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Running With Wolves : The Journals and Correspondences of Cerridwyn Lupin (Year 1) by Aurora Dawn

Format: Novel
Chapters: 55
Word Count: 232,675
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing)

Genres: General, Romance, AU
Characters: Hagrid, Lupin, Snape, Tonks, Charlie, OC
Pairings: Remus/OC

First Published: 08/14/2007
Last Chapter: 08/14/2008
Last Updated: 09/11/2008

Summary:




Banner by Renfair

What if Voldemort had a daughter? What if Snape had been her half brother? What if she'd fallen in love with Remus Lupin?

Lupin's descendants have released their great-grandmother's private papers to clear up factual errors about their ancestor's role in Voldemort's demise, and to foster werewolf pride.Though deviating from the known version of the story, the Lupin family insists the papers are authentic.


Chapter 1: Chapter 1
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The following documents are the correspondences and journals of my great-grandmother Cerridwyn Howard-Lupin. Some has been written about my great-grandparents in historical texts related to the Second War against Voldemort, due to the role they played in bringing about his downfall. Unfortunately, much of the information about them that exists today is erroneous and the Lupin family has decided to release these papers in order to put the errors to rest.

The cause of such errors are two-fold. First, my great-grandfather was a werewolf, and history has notoriously maligned and concealed the role of such minorities in the texts popularly taught to school children. Hence, the actions of my great-grandparents were downplayed and obscured until their story became grossly maligned. As a result, most of what is publicly known about them today is misconception.

Secondly, the popularity of a Muggle version of the story written by the Muggle cousin of a wizard, has also added to the factual errors. While I feel that this version was written with good intent, it was written solely on second and third hand accounts and so is full of mistakes as well.

These documents are all first person accounts which have not been altered or abridged in any way. My great-grandmother kept almost all letters she received and existing letters written by my great-grandmother were gratefully borrowed from the Potter and Weasley families who have lovingly preserved them all these years. The journals are those from 1991-1997 and include my great-grandmother’s years at Merlin University, her first years of teaching, courtship, marriage, motherhood, and of course….her role in supporting Harry Potter.

In addition to clearing misconceptions, the Lupin family also hopes that these papers will be of interest to the werewolf community at large. Those of us who are lycanthropes have a better life today because of my great-grandmother’s staunch activism of werewolf rights. She wanted to make the world a fairer, better place for her beloved husband and children, and though many of her goals never came to fruition in her lifetime, she lived to see many positive changes. It is because of brave pioneers like she and my grandfather that we have equal rights today.

Sincerely,
Tala Cerridwyn Lupin and family



Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : July 15, 1991

Dear Hagrid,

How have you been? I’m so homesick for Hogwarts. I’m coming back to England in two weeks time but I simply can’t fathom not returning to school. Hogwarts is home ! Home in a way that no other place could be. These next few years are going to be dreadful. I just know I’ll spend them thinking about all of you and wishing I was there.

I may come by and visit you on my way to Merlin. I want to get plenty of time to settle in before classes begin. I need to find a job, things like that. It’s my first time going out into the magical world beyond Hogwarts on my own. Well…not completely. Charlie Weasley will be with me. I’m glad -- Charlie and I have always been friends and have the same love for animals -- a love that you instilled in me, Hagrid, during those first horrible days away from home during my first year at Hogwarts.

I want to thank you so much for all you’ve done for m. You’ve been like a father to me and helped me find my purpose in life. It might be nice to go out and work in the field, but it will be nicer still when I come home to Hogwarts and settle down to teach a subject I love. (As you taught me, however unofficially. I learned more from tramping through the woods with you then I ever learned in class). Those times have been some of the best and most influential of my life.

If all goes well I’ll see you soon. Till then, take care.

Love,
Kerri



Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley : July 15, 1991

Dear Charlie,

I’ll take your mother’s offer to let me stay at the Burrow for a few days. I’m nervous about going to Merlin and spending time with your family should leave me ready to face the world -- if I can deal with Fred and George I can deal with anything.

I’ll let you know more precisely my arrival date once I know for sure myself. I want to visit Hogwarts before I come to you. Weird isn’t it? You spend years looking forward to graduation and then you realize just what you’re losing. I love Hogwarts -- I’d have returned to teach whether I was indentured or not. Most people would resent it but I’m thankful. Without it I’d never have had the chance for such an education. Dumblededore mad that happen. The least I can do in return is donate a few years teaching.

Actually…I’ll probably teach forever. I’ll be a stolid old maid like McGonagall. I must buy a lot of black dresses with high collars and keep my hair in a bun so tight that it pulls my face back. You know -- I’ve always wondered if she sleeps with her hair like that -- do you think it’s permanent?

I’ll let you go -- I have loads of letters to write -- also, I have a job. Tell your father I’m working at a Muggle car wash. That should thrill him to death.

Miss you,
Kerri




Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : July 18, 1991

My Dear Miss Howard,

Allow me to congratulate you on successful completion of your Hogwarts education, which inevitably will take you far. Compound that with your record of having been both head girl and prefect, an honor which is no mean feat, and you are truly on your way to a successful career.

I would like, Miss Howard, to extend my friendship to you in the hope that we might get to know each other better. Years have passed since your discovery of our familial bond and wisely, mutually, we decided to say no more on the subject. Considering the source of that bond, it was, and is prudent to keep the tie a secret, yet the time for isolation from each other has perhaps passed.

You are no longer a student so there is no fear of accusations of favoritism. You are no longer a child, but a grown woman, so I feel that we can understand each other as equals. The time has come, I believe, for us to get to know each other as the blood kin that we are.

I wish to invite you to stay a few days with me at my Spinner’s End address. I am home now, and would welcome your arrival at any time. Please send word if you intend to come and I shall prepare a room.

With fondest regards,
Severus Snape



From the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard : July 18, 1991

I have never been so shocked in my life to receive a letter from anyone. I had to read the signature several times for the truth of it to sink in. Severus Snape. Terror of potions, head of Slytherin, dealer of unjust detentions --- my brother.

For years we’ve never spoken a word to each other that didn’t have to do wit potions. He harassed, bullied, belittled me and singled me out all through seven years of taking his class. He’s evil to all the students but even the other Ravenclaws were noticing that he especially had it out for me. After all of that, he wants to be friends?

I still remember unraveling it, figuring it all out -- the horror of understanding the mystery of my parentage, that part that my mother didn’t want me to know. The reason I can talk to snakes and have an uncanny touch with some dark creatures -- it still makes me sick. It made me wish I hadn’t spent all those hours in pursuit of the great mystery of my being. I’d gone to Dumbledore in shock, wanting to be comforted or told I was wrong.

