Clio said. Charity didn't ask any further questions, but Clio could tell she was put out. "It's a personal preference thing. I just find wizards more attractive. Conjuring water out of thin air and producing a patronus are both sexy."
Charity's eyes narrowed, but she was also grinning again, "So you're attracted to power."
"What? I've never thought about it that way."
"Would you date a wizard who couldn't produce a patronus?"
Clio hesitated, giving herself away.
"No patronus, no nookie? You're tough."
"If I can produce a patronus..."
"Not everyone can. That's okay, though … more men for me. The right guy is the right guy, whether he's a muggle or a wizard–"
"Or a werewolf?"
Charity's eyes widened, "Oh, ouch, touché."
"So, do you like him?"
"I like him as a friend. I don't know if I like him, like him."
"But you wouldn't rule him out."
"He can cast a patronus, so, no," Clio laughed again.
They stopped back at Charity's room first, where Clio shimmied out of the clothes she'd borrowed and back into her own.
"Just be careful," Charity said to her, looking and sounding quite serious. "A guy like that has to be carrying an awful load of emotional baggage."
Clio nodded noncommittally, knowing that her friend was right, but not knowing for sure whether this bothered her or not. She hadn't come to Hogwarts looking for a husband. She hadn't been looking for love in Alexandria, either. She'd gone there intent on learning everything she could about her grandfather; from his youth spent swimming in the Aegean, to his schooling at The Mouseion, to the years he spent working at the Library before emigrating to England to work for the Ministry. When she left Alexandria she'd left a man behind, too. Of course, he'd turned out to be a jackass, so leaving him had been easy.
Clio was the fifth person to enter the staffroom for the mandatory meeting a couple of weeks later. She found Snape and Remus sitting at opposite corners of the room, staring each other down. Professor McGonagall sat in a stiff backed chair, tutting over the most recent issue of Transfiguration Today as she circled errors with her owl feather quill. Dumbledore sat by the fire, humming what sounded like a Weird Sisters tune.
"Hey," she said as she sat down near Remus. His eyes turned towards her, while Snape turned to glower out the window. "Who won the staring contest?"
"I'd say it ended in a stalemate," Remus said, propping his chin up on one hand. He looked paler than usual, and there were dark circles under his eyes. Clio was about to ask him if he'd been out late the night before when she remembered that the moon had been full.
Before she could think of something else to say, the other staff were filing in and taking seats around the room. Clio watched them pick seats with mild amusement, making guesses as to what criteria they used to pick their spots. Pomona chose a soft, short-legged chair to match her soft, short-legged body, Flitwick chose a tall-legged chair to put him more or less at eye level with the other staff. Aurora chose a chair close to the fire because she hated to be cold, while Professor Vector chose a chair far from the fire – maybe she didn't like to be too warm.
Dumbledore was still humming, and almost unconsciously Clio began singing along very quietly under her breath. She was still singing along a few moments later when she felt McGonagall's withering gaze and realized that she was also tapping out the drum line on the floor with one boot heel. She stopped singing and tapping immediately, face flushing hot.
"Ahh, Professor Callimachus I take it you are a Weird Sisters fan," Professor Dumbledore said warmly.
"They're all right," she said, her eyes sliding towards Snape, who had referred to them as "rubbish" just the other day. He met her gaze, and she wished for a moment that he would say it again, just so she could see Dumbledore's reaction. He said nothing, but she thought she saw that ghost of a smile, just a pull at the corners of his mouth, for an instant before he looked away.
Professor Trelawney was the last to enter, once again. Clio noticed her lips moving as she counted the people in the room before sitting down in the chair closest to the door. Clio turned to her right and exchanged an eye roll with Charity, then turned toward Remus on her left. He stared at the floor, head propped up on one arm.
"Everyone is here, so let's get this meeting underway," Dumbledore said. The first part of the meeting focused mainly on the dementors. There had been no more incidents like at the start of the term, but there had been many complaints from students as well as staff. Aside from the grey and gloomy weather, the specters dampened everyone's moods. Even the amount of wine and spirits being consumed by staff had risen. Professors McGonagall and Flitwick were the most outspoken about the deleterious effects of their presence.
"I don't know how the Ministry expects us to teach when the students are all depressed and half the teachers are three sheets to the wind," Professor McGonagall complained, looking sharply at Professor Trelawney. Charity snorted.
"That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is a good reminder to staff to reach for the chocolate before reaching for the liquor," Dumbledore said.
"Reach for the chocolate stout," Pomona stage-whispered, getting chuckles from three-quarters of the room.
"Excellent suggestion," said Dumbledore. "Now I believe Madam Hooch has something to say."
"Yes, with quidditch practices underway, I want everyone to be particularly mindful that there will be students heading back and forth from the pitch in the evenings. The dementors have stayed by the gates so far, but better safe than sorry. The first match of the season, Slytherin versus Gryffindor, is just a month away."
Clio's eyes shot to McGonagall and Snape, who nodded to each other like opponents that were about to duel.
"Ah yes, that should be quite a match, I hope to see everyone there," said Dumbledore. "Now Minerva, I believe you have a question."
