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Chapter 21: Talking With A Stranger
Talking with a Stranger
Remus Lupin sat quietly at his table, drinking a glass of Merlot wine and watching the guests as they danced and talked with one another. He also watched the happy couple and their friends as they cavorted across the floor with some amusement. He knew how to dance, but was never asked, since he was a werewolf and nobody danced with slavering beasts, or ones who became so under the full moon.
Harry led Lily out on the floor, hiding a blush as he said, "All right, Mum, this is it. One dance, like I promised." He began to twirl Lily to the song of Christmas Shoes. He said, "Mum, why this song? It's so sad."
"Yes, it's sad," she agreed, turning with him. "But it's also filled with hope. The hope of love and sacrifice and renewal. Listen to it carefully, Harry, and you'll see what I mean. This marriage is an ending for me of my old life and the beginning of something brand new."
Harry smirked. "Yeah, your love for Severus! I'll bet you can't wait to get him alone and tear his clothes off!"
Lily gasped, pretending to be angry. "Harry James Potter, if it wasn't my wedding day and I wasn't too busy, I'd spank you for that comment!"
"For what comment, Lily? I missed it." Suddenly Severus was there, looking criminally handsome in his wedding attire, one eyebrow raised.
Harry pretended to hide behind him. "Help! She's gone nuts! She threatened to spank me over a little joke?"
"What did you do?" Severus demanded, pretending to be a stern father.
"Nothing!" Harry protested.
"Since when does your mother spank you for nothing?" Severus queried using his "Mind Healer" face.
"Never! Well . . . ummm . . .I said . . . I said she'd like to get you alone and rip your clothes off . . . but I meant it like a joke . . . sort of . . . and if she did . . . uh . . " Poor Harry was squirming and very redfaced.
Severus laughed then and said, "That is a typical response from an eleven year old, so I can overlook it. This time. Next time . . . you may well have a sore behind. Now, why don't you find Draco and Theo and eat some appetizers, I'm sure you're starving, and leave your mother and I in peace?"
"I will, Sev. Umm . . . d'you mind if I call you that still? Or should I call you Dad?"
Severus looked at Harry keenly. "You may call me whatever makes you comfortable, Harry. If you feel more at ease calling me by my name, do so. If you feel I deserve a title now that I'm your stepfather, call me dad. It's up to you."
"Oh. I . . . I'll think about it, okay?" Harry said. Right now he wasn't up to such weighty issues. He just wanted to enjoy himself.
"Yes. Now get, scamp! You're making a nuisance of yourself!" Severus ordered, giving the smirking boy a light swat on the behind.
Harry jumped, though it barely stung, and he stuck out his tongue at his stepfather before making a beeline for the refreshment table, hoping his friends would be there.
He looked back and saw Lily and Severus in a close embrace, dancing gently to the music, they were playing Please Come Home For Christmas, or so he thought it was called.
Remus watched from his seat, but decided to talk to Harry later, after dinner, when Severus was seeing to his guests along with Lily. He bore the Healer no real animosity;somewhere around fifth year he had actually grown to admire the other boy, who despite persecution, still maintained his grades and his curiosity abd love of magic. He just hoped that his presence wouldn't aggravate the Healer, who had no real reason to like him considering he hadn't made an attempt (and he should have) to stop his former friends from bullying Severus. Well, he reflected, poor James was dead, Sirius in Azkaban, and Peter was also dead, having tried to stop Sirius from betraying the Potters to save Regulus. And Lily and Severus were alive and married. In a way, it almost seemed . . . fitting. The hardworking Mind Healer gets the girl at last. Remus was happy for the couple. But he did want to speak with Harry, there were a number of things he wished to say to the boy, and he hoped he could do so tonight.
As Remus silently watched, Harry found Theo and Draco at the appetizer station, scarfing down the food. Theo had filled his plate with shrimp cocktail, mini eggrolls, and potstickers Lucy had made. Draco had fried calamari, eggrolls, and cocktail sausages wrapped in pastry, and potato skins. Harry helped himself to a little of everything, ordered a ginger ale from the bar, and then sat with his friends.
"So, how's Hogwarts, Draco?" asked Harry. Even though he didn't attend the school, he was still curious about it, as was Theo.
Draco sighed. "It's . . . all right, I guess. It took me some getting used to when I was away from home. I'm in Slytherin, the House of the Serpents, like most of my family. Our colors are green and silver with a serpent rampant. It's a pretty cool House, we're known for cunning and ambition, though some of the other houses, like Gryffindor, think we're evil because the Dark One was one of us. But that's a load of dung! I know better. Father said to me that just because one of us was dark and had idiots that followed him didn't mean everyone was."
Theo nodded. "That's what my mum says."
"Mine too," added Harry.