“I knew this day would come.” he said, smiling at me as if I’d just completed a particularly grueling exam. “Lemon drop?”

He didn’t seem to grasp the horror -- the revulsion -- of discovering the truth about the filth flowing in my veins. Voldemort….VOLDEMORT, I say because I WILL use the name…is my father.

“I have someone you should meet.” Dumbledore said in a calm way much at odds with my internal suffering. “Ah. Here he is now. He will perhaps explain things better than I. Kerri…meet your half brother.”

I turned to face not a stranger, but Snape, my nemesis from potions. I might have fallen over had Dumbledore not risen and walked around to the front of my desk. Standing behind me with comforting hands on each of my shoulders, he said over my head. “She knows Severus. The day has come for you two to recognize each other for who you are. I’ll leave you alone together.”

I stood rooted to the spot, feeling like a puppy abandoned by it’s master as Dumbledore walked away, leaving me alone with Snape. I tried to conceal my shaking. My eyes roved restlessly over Fawkes the Phonenix, regarding me with a beady eye as light from the window set his scarlet plumage afire. On the walls, the figures in the portraits were trying a little too hard not to look interested, except for Phineas Nigillus who was watching with morbid avidity.

And Snape…he was staring down at me with an expression I’ll never forget. It was full of pity, sadness, longing, love, pride, and sympathy all at once. It was more emotion than I’d ever seen out of him in my life. I felt like I was standing naked on a stage and I just wanted to crawl under the desk and hide. I’d come to Dumbledore for some sort of comfort and he offered me lemon drops and Snape.

Snape seemed almost as uncomfortable as I. “Miss Howard.” he said stiffly, then softening his tone amended it to “Kerri.”

Until then I wasn’t even sure he knew my first name. How long had he known we were siblings? What he said next took me completely by surprise. “I am very proud of you. You are the finest student I have ever had the honor of teaching.”

“How can you say that?” I asked, forgetting his authority and my terror of him with a sudden upswing of emotion. “How can you when you treat me like you do?”

He smiled, but it wasn’t the sarcastic smile I was used to seeing. It seemed almost sad. “I do not play favorites…and I wished to protect you.”

A cold chill ran through me. He didn’t need to tell me from what - after all, they’d never found a body.

“I do not believe he knew of your existence at the time of his…disappearance.” he continued, phrasing it carefully. “I do not wish him to ever know either.”

“How?” I asked, shaking. It was a question I’d always had. Why am I here? Why do I exist at all?

He made the tiniest of gestures with his shoulders, a non committal shrug. “Perhaps your mother was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe it was a vendetta against the family…there are more ways than magic to terrorize and torture. “

“It ruined her life. She left the country to live as a muggle. I didn’t even know about the magical world until I came here. I never had a normal family.”

“Be glad that it is the worst harm he has done to you. Others, such as myself, have not been so fortunate.” Here, something like a brief spasm of pain crossed his features.

“What about you? Your family? Your mother?”

“I was adopted by my…by the man my mother married. I lived as normal a life as possible under the circumstances.”

“Oh what does any of it matter anyway?” I asked bitterly.

There was another long pause during which I could almost hear him thinking. Then he took a step toward me as if anxious to make himself heard. “Take the good and set the rest aside if you want to maintain your sanity.” he said somewhat urgently. “Don’t let it torture you all your life, it will just make you another victim. He was many things, among them a genius. He also possessed charm…when he wanted to…and good looks. “ For a moment his eyes lingered on my face and a ghost of a smile crossed his features. “You are very like him. Also…you are a direct descendent of Salazar Slytherin. That, despite what the Gryffindors say…is a reason to be proud. A pity you weren’t placed in my house, but Ravenclaw is certainly next best. The alternatives would simply be intolerable.”

I shook my head in disgust.

“Accept that half you being comes from him and make the most of it.” Snape continued. “No matter what else may be said about him, he was especially gifted and much of that has passed on to you. Use what gifts he has left you … wits, looks, charm …use it to make a place for yourself in the world. People such as you and I have to fight for everything we want in life. Nothing is handed to us.”

There was a long pause. I really didn’t know what to say to him. I had so many questions swirling in my head that I couldn’t grasp on to any one to ask. He continued “I suggest we keep this between ourselves.”

“Obviously.” I said, my tone full of enough sarcasm to rival that which he used in class.

“One day…when you are older…but not now. Expect no favors from me though I shall watch your career most closely.”

He paused as if waiting for a reply that I didn’t have. When it was clear that I had nothing to say, he walked toward me and it was all I could do to keep still and not retreat. For a moment, his hand took mine. “I wish you well.” he said, and then, with a swirl of black robes, he was gone.

And we never spoke of it again until this letter arrived.


Authors Note : Apologies to strict advocates of the original canon. Don’t blame me, blame the Lupin family -- they’re the ones who released the papers -- go after them. (But I’d advise you to avoid them like the plague on the full moon -- some of them have tempers). Any and all comments will be appreciated and should be addressed to me, their chosen Muggle liason -- I’ll pass them along to the Lupin family on a first come first serve basis. Thank you.

Chapter 2: Chapter 2
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Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard: July of 1991

Dear Kerri,
I’m fine. How are you?

Don’t be home sick, you’ll be back here soon. And you know you can come visit Hogwarts any time you want to. Two years isn’t that long.

You should have fun when you’re at school. Meet new friends and things like that. Sort of wish I’d had the chance to do myself, but I’ve been happy enough here though.

Got a pregnant unicorn on the grounds. Wish she’d deliver while you’re here but I don’t think she will. I’d like to get a count of them soon though so maybe you can help out with that.

See you soon then,
Hagrid.




Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : July of 1991

Dear Kerri,

Sorry this will be so short but there’s a lot going on here now. I’ll fill you in when you get here.

Mum says she won’t let you stay less than a week, and you’re welcome to stay longer if you like. Ginny is counting down the days and Dad is looking forward to your arrival as well. Whatever you do -- don’t let him touch that car of yours !

Charlie.
PS. When you get here, don’t listen to the twins !



Excerpt from the journal of Cerridwyn Howard : August 6, 1991 -- Spinner’s End

Here I am writing this from the house my brother grew up in. Somehow I expected something larger, more ornate, but frankly, this place is a dump. Not dirty really, just run down. To be fair, the house is only occupied a few months out of the year, so it is neglected. But it is also in a rather rough neighborhood that I wouldn’t go walking in without a wand after dark.