"Yes," she said, looking suddenly very fierce. "Who is responsible for the kappa in the prefects' bathroom on the fifth floor?"
A burst of laughter shot from Clio's mouth before she could clamp her hands over it. Everyone's eyes were on her for a moment, except for Remus, who was suddenly sitting up and looking very alert.
"It's in the prefects' bathroom?" he asked.
"Yes, Percy Weasley discovered it there this morning," McGonagall said, lips pursed tight.
He sighed. "I think it's obvious who is responsible, then," he said.
"Fred and George," McGonagall moaned. "I might have guessed that myself."
"I apologize," said Remus. "I made the mistake of letting them feed it the other day. It was so content in the second floor bathroom I thought we could keep it there a while longer, but I guess we'll have to release it," he said, turning to Clio for the last part of his statement.
"That bathroom's actually been usable for the last couple of weeks, now that Moaning Myrtle has vacated it," Clio said. Charity and Pomona both nodded in agreement.
"Yes, she's been moaning in the pipes near my office for the last couple of weeks," said McGonagall, not amused. "Finding another home for it would be for the best."
Clio looked at Remus and smiled deviously. "I think I know of a great home for it, provided international shipping is allowed." She didn't notice Snape boring holes through them both with narrowed eyes.
Remus smiled wanly. "I like the way your mind works," he said.
They coaxed the kappa back into its crate that evening and floated it between them back to the front gate. They didn't talk much, listening instead to their feet swishing through the fallen leaves that coated the ground, and the kappa grunting to itself as it crunched through the dozen or so cucumbers that they'd packed with it.
"Can I ask you a personal question?" she asked, breaking a long stretch of relative quiet.
"You can ask anything you want. I can't guarantee whether I'll answer, though," he replied warily.
She paused for a moment, phrasing her question carefully. "Why is it that Snape hates you, if you don't hate him back?"
"Ahh, hmm..." he stalled, staring off into the distance. Clio waited patiently for him to answer, thinking that he knew and just wasn't sure what to tell her.
"It isn't for some stupid reason, like your condition, is it?" she asked, hoping that she wasn't going too far. He looked at her curiously. Clio stood frozen by his silvery gray eyes.
"No, not entirely at least," he said at last. "He never liked my friends James and Sirius when we were in school, and they didn't like him, either. I suppose I am guilty by association." He turned toward the road, watching for the delivery truck.
Clio turned his answer over in her head, filling in the last names that he hadn't supplied. "Oh. Wow, I had no idea."
"They also played a rather nasty prank on him once involving 'my condition' that he assumed I was in on."
"Why would they do that to you?" Clio asked. He fixed his curious gaze on her again, as if she might be an alien.
"Why did the Weasley twins move the kappa to their brother's bathroom? They were 15."
"I guess," she murmured. "So he's still pissed about it 20 years later? Someone's got issues."
"It's only been 18 years," he said with a wry smile. "I'm not that old."
It was at breakfast perhaps a week later that Clio received her first (and last ever) howler. The red envelope arrived in the beak of a tawny owl from the Hogsmeade post office. Students throughout the hall murmured and ducked as the owl swooped past, craning their necks to follow it's progress up to the staff table. Clio only turned her attention from her cereal once it became painfully obvious that the owl was heading straight for her.
"Ah, crap," she muttered, as the owl dropped the angrily pulsing envelope into her waiting hands.
"You might want to open that outside," Charity said. Without bothering to respond, Clio jumped up from the table and ran for the staff-only side door that led through a short corridor to the kitchens.
The letter burst out of it's envelope just as she reached the door and Jenn's voice shouted out, "YOU BITCH!" to the entire school before she could escape into the corridor beyond.
"Did you think it would be FUNNY to send a kappa to my office?" Then Jenn's warm laugh surged forth. "Yeah, it was pretty funny. It brought back a lot of memories, actually. Wyatt and I let it go in the swamp. It's probably not a bad idea to introduce some new genes to the pool. Here's some pictures we took. Hanna is getting so big! You have to come visit next summer. Man, I hope you get this in front of the entire school. See ya!"
Clio shook the pictures out of the envelope and walked back into the hall as nonchalantly as possible. Most people had returned their attentions to their plates, but she caught a disapproving glare from Professor McGonagall. She noticed Remus looking her way and trying not to smile, and walked up to him, nodding sheepishly at Professor Flitwick as she passed by.
"It was a joke," she said, handing him a picture of Jenn smiling with the kappa on the boardwalk that wound through the Salem swamp, and then another one of her husband nudging it into the water. "Here's where I lived," she said, pointing to one of a network of round wooden lodges on stilts in the background.
His eyes widened. "You weren't exaggerating," he said.
"Nope," she said.
"Are you still up for grindylow hunting?" he asked, still looking at the picture. "It's okay if you've changed your mind."
She smiled. "No, I mean, yes – of course I'm still up for it. When were you thinking?"
"Halloween? Most of the students will be in Hogsmeade for the day."
"Are you sure? You weren't planning on going were you?"
"Been there, done that," she said.
"The water won't be too cold?" he asked, brow furrowed.
"Not with the gillyweed. It uhh, I go a bit amphibious with it."
"Okay then," he said, shaking his head and smiling again at the pictures.