"Anyway, the Houses are supposed to be equal, earning points for doing well in class and helping a house mate and that sort of thing. We lose points for not knowing stuff and being nasty to people and breaking the rules. I guess it's an okay system, but what really gets me is that the Headmaster favors his own," Draco's voice dropped to a whisper so the others had to strain to hear him. "I know he's not supposed to and he'll deny it sure as the day is long, but whenever a Gryffindor gets in trouble he'll look the other way. Here's an example: Hagrid caught a first year Gryffindor named Seamus Finnegan in the Forbidden Forest, he said he was looking for leprechauns, when any dolt knows leprechauns are found in bright sunny meadows. Pure stupidity! And he deserved to be punished. Hagrid was taking him to McGonagall, the Head of Gryffindor, who doesn't fool around, and he ran into Dumbledore on the way. Next thing you know, Finnegan's patted on the head, told to watch where he's going next time and that's that. What a crock!" Draco said angrily. "A few weeks later, a Slytherin second year was caught out of bed by the old man, the kid was late getting back to the dorm because he'd been practicing some Quidditch moves, he was a Chaser. Yeah, that was wrong and stupid, but Dumbledore could have let him off. But no, instead he tells the kid he's lost 20 points and is benched for the next game! 20 points! Merlin's toe!"
"That isn't right," Harry said sympathetically.
"Tell me about it! But if I try and accuse the old man, I'll look like a fool. Nobody believes us kids because we're Slytherins and kids, so I can't even tell anyone. It makes my blood boil. But what can I do?" Draco sighed. "Sometimes I wish I was homeschooled like you and Theo, Harry. You have it so much better than me because Healer Sev and your mum teach you."
Theo almost choked. "We do?" he gasped. "Draco, if we do something wrong, it's like the wrath of God fell on us."
"Or the wrath of Severus Snape and Lily Snape," Harry said. "If I forget my homework, my mum's on my ass like a shot, asking why, how, and what did I think I was doing."
"So's Sev," Theo groaned. "They want you to be a perfect student and if you aren't, they'll know the reason why. They don't care how many times they need to repeat a lesson, they'll do it until you can do it in your sleep. They're good teachers but Merlin, are they strict! Once I had a "tone" in my voice, and Severus made me scrub the room—and my mum agreed with him!"
"Yeah, if you think taking points is bad, try getting grounded and made to stay in your room all day," Harry made a face.
"They can even spank you." Theo said.
"Not over school, Theo," Harry reminded. "Sev said so."
"Not marks, but attitude," Theo corrected.
Draco sat staring at them. "I'd still rather my dad taught me, or even Healer Sev, no matter what. At least I wouldn't have to endure that twinkle-eyed, smiling faced, wretched old liar! I swear, sometimes I want to hurl. The other professors are all right, but potions is hard and I can't understand Professor Hidelberg sometimes, his accent's so thick. I still think you've got it better. Sure, they can punish you and all, but at least they have your best interests at heart. Dumbledore doesn't."
Harry and Theo were silent for a long time, considering Draco's words.
Theo said, after a time, "You're right, Draco. Even when I get mad at my ma or Sev or Lily, at least I know they love me and want me to succeed, crippled foot and no magic or not. Dumbledore never would have allowed me to go to Hogwarts even if I did have magic, on account of my foot."
"Right, Theo. I have magic, lots of it, but Dumbledore won't let me in his school because of what I am and what I might do," Harry said. "I heard my mum and Sev talking late one night and I know that's why I don't go to Hogwarts like Draco. But I'm glad. I'd never want to go to a school where people hate me or are scared of me because I can call storms. I like it much better at Heatherton."
"I'm not scared of you, Potter," declared Draco a bit saucily. "You might be able to call storms, but I can call my father."
The three started snickering, and Theo followed that up with calling Severus and for a few moments there was a lively discussion of who was more fearsome—Severus or Lucius. They continued talking, now about Quidditch and other spells Draco had learnt at Hogwarts, other times about the ghosts on the moor—which all three boys vowed one day to find. All too soon it was dinner time, and Dtaco had to go back and sit with his family while Theo and Harry made their way to the high table, where the bridal party was sitting.
Harry thought the dinner was excellent, but he wasn't too fond of the dancing which followed. He did his best to avoid the dance floor, but Aradia sought him out after she had danced with nearly everyone, including Severus, Lucius, Draco, Theo, and a man he didn't know with sandy hair and deep brown eyes. She dragged him onto the floor despite his protests—he was tired, sick, and forgot how to dance. "Then I teaches you, Hawwy!" she said determinedly.
Harry gave up. Aradia was like a cyclone, you got the hell out of her way when you saw her coming or took the consequences.