All the furnishings are outdated, but too new yet to be called antique. The air is close and musty in many rooms from the place having been shut up since the last holiday. The paper is peeling, the seats sag, legs and arms wobble. Still, the place is clean and I have been welcomed more generously than I’d have thought my brother capable of.

My brother -- what an alien phrase. I’ve never thought of him in that way, just as Snape, the potions monster…I mean master. And honestly, I’ve often thought of him with a few rather choice adjectives tacked onto his name as well. But here we are, together, getting to know each other as I never expected we would.

Nothing has been as I expected it to be. We’re getting along with each other as equals, which comes as a complete shock to me. I didn’t anticipate him treating me any different here than he did at school, and sometimes it seems like I’m talking to an entirely different person altogether. Sometimes.

The first thing we did was sit down side by side on the sofa with a photo album open between us. On the first page was a very old picture of a group of what seemed to be seventh year Slytherins, standing in rows, looking solemnly into the camera.

“This is his graduating class.” Snape told me.

I felt my heart skip a beat, part with dread, part with curiosity to have some of those nagging questions I’d always had answered for once. “Is…is he in here then?”

“Yes. See if you can pick him out. You look just like him.”

So I scanned the faces in the picture for one that looked like mine in masculine. Maybe it was his prominent position in the center of the back row, but it didn’t take long. There he was, with my eyes looking back at me from a handsome face that wore a lofty expression of pride and haughtiness. And Snape wasn’t kidding, I do look like him…I’m not sure I like that.

“Head Boy?” I asked.

“Yes. And prefect….you’ve followed his footsteps in your career at Hogwarts, you see.”

Even more unnerving.

Snape was looking at me closely, watching my expression. “Clearly you see where you get your looks. I almost think I’d have known who you were even if I hadn’t been warned of your arrival in advance.”

“Tom Marvolo Riddle.” I said thoughtfully. He was my father but his name was almost like a stranger’s.

And there were more pictures of him that Snape had managed to collect over the years. “You have to learn to accept it.” he said “There is no sense in denying it to yourself. I learned to appreciate his merits and take pride in the…enormity…of his…accomplishments, shall I say. No matter your opinion on the Dark Lord, you must concede that he was highly gifted.”

“And a lunatic.” I added as I pored over the pictures.

I thought that Snape flinched at my words but he made no reply.

The other pictures showed Tom Riddle at varying ages during his Hogwarts years. In some he was with friends, in others posing jauntily on a broom, in quite a few he was holding various awards he’d won. He looked like such a normal teenager. What had gone wrong? Had he been planning it even then?

“When did it start?”

“Don’t let the innocence of those pictures deceive you. He had his ambitions from a young age. He was calling himself…that name…among his friends even then. That’s why these days hardly anyone knows his given name. He managed to completely recreate his identity.”

“Because of his Muggle blood?”

“That was likely part of it.” Snape said darkly. “It isn’t easy being a half blood and growing up in Slytherin House.”

“I’d never thought of that. How did he end up in there? How did you end up in there?”

“I would guess that it had to do with being descended from Slytherin himself. Perhaps in retrospect it is just as well that you were put in Ravenclaw.”

“But he was against halfbloods and Muggles. Purity of blood was his passion and he was halfblood himself. What a hypocrite.”

This time I was sure that he flinched.

“There aren’t any more of us floating around out there are there?”

“No. You and I are the last of the line. Perhaps that’s just as well.”

“Any other family that I ought to know about?”
“Not on his side. Those who aren’t dead of natural causes were killed. Frankly, and perhaps you ought to know this…we are the…healthiest offspring, shall I say…to come out of Slytherin’s line in years. Apart from the Dark Lord himself.”

He opened the book to a page of the most grossly misshapen and malformed people you could imagine. “What’s wrong with them?” I asked in disgust.

A bitter smile played across his lips “Pure blood -- the very purest. They decided it was a good idea to marry each other to keep the blood pure. It looks as if it went on for a few generations.”

“So you’re telling me that the whole family is inbred? What if I have kids one day? Could any of those abnormalities be passed on? Do you have children?”

“Certainly not…my years of teaching have successfully dissuaded me from that. I do not think it would be passed on either, but…” and here, she shrugged his shoulders, indicating that he wasn’t sure.

And here is yet another reason for me to stay married to my profession.

Angry, I flipped ahead several pages. Here were more recent pictures of what was obviously a young Severus Snape. “This is you?”

“Yes.” he answered a bit tersely. I had the feeling that he had not intended to show me these.

“Professor Snape….” I said awkwardly. Somehow I wasn’t ready to call him by his name. “What about you? I know nothing about you outside of school.”

“My mother was a muggleborn witch named Eileen Prince. She married a Muggle named Tobias Snape.” he smiled bitterly. “Again…try growing up in Slytherin when people think you’re half blood. Well…my mother was muggleborn and my actual father was a half blood himself, so I was as good as. I got tired of being teased about it and started calling myself “the Half Blood Prince”, a reference to my mother’s maiden name, you know. I knew who my father was by then, and so it seemed fitting in that respect too. I used to think, ‘if you knew who my father was, you’d have more respect for me’. Watching him ascend to power…I was proud of him. Among some…among his followers, he was indeed like a king. Being the foolish boy that I was back then, it was my conceit to think of myself as a prince. I thought…I thought that when I grew older I would be a part of it all. Share his glory.”

Snape’s gaze had turned inward and it was almost as if he was talking to himself.
I was silent, looking at the pictures, wondering if he’d regret telling me all this later. “Your mother and stepfather?” I asked, pointing.

“Yes.”

“Who is this?” I asked, pointing to a picture of a very young Snape in Hogwarts robes sitting next to a pretty little girl with red hair. They had their arms around each other like they were the best of pals and were smiling happily into the camera.

“I’d forgotten that was in there.” he said, snapping out of his reverie. “That was our second day at Hogwarts.”

“She was a Gryffindor.” I said, noting the colors.

“Well, we were very young then.”

“She’s cute…who is she?”

“What you mean is ‘who was she’. “ Snape corrected. His tone suddenly had that deadly silky tone to it that signaled danger ahead. “She married the school bully, had a baby and was killed by the Dark Lord not long after.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No matter. We drifted apart long before that. We were…different…it simply wasn’t possible.”

So had Snape had a little romance in his life? The concept seemed strange, yet I was glad of it. It made him human. But I knew by his tone that it was time for me to change the subject.

I looked down at the page at a picture of an older Snape. He had a hungry, neglected sort of look and a tortured expression in his dark eyes.

“Did he have any part in raising you?”

“Absolutely not. He knew of my existence though. Even in later years I was never a son to him…most people never even knew it. I was just another wheel in the war machine.”

I thought I understood what he was saying but didn’t really want to believe it. “How close were you exactly?”

“I was a Death Eater if that’s what you mean.” he said, and now he sounded angry. He shut the book with a snap. “Enough about me…it was a long time ago. None of it can be undone now.”

For a moment I saw that tortured look in his eyes that I’d seen in the picture. The terror of potions was perhaps not as far removed from that young man as he’d like others to believe. He left the room to get tea, and to collect himself I suspected. While he was gone I fished around for a new topic to distract him with.

“I’m sorry I arrived so late.” I told him when he returned.

He seemed glad for a new subject. “What delayed you? You mentioned an ‘idiot’?”

“On the dirigible.”

“I despise public transport of all kinds…especially that one. You’re stuck in a small space with whatever people happen to get on with you, and you can’t apperate out or open the door and leave as you could on land. One very good reason that I don’t go abroad.”

“I like it. Gliding along noiselessly over the ocean. I like it at night when the seats fold into beds and you can have your own little compartment to yourself with a window view. I like to lay on my stomach and look down.”

“Well, you’re young yet.” he said knowingly. “The idiot?” he prompted.

“You’ve heard of him. He writes all those books, but I can’t remember his name. You know….”Travels with Trolls” and “Gadding with Ghouls”.”

“Humping with Harpies?” Snape suggested drily.

“Farting with Fairies?” I countered.

“Where does he come up with the ideas for those insufferably cute titles?” asked Snape. “How irritating. Clearly the man is not in his right mind. I tried reading one of his books once…ridiculous fluff…I couldn’t suffer my way through it and gave up halfway.”

“What is his name? It’s driving me nuts”

“Does it matter? ‘Idiot’ will suffice.”

I laughed. “Okay…well, the idiot was on my flight. He was on his way home from marketing his last book overseas and carrying on about the next one he’s going to write.”

“Not another?”

“Werewolves this time.”

“Wonderful.”

“Anyway…somehow…and thankfully this was before we left the ground….the idiot managed to deflate the balloon. It took hours to fix it. He didn’t seem to realize he’d caused a problem. He was sitting there in the waiting area signing photos like it was a publicity thing or something.” I laughed at the memory. “He even gave me one -- it had his address on it. “

“Surely you aren’t thinking of looking him up?”

“Of course not. I have ambitions but becoming a groupie isn’t one of them.”

“Well you’ve always been a sensible girl.” Snape said with a touch of satisfaction in his tone. I seemed to have succeeded in putting him at his ease. “Tell me about yourself Kerri. I know next to nothing about your life beyond Hogwarts either.”

So I told him about my childhood -- how my mother had fled the country to live as a Muggle, about the poverty we lived in, about the confusion of growing up different from other children but not knowing why. I told him how Dumbledore had tracked us down and convinced my mother to let me return with him to the school.

“Honestly, and this is between you and I, “ said Snape “I think part of his motive was in keeping an eye on the Dark Lord’s daughter. Oh, he cares about you personally as he does all the students, but I also think he wanted to make sure you wouldn’t make the mistakes I did.”

“Advise me on this.” I said, looking him in the eye. “Should I look up my mother’s family?”

“Do they know ---?” his voice trailed of significantly.

“They know why my mother fled.”

“I wouldn’t then. Never, under any circumstances tell anyone who your father is. I wouldn’t put it past the ministry to lock you up for being born. If I were you I wouldn’t let the Howard family know I was in the country. They are privy to information that could hurt you if it got out. And now…I have a question for you…a practical one. How do you intend to live for the next few years financially?”

I colored slightly. “I’ve saved a little from summer jobs at home. My education is paid for, of course but I want a little income at least. I’m planning to get a job at a workhouse. “

“Why would you do that?”

“Because I don’t want to work in the Muggle world. I’m not trained for a proper career in the magical world yet and I’m taking a double course load so I want…need…flexible hours.”

“Oh the workhouse will have flexible hours, no fear of that.” said Snape sourly. “Vampires get the night shifts, werewolves get full moons off, half trolls….”

“I know, I know…I know all that. I know the pay stinks and the work is hard. But I can handle it -- I can. I’m not going there to make friends or anything.”

“I sincerely hope not. But perhaps you’re right…you’ve been protected at Hogwarts. Maybe you should get out and see the harsher side of the magical world for a change. I wish life could be easy for you, but it has not been and will not be. That we have in common.” He paused, silently regarding his tea for a few moments before continuing. “I wish to keep in contact with you. I am most interested in your career. I expect great things of you.”

“All right.”

So there it is. A month ago I’d have laughed at anyone who suggested that Snape and I would be getting chummy like this. But we are the only immediate family either of us has and there is some comfort in that. Sharing an awful secret like ours may not be the best way to start a friendship, but we aren’t friends --- we’re siblings.


Excerpt from Cerridwyn Howard’s Journal : August 8, 1991 -- Spinner’s End

This is my last day here as I’ll be going to Hogwarts tomorrow. Snape…Severus…and I have been getting along very well, but I’m looking forward to getting out of here. I’m tired of being cooped up in here. We don’t dare be seen out together because we don’t want to be connected to each other -- especially not by any former Death Eaters who might find the information useful some time in the future.

“He must not find out about you.” Snape said firmly. “The less people see, the better.”

And he’s right of course. Sometimes I wonder where Voldemort is, what sort of state he’s in. If he was fit, he’d make himself known I’d think. But since ---

And what a horrifying thought has just occurred to me -- one day Harry Potter, the Boy who Lived, will be one of my students. His life will essentially be in my hands. How can I look that kid in the eye knowing what I know?

It isn’t my fault -- any of it. I can’t be blamed for the things my father did, and yet I still feel guilt and shame. Dirty. I should never have been born. No one was ever more of a mistake than I was.

I wonder…does Severus ever feel the same?

I’m curious about his Death Eater years but I’m afraid to ask. How is it that Dumbledore lets him teach at Hogwarts, knowing that Snape was a Death Eater? I don’t doubt for one moment that Dumbledore does know -- he knows everything.

Well., I’m going to Hogwarts for a few days, maybe I could ask him about it. I certainly won’t ask Snape. He’s being exceptionally nice to me, but I think if I prodded too much into certain parts of his life I would quickly make an enemy of him. But as his sister don’t I have some right to know?




Author’s Note : As always, comments and criticism will be appreciated .

Next chapter :

Kerri spends a few days at Hogwarts reconnecting with Hagrid and getting advice and reassurance from Dumbledore -- “Snacks are all the better at times when they are the least healthy or sensible -- midnight or before meals, for example.”


