He reluctantly danced with her to a song or two, the little imp was actually a good dancer and she calmly told Harry when he missed a step during the Macarena. He blushed and thought, I can't believe I'm being lectured by a two-year-old about dancing! Merlin help me! He could understand completely why Draco told him to pray his mum and Severus didn't have a girl. They were nothing but know-it-all troublemakers!
Finally her attention was caught by the dessert cart, and she deserted Harry without a backwards glance. Harry thanked God for chocolate cake and éclairs and prepared to hide for the rest of the evening when a soft voice called, "Psst, Harry! Over here. The table next to the wall."
Harry looked around and saw a medium-sized man in a rented suit beckoning him. He recognized the man as the other person whom Aradia had dragooned into dancing with her. He figured that even if he didn't know the strange wizard, he was safe if Aradia had chosen him as a dance partner. The little witch had an uncanny knack for picking people who were tolerant of small girls and of no danger to her. He came over and sat down at the man's table, which was now empty of any occupants save the stranger.
"Hello. I'm Harry Potter, Lily's son." Harry introduced himself. "But I guess you already know that. And you are?"
"My name is Remus Lupin. I'm an old friend of your father's. Your mother's too, when all's said and done," said Remus, shaking Harry's hand and smiling. He was unsure whether to tell the boy he was a werewolf just yet. He opted to wait, instead telling Harry how he was schoolmates with his parents.
Harry cocked his head, never having met anyone who knew his mother or father back when. "You knew my mum in school? Was she a good student or did she talk back to the teachers and get detention?"
Remus laughed. "Lily talk back to a teacher? Not on your life! That was more your dad's line. He was always in trouble with one professor or another for not handing in his homework or being a smartmouth. Your mum, she was always yelling at him for it, but your dad thought it was all a big joke, until the day she beat some sense into him with her own two hands."
Harry's eyes sparkled. "My mum . . . beat up my dad?" he laughed. "Are you kidding?"
"No, I swear on my honor," Remus said, raising his right hand. "It was . . . oh, Merlin you never saw anything so hilarious in your life! There was James—Quidditch star, big and handsome as all get out, and he was cowering on the floor as a witch half his size and weight pummeled him. Lily was so mad she was spitting and all I could do was laugh. James, see, he thought no girl would ever take him to task on account he was so gorgeous, and he could charm his way out of anything. But not from your mum!" Remus began to laugh too. "Oh, Harry! If only you could have seen it."
"Did my mum and dad quarrel often?"
"They did, at first. Especially over Severus," Remus said, explaining how James had been, at times, a spoiled bully, and had tormented Severus. But not when Lily was around. "She kept him on the straight and narrow. Better than I could, or Sirius, who tended to follow James like a god. It was the same with Peter." Remus told Harry about the Marauders.
Harry frowned. "I don't mind pranks, but Remus, some of those things hurt people."
"Yes, I know." The werewolf said quickly. "Back then we were immature idiots and didn't care if we hurt someone with our little jokes. But now I know better. Lily tried her best to make us stop, but sometimes even she wasn't enough."
Remus thought with regret of the way he had almost killed Severus that night. But he didn't tell that tale to Harry. That was for Severus to do, if he chose.
He told Harry more stories of James and Sirius, showing the boy that his father did eventually develop something of a conscience, aided by the redhaired witch who would eventually become his wife. "James wasn't a terrible guy, he was just spoiled and arrogant. Guess that's bred in those purebloods," Remus said, thinking of the many times James had slighted and made remarks about Remus' blood status and his intelligence. Sirius had also done so, and Remus felt that they didn't even realize at times what they did, it came naturally to them to show disdain for half-bloods and such.
Harry shook his head. "Lucy's not like that. Draco either."
"Lucinda Nott, are you talking about?"
"Yes, sir. She's Sev's housekeeper now and she cooks awesome and she fell in love with a Muggleborn and married him. Her son Theo's my best friend, and he's a Squib." Harry said, somewhat defiantly.
Remus whistled. "Hells bells, that must have caused some trouble with her family. The Notts weren't ones to marry down at all, if you get what I mean. I remember her from school—quiet and shy, not like her oaf of a brother. It must have taken some courage for her to go against her family like that. As for the Malfoys, all of us were shocked when we found out Lucius was a spy. I guess he raised his son better than his father raised him. Old Abraxus was a stickler for the old ways. You're a lot like Lily, Harry. But then you would be, raised by Muggles."
"No," Harry shook his head. "My Muggle aunt and uncle were just as prejudiced and snobby as any pureblood. They looked down on people who made less money then they did and they looked down on me because I had magic. My aunt even called my mum a vegetable sometimes, said she'd never come out of her coma. But she was wrong, like those purebloods were wrong. Good people can be poor or not and it doesn't matter what you are, but what you do with yourself. It matters more what you do and not what you were born as. My mum taught me that, and so did Severus. He loved my mum even while she was asleep and he knew someday she'd come back to him and she did."