Chapter 3: Chapter 3
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Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard: August 9, 1991 -- Hogwarts

I’m HOME ! Home after having spent a whole year with my mother in the Muggle world. There is no place on earth like Hogwarts, and Hogwarts is my home as no other place could be.

Walking over to Hagrid’s house, Fang spotted me coming, and bowled me over onto the grass. He’s grown quite a lot over the years that I’ve known him. When I first came here, he was a sickly puppy that Hagrid had found abandoned and was trying to nurse back to health.

I guess Hagrid saved us both. I was a lot like Fang, feeling scared and lost, far away from home for the first time in my life. By letting me help raise Fang, Hagrid got my mind off my fears and helped me adjust a lot faster. Now Fang weighs 200 pounds and I get homesick away from Hogwarts --- things have changed a lot over the years.

Hagrid caught up and pulled Fang off me. “Back Fang ! Get off. Kerri, I missed yeh!”

I had a second to breathe between when Fang got off my chest and when Hagrid picked me up and half squeezed me to death.

“I missed you too.” I gasped once he put me back down.

“Let’s look at yeh then. Pretty as ever…you’ll keep the young men at Merlin right busy I expect.”

“Hagrid!” I exclaimed, blushing. “I’m not interested in young men at this time in my life. I want to focus on my grades.”

“Still, yeh outta make friends. You were always so quiet.”

“That’s why I graduated top of my class. I had more important things to do than waste my time at parties. And I was in the band -- Charlie and I are still in touch.”

I thought I detected a sly smile under his whiskers. His eyes were certainly twinkling suspiciously. “Hagrid!”

“I always kinda hoped you’d make a match of it. You’re good kids and yeh have the same interests.”

“We’re just friends.” I said firmly, as we began walking toward the hut. “I’m not interested in seeing anyone at this time in my life. I have my studies to think of. And don’t forget -- Professor Dumbledore paid for my education in exchange for an equal number of years as a teacher. My life will be tied up with that for a while. I’m married to Hogwarts -- like you are.”

“Well I’m not sayin that I wouldn’t have married maybe if I’d had the chance. It isn’t natural to be alone all your life.”

“I won’t be alone -- I’ll have plenty of students for company. Now tell me about that unicorn.”

Thankfully that distracted him. I hate it when people start trying to convince me to date. I just never felt it was right, considering the circumstances of my parentage. How do you tell that to someone? When is the time right? Before or after the relationship has passed into the heartbreak stage? And who wants to pass that sort of thing onto their children? Again, some lines just need to die out -- especially those with inbred psychopathic tendencies.

Hagrid and I had a cup of tea with Fang sitting between us chewing a bone. It was cozy, pleasant, but different from what I remember. Things just change when you grow up.

“Never guess who I met.” said Hagrid, his chest swelling importantly. “It was on a mission for Professor Dumbledore.”

“Who?” I asked, discreetly secreting one of his infamous baked goods in the pocket of my robe to be disposed of later under the cover of night.

“Harry Potter.”

“Harry Potter?” I asked, feeling slightly unnerved by the news. First Snape, now this. Why does everything lately have to put me in mind of my father?

Hagrid didn’t notice my discomfort and gave me the whole story : Harry’s Muggle relatives were dead set against him coming to school and had taken him on the run to escape the acceptance letters. Apparently the boy has been neglected, if not outright abused, and conveniently not told anything about the magical world or his own parents.

“Didn’t even know about You-Know-Who. Can you imagine? I had to tell him. Didn’t even know You-Know-Who’s name -- had to tell him that too.” Hagrid looked sick at the memory.

An interesting thought occurs to me. How is it that no one ever says Voldemort’s name, but everyone knows it anyway? One of those eternal mysteries like the chicken-and-egg thing I guess. I think we should just call him Evil M----- F----- and be done with it.

But I could tell there was more that was bothering Hagrid and finally it came out. “I knew his parents, you know.”

“You did?”

“They were head boy and girl in their day. Brilliant kids…good people…I was the one that pulled Harry out of the house the night…the night it happened.” For a moment it looked like he might cry. “And then to see how they’ve been treat’n him. Those ruddy Muggles. That boy is skinny as a rail and that kid of theirs is fat as a pig.”

I thought it might be good to steer the conversation into safer waters. “So what happened to that three headed dog you wrote me about?”

“Fluffy? I had to lend him to…well, Dumbledore needed him for something.”
Then, as if he was now trying to change the topic, he began telling me about plans for his garden.

Somehow I left him feeling a bit unsettled. I wish he hadn’t told me about Harry Potter. I went for a hippogriff ride to get it out of my mind, but it doesn’t seem to have helped much. I don’t like thinking about my father or the things that he did, but ever since I arrived here, everything seems bent on reminding me of him.


August 10, 1991 -- Hogwarts

Today I took a long ramble all over the castle and grounds. Professor Dumbledore has me staying in this sumptuous guest suite that is luxurious even by Hogwarts standards. It seems odd to be staying here and not to be sleeping up in the Ravenclaw dormitories. I suppose I’ll never sleep there again. I wonder what the teacher’s quarters are like? Perhaps I’ll check that out before I go.

I’m at Hogwarts, but everything seems different. The place is so empty without students rushing here and there, with Filch helplessly trying to maintain some semblance of order. It’s hard to get used to the idea that I’ve come of age…I can’t go out at night or walk through certain areas without the nagging feeling that I’m doing something naughty.

I was playing guitar alone in the Great Hall because it has the best acoustics, when Dumbledore came in. He entered so quietly that I didn’t notice until he sat down on the dais beside me.

“Glad to see you’ve kept up with your music. I rather missed it.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Something troubling you?”

How did he know? How does he always know? “I’ve been to see Snape. I spent three days with him.”

“Did you?” said Dumbledore, blue eyes lighting with approval. “Good. It’s time that you two got to know each other.”

“He showed me pictures. The whole Gaunt family…inbred freaks.”

Dumbledore nodded. “Tom Riddle was the best to come out of that line in generations. It would have died out if not for the introduction of new blood.”

“Maybe it should have.” I said bitterly “Snape was a Death Eater?”

“Did he tell you that?”

“He admitted it.”

“If it makes you feel any better, your brother switched sides before Voldemort fell.”

Which brought me to the next grievance. They were escaping from me like marbles spilled from a jar. Once they started, they wouldn’t stop. “Voldemort is alive, isn’t he?”

“Perhaps something more in between life and death.” said Dumbledore cryptically. “I hear rumors now and then.”

“Hagrid met Harry Potter?”

“Yes. Harry was having difficulty receiving his mail so I sent Hagrid in person.” Dumbledore now looked amused.

“How can I face that boy?” I burst out. “How will I be able to teach him, knowing the things that I know? Is it really appropriate for Voldemort’s daughter to be educating the Boy Who Lived?”

“You didn’t kill his parents, Voldemort did.”

“I know that. But Snape says I’m just like him…I’ve seen pictures and we do look alike. I’m nothing like my mother at all. It makes me feel so dirty.”

“Surely you aren’t a subscriber to that “quality in the blood” nonsense? Mudbloods, and blood traitors and all that?”

“Of course not.”

“Then don’t worry about it. You are not Voldemort, nor are you responsible for him. The sins of the father are not passed on to the child. You are responsible for your actions alone, Kerri. You are a kind, intelligent, talented young woman with all the world before you.”

“I know…but if it ever gets out…what will people say?”

“Those people whose opinions matter, your true friends, will judge you by the way you have lived your life, and will love you all the same. All others are of no consequence.”

I felt a little of my discomfort subside. We sat and talked for quite some time, about my year abroad and my visit with Snape. I told him about my future plans and he seemed especially interested when I told him about the workhouse.

“I’ve heard that one of my former students is there.” he told me. “He was a brilliant young man, one of the best students in his year. Unfortunately he has fallen on hard times. A pity, because he is a very good man. His name is Remus Lupin. If you meet him, give him my regards.”

“I shall.” I was curious to know what Lupin had done to land himself in such a dead end, but decided against it. I’m the last person in the world who has the right to criticize.

“I don’t know about you, but I fancy a snack, Kerri.” said Dumbledore. “Snacks are all the better at times when they are the least healthy or sensible -- midnight or before meals for example. What would you say to joining me for a little before dinner snack?”

I had to laugh. “Okay, lets.”

So off we went to the kitchens. I don’t think it was a mistake that Dumbledore ran into me in the Great Hall when he did, and I’m thankful for it. I’m feeling much better about things tonight and expect to sleep the best sleep that I have all week.


August 11, 1991 -- Hogwarts

What a wonderful day I’ve had. I rose early and Hagrid and I spent all day working in his garden. We planted the pumpkins for the Halloween banquet. It’s nice to think that a part of me will sort of be here even when I’m not.

We had time to do the work by hand, of course, because Hagrid can’t just go waving that umbrella around casually. Which reminds me -- he admitted to giving Harry Potter’s cousin a pig’s tail.

“He deserved it, the great lump.” was all I could get out of him by way of an excuse.

I wonder if I should tip off Dumbledore in case something comes of it, but nothing has yet, so maybe it’s okay.

Work like we did today is hard, but I like it. I get dirty, but it makes me feel clean…purified somehow. I’m tired and ache all over, but I’m happy. I had a wonderful bath in four feet of hot water and then a good, old fashioned Hogwarts dinner. I’m going to climb into my nice, big four poster bed and drift off to sleep while listening to owls outside my window. Life can get no better.

If I had my way, I’d never leave this place again. I don’t care what people say -- Hagrid is pretty lucky.


August 12, 1991 -- Hogwarts

Well, I’ll be heading for the Burrow tomorrow, by car. I want to maintain a balance between the two worlds, magic and non-magic. I don’t want to turn into one of those people who can only function in one or the other. The day may come when I have to leave the magical world, as my mother did, and I need to be careful not to burn my bridges.

It was good of Dumbledore to let me store my car here. I think Filch is highly annoyed by it, and Peeves seems to have flung a few dung bombs at it, but other than that, it’s fine. It isn’t much, considering it was bought with money I’ve saved from summer jobs, but it’s capable of getting me from point A to point B, which is what matters.

Hagrid and I had another busy day, this time working in the forest. That spider of his gives me the creeps, but every time we go in there together he takes me to visit it like it’s long lost family or something. I try not to let it show, partly because it would hurt Hagrid’s feelings, and partly because you never show a dangerous animal fear. I don’t care what Hagrid says…that thing is dangerous.

Otherwise, it was a good day. We were in there on a mission to inventory unicorns. He knew one was pregnant but was hoping to find more. Hagrid likes me to help him with the unicorns -- always had since he read in a library book about how in the Middle Ages they used to use virgins to lure unicorns out to have their horns cut. He decided that the method might work just as well for inventories and checkups, so ever since I was fifteen or so, Hagrid has been using me for unicorn bait. Not that I mind -- I love the unicorns. And I’d better since I’ll probably be luring them until I’m ninety.

It took all day, but I think our count is accurate. Twenty eight females, nine males. Of the females, five are pregnant. Pretty good considering that the unicorns don’t even trust each other that much. For a unicorn herd, the numbers are impressive, although the thestral herd is Hagrid’s pride because they’re so tame.

We had a small party in honor of my departure today. Small, because Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid, and Trelawney are the only staff in residence. Trelawney told me that her crystal ball says that I won’t be able to stand the grind at Merlin and I should quit while I’m ahead. Hagrid had been drinking, was quite red in the face, and didn’t appear to have heard. Dumbledore smiled at me over his half moon spectacles, eyes dancing with amusement. “I am confident that Kerri will earn perfect marks at Merlin, just as she did here.”

Trelawney looked affronted and crossed her arms over her chest, sending all her bangles tinkling. She had a sour expression on her face, although she didn’t storm off as I half expected her to. It was a miracle that she had come down at all.

After dinner, Dumbledore offered me his arm and walked me up to my room. “Make the most of your time at Merlin, Kerri. There is a lot to see and do in this world, you know. Study is important but you must take time to live a bit. Make friends.”

“You sound like Hagrid. I’m not a recluse, you know.”

“I noticed your absence from the graduation ball.”

“I didn’t take time to find a date.”

“Exactly.”

“Why is everyone so concerned about my love life all of a sudden?” I asked. “Hagrid is trying to set me up with Charlie Weasley.”

“Charlie Weasley?” said Dumbledore thoughfully. “No…I don’t think so. You and Charlie are too much alike in some ways. Find someone different you so that you can complement each other.”

“Right this moment?” I asked, unable to hold back the sarcasm.

Again he smiled. “Sometimes you are very like Severus.”

“Now you’re being insulting.”

“Not at all. I’m very fond of your brother. He sees things in a way that others do not which makes him a valuable asset.”

We stopped outside my door. “Work hard, just not too hard.” he reiterated. “Enjoy university, Kerri.”

“Thank you for all you’ve done for me. I shall be a credit to you and the school.”

“I know you will.” he started to turn away, and then stopped as if he’d remembered something. “Remember to give my regards to Remus Lupin should you meet. He has always been a credit to the school too.”

“I will.”

So he told me good night, and here I am sitting near the window, watching hippogriffs fly over the lake, on this, my last night at Hogwarts for a long time. I may not be looking forward to being away from the next two years, but I am at peace about it.


Author’s Note : As always, comments and criticism are greatly appreciated. (Let’s face it…I’m shamelessly begging). Please, please, please tell me how I’m doing.


Next Chapter : Kerri begins a weeklong visit at The Burrow. She meets Tonks for the first time and is invited to share off campus housing arrangements with her.
Excerpt : “ I don’t recall ever talking to her but I’ve seen her around. She got into a duel with that Slytherin girl, Neala Hennessy, didn’t she? Jinxed her bald as I remember.”
Charlie laughed. “Never call her Nymphadora unless you like pain.”

Chapter 4: Chapter 4
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Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard : August 13, 1991 -- The Burrow

You think all your plans are well laid and then everything falls apart. My first real foray into the magical world beyond Hogwarts and I’ll be going it alone.

Ginny met me when I pulled up. She came running out of the house, red hair carelessly streaming behind as she threw her arms around me. “I missed you!”

“I missed you too.” I said, pleasantly surprised at such an enthusiastic welcome.

More Weasleys followed, virtually pouring out of the house. Fred and George nearly bowled Percy over by accident -- accident, I say because they didn’t succeed.

“Charlie ! Your girlfriend is here!” one called over his shoulder.

“Hello Kerri. If you and Charlie want to go snog each other, I suggest behind the chicken house.” said the other. “There’s privacy back there, but watch where you step.”

“Ignore them.” said Percy in his most grown up tones. He gravely offered me his hand as if we were complete strangers. “Never mind them…they’re so immature. I have wonderful news. I’ve just been made a …”

“Prefect.” the twins chorused wearily.

By then, Ron had made it out, holding Percy’s rat in one hand.

“I know this is something you’re getting tired of hearing,” I said “but you have gotten so tall. You’re almost as tall as I am.”

“He’s getting to that awkward stage.” said Fred, ruffling Ron’s hair. Ron smacked his hand away with a look of complete disgust.

“Before long ickle Ronnie will be breaking out in pimples and stuff.” said George, pinching Ron’s cheek.

“Get off !” snarled Ron, jerking away.

“I think Scabbers has gotten fatter than when I saw him last.” I said, trying to ignore the twins.

“Probably.” Ron agreed. “All he does is sleep and eat. Percy gave him to me.”

Percy’s chest swelled importantly. “My parents gave me an owl when I was…”

“Made prefect.” Fred and George supplied.
Mrs. Weasley finally made her appearance, looking flushed and faintly harassed. I can’t imagine why… “Kerri dear, so good to see you. Don’t you look pretty and grown up? Time goes by so fast! Have you heard our news? Percy has been made…”

“Prefect.” said the twins, making little retching noises.

“They told me. Congratulations Percy. Good luck -- you’ll need it.”

Mrs. Weasley had taken me by the arm and was leading me toward the house.

“Boys, bring Kerri’s bags inside. You’ll stay the week, won’t you?”

“And tell us about what it’s like back where you‘re from.” said Ginny, clinging excitedly to my other arm.

Charlie was waiting for me, filling the narrow doorframe, looking faintly anxious. “Hi Kerri. Let’s go for a walk so I can tell you my news.”

“Uh-oh…here we go.” one of the twins said in an audible whisper.

The other one made kissing sounds at us as we passed.

“Something wrong?” I asked, as we headed for the garden. Charlie’s expression was very serious.

“No…sort of. Kerri, there’s just no easy way to say this. I got this once in a lifetime chance to study abroad. Romania…dragons. Just think of it! I know we were going to go to Merlin together and all that….but chances like this don’t just come along every day. Especially not to people like me. I mean…we aren’t exactly well off. You aren’t mad are you?”

“No I’m not mad.” I recited.


He didn’t look convinced. “I’m sorry, Kerri.”

“No. I understand. Really.” And I meant it. We’d been friends for too long for petty jealousy like that.

“I haven’t really abandoned you.” said Charlie, still not convinced. “I’ve been making inquires for you and found you a roommate.’

“I’m supposed to live on campus. My boarding is paid for.”

“Listen…how would you like to live in a nice little cottage by the sea? You’re Raven claw -- you thrive on seclusion -- don’t try to tell me you wouldn’t.”

“What’s the catch?”

“No catch. I have a friend from Griffyndor that you might remember. Her name is Nymphadora Tonks, but she goes by her last name because she hates ‘Nymphadora’.”

“The metamorpmagus with the pink hair?”

“That’s her.”

“I don’t recall ever talking to her, but I’ve seen her around. She got into a duel with that Slytherin girl Neala Hennessy, didn’t she? Jinxed her bald as I remember.”

Charlie laughed “Never call her ‘Nymphadora’ unless you like pain. Anyway…she’s half Muggle, and she was raised in the magical world. You’re a witch, but you were raised in the Muggle world, so you’re a perfect match.”

“I’m not following you.”

“She had a Muggle aunt who died and left her a house. It’s not too far from Merlin’s campus and she’d like to move in but she’s afraid to do it because she doesn’t know anything about Muggle eclectics…:”

“Electrics.” I corrected.

“Whatever. All those things they have to compensate for not having magic.”

“I can’t afford rent, Charlie.”

“I know that. Tonks owns the house free and clear so there is no rent. Her parents are going to pay the bills while she’s in school so all that’s taken care of. She’d be happy just to have someone there to keep her from accidentally setting anything on fire…and for company. It’s just perfect for you, Kerri.” He was beginning to sound very excited and pleased with himself for finding this situation for me.

“I…this is sudden Charlie. I had my plans all laid out.”

“Don’t decide now. I wouldn’t expect you to. Meet Tonks first and then decide. Tomorrow we’ll meet her for dinner or something.”

He was trying so hard to compensate that I couldn’t be angry with him. “Okay. It’s okay, Charlie.”

“Are you sure?” he asked anxiously “I feel like a traitor. We’ve been planning this for a while now.”

“Don’t feel bad. This is a great opportunity for you. And we’re friends…I want what’s best for you. If anything, I’m jealous.”

He looked relieved. “I’ll send pictures. I’ll write often.”

“You’d better write Hagrid too. He’s dragon crazy you know.”

“I know.” said Charlie with a grin. “So lets head back to the house. Ginny will be annoyed that I kept you here for so long. And the longer we stay out here the wilder Fred and George’s suspicions will be.”

“So Percy made prefect?” I said as we started back.

“He’s impossible to live with. I don’t remember you being like that when you were made prefect.”

“I would hope not.”

So there it is. I’m going to Merlin all alone. Charlie and I have been as close as siblings and done everything together for years. I’ve never considered the possibility that I might be separated from him so soon. I’m trying to be happy for him, but it isn’t easy. I’m really going to miss him.

Tomorrow he and I are going to Diagon Alley to meet Tonks for ice cream at Fortesque’s. I don’t know what to think about this idea of his, but it can’t hurt to consider.


August 14, 1991 -- The Burrow

Well, I’ve made my decision. I hope I’ve done right, but the decision had to be made quickly as I want to begin settling in on Monday. I don’t like making decisions so quickly, but what was I to do?

I was very ambivalent as Charlie and I made our way through the crowded street that is Diagon Alley. As we made our way through the traffic, I spotted her sitting at a table under a shade tree on the patio outside the ice cream parlor. I recognized her by her trademark pink hair.

When she saw us she stood up and waved. Taking a step in our direction, she called out, “Char….” Which was as far as she got before her foot caught on a chair leg and she sprawled flat on her face.

Several passerby stopped to look, but she didn’t seem perturbed as Charlie helped her to her feet. “Are you okay?”

“Oh sure. You know me…two left feet. I don’t even have to be on a dance floor.”

“No man in his right mind would take you on a dance floor.” Charlie quipped.

“Oh thanks a lot. So this is Kerri?”

“Yes.” I affirmed. “Tonks, right?”

“It’s Nymphadora but I’d rather be crucioed than be called that. Tonks is what I like to be called. Sit down you two. At least I got us a good seat.”

We placed our orders, Tonks and I choosing towering confections of brownies, cookies, hot fudge, whipped cream, chocolate frogs, and…oh yes…there was some ice cream in it somewhere.

“How can you eat all that chocolate?” asked Charlie.

“How can you eat all that vanilla?” asked Tonks. “It’s like eating air -- not worth the trouble unless flavored with something that tastes good. Like chocolate -- food of the gods.”

“You can’t go wrong with chocolate.” I agreed. “Keep the Every Flavor Beans, the liquorice wands and the sugar quills. Give me good old chocolate frogs any day of the week.”

We laughed as one chose that moment to make a mad leap off of Tonks’s sundae. She lunged for it and almost fell out of her chair.

“I will never understand the passion you women have for chocolate.” said Charlie, shaking his head.

“And we will never understand your mania for Quidditch -- It’s a sport, not a lifestyle.” said Tonks. “Now Kerri -- I’m sure you have questions for me?”

“Rent?” This, of course, was the point upon which everything else was hinged.

“No. My parents are paying all my bills while I’m in school. I just don’t trust myself in a Muggle house.”

“Are there neighbors?”

“Not close enough to be a problem. The house is right outside town at the end of a long lane. On one side there’s the ocean, and most of the rest is surrounded by woods. The only thing is that Azkaban prison is directly out at sea as the dragon flies. Of course it’s miles away and no one escapes from it anyway, so that’s not a problem. And there is a werewolf commune right through the woods, but my aunt lived there for years and never even knew they were there.”

“I don’t care about that as long as they stay medicated at the full moon.”

“They have to be to live in the commune. It’s the law.” said Tonks “Believe me, I know…I’m studying to be an Auror. I’ve had to learn a lot of Ministry regulations.”

“Wow. Impressive.” I said sincerely.

“Thanks.” she said, looking quite pleased at the complement.

“What’s the house like?”

“Small -- but it’s the perfect place for two students just starting out. Only one bedroom, but snoring is not one of my faults, fortunately. And, it’s within walking distance of Merlin.”

“It sounds good.”

“I think so.” said Tonks cheerfully. “I spent the last two years on campus and I’d really like to get out and be a bit more independent. It would be nice to have a place of my own, you know? So. What are you studying?”

“Care of Magical Creatures. I have a teacher’s commission waiting for me at Hogwarts.”

“I think I remember you. You were about a year or so behind me, right? Ravenclaw…spent a lot of time with Hagrid. You were in the band -- you play awesome guitar by the way.”

“Thank you.” Now it was my turn to be pleased.

“I think we’ll get along just fine. I usually get along with everyone -- I’m very upbeat and easy going.”

“I’m generally the quiet type.”

“If you don’t get along, I know some buddies who would pay to watch two pretty witches like you in a duel.” said Charlie.

“Oh please.” said Tonks. “I’ll bet I could take any one of them in a duel. Men.” she added, rolling her eyes at me.

By this time she and I had pushed aside our empty sundae glasses and were sitting back in our chairs trying to alleviate the sudden tightness of our clothing. “That was good.” I said.

“Neither of you is large.” said Charlie. “Where do you put it all?”

“I’m not sure that it isn’t going to come back up.” said Tonks. “Come on -- let’s walk it off.”

“This isn’t going to turn into a shopping trip, is it?” asked Charlie.

“That’s why you don’t have a girlfriend.” said Tonks loftily as she left the tip on the table. “Because you haven’t learned how to quietly follow along behind on shopping trips. You’d have better luck if you didn’t complain so much.”

“Like my poor father…he just sort of trails behind my mother with his eyes glazed over…”

“Well Kerri, where shall we go first?” asked Tonks, ignoring him.

I didn’t really care. Like Charlie, I didn’t want to go shopping. It isn’t much fun when you don’t have money to spend. The excursion wasn’t a waste of time though, because it gave me time to get to know Tonks a little better. I’ve always been a quick judge of character, and I can sense that she and I will get along quite well. As a result, I agreed to move into the house with her next Monday.

One part of me knows that it’s not smart to agree to move into a house, sight unseen, but I feel pretty nearly good about the decision. It’s just my naturally cautious nature making me a bit ambivalent. If nothing else I can remind myself that Charlie is my friend and would never steer me wrong. And if worse comes to worse I do have the option to change my mind. I hope it works out though because I’d rather live in a quiet little cottage than in some rowdy dormitory. Ironically, students are not exactly known for their studious natures, after all.

…..And I need to close this off and see what just happened …. Sounded like a canon in F. and G.’s room…..

Author’s Note : As always, comments, criticism and even complaints are welcomed and appreciated.

Next Chapter :
Kerri helps Mr. Weasley work on his car and prepares to leave for school.
Excerpt : You know I’m going to feel horrible if I aid and abet him and he gets caught by the ministry -- or worse -- his wife. But Mr. Weasley is a loveable soul and there’s something so amusing about the scheme that I just can’t resist.








Chapter 5: Chapter 5
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Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard: August 15, 1991 -- The