"It seems you admire your stepfather a lot," Remus said.
"I do. He's helped me control my magic," Harry said carefully, not wanting Remus to know he was a stormcaller. That was for friends and family. "He's been my Healer and my teacher since my mum and I came to Heatherton cottage. He's not the boy you used to mock and play pranks on anymore."
Remus winced at Harry's condemning gaze. "I know that, Harry. I came here to celebrate your mum's marriage and to apologize for my past mistakes with him, not to quarrel. I've heard all about his reputation as a Mind Healer for adolescents and how well respected he is. You've no need to defend him to me, wolfling."
Harry looked at the other, trying to determine if he really meant it. There was nothing sly or tricky about the other wizard, and Harry could tell he meant what he said. "Wolfling?"
"A pet name I used to call you when you were a baby." Remus explained.
"He's not a baby any longer," came a familiar voice.
Remus turned. "I know that, Severus. Congratulations."
Severus was stiff and looking at Remus like he was dangerous. Harry didn't understand and backed away a little. "Thanks." His tone was flat, though he did offer Remus his hand.
Remus took it quickly. "I'd never hurt Harry, Severus."
Severus snorted. "God, Lupin! If you were a danger to anyone, but especially my stepson, I'd rearrange you. You're here because Lily wished it. You look different without your so-called "friends"."
Remus nodded. "I know. I'm not the same man I was, Severus. I've changed." He went on to explain, and apologize to the other man.
Harry listened in shock as Lupin revealed what he was and what he had done to a young Severus.
Severus made an impatient gesture. "That's water under the bridge now, Lupin. My concern here is Harry. I know you'd never hurt him physically, but if you try and make him into his father, you and I will have words and more than that. He's not your best mate, he's his own person and I won't have him turned into some arrogant little sod, am I understood?"
"Yes, Severus. Like I said, I'd never hurt him, and I know he's not James. Don't confuse me with Sirius. I only want to get to know my friend's son. And for him to know me."
Severus relaxed a fraction, and said, "All right. But as I said, you do anything to him and you'll deal with me."
Harry coughed. Then he said, taking a breath, "Dad, relax. I'm fine, don't go postal, okay?"
Severus looked over at Harry, sitting there calmly, his hair mussed a little, and smiled ruefully. "You're not an adult yet, therefore I can worry over you, child." He ruffled Harry's hair, smirking as the boy ducked in protest. "It's my job to worry about you and who you're with. Just use your head."
"I am," Harry reassured him. "Now why don't you go and kiss my mum? I think she's looking for you."
Severus and even Remus looked astonished at Harry's cheek.
"Brat!" Severus mock-growled. He playfully cuffed the boy about the head. "If I were another man, I'd make you sorry for that."
"But you're not. And you know I'm teasing," Harry said impudently. He knew just how far he could push Severus.
"Merlin help you, boy!" Severus snorted, then he said, "If you'll excuse me, Lupin . . ."
"Go on, Severus. It's your wedding day after all."
"Behave yourself, Harry. If you can," was Severus' parting shot before he turned and left to find Lily.
Remus turned to Harry. "Maybe you're more like your father than I thought. That took brass, talking to Snape like that."
Harry shrugged. "He'll only take so much from me. And I know when to stop, or else."
"Is he cruel with you then? Does he beat you? Use magic on you?" Remus questioned swiftly in alarm.
Harry glared at him, affronted. "Beat me? Severus? Never! He's only spanked me once and then I almost had to beg him. He'd never abuse a child. Not with magic or without it. He's a good man and I'm lucky he likes me. Why would you think that?"
"I . . . I'm sorry. It's just that . . ." Remus trailed off.
"He's Slytherin and all Slytherins are evil?" Harry snapped. "Yeah, I know about that. Draco told me."
Remus blushed. "It's hard, letting go of all the prejudice you knew when you were young. But yes, I did think that, for a moment, and the fact that he's always been serious and kind of strict."
"He can be, but he can also be gentle and kind," Harry said. "He understands me, Remus. He doesn't fear me. And when I'm with him, I'm not afraid either."
"What do you mean?"
"Afraid I'll lose control," Harry emphasized. "Him and my mum, they're the only ones."
"I see." Remus seemed slightly ashamed. Then he said, "Tell me about your friends Theo and Draco, Harry. They seem rather opposite each other."
"Oh, they are. . ." Harry said, and they talked the rest of the night.
A/N: Sorry there was such a delay in posting but I have been in the hospital for the past week and a half for a mini stroke due to high blood pressure and diabetes. I am still recovering, so hope you enjoy this chapter! Did you like Remus' talk with Harry? With Severus? Happy Holidays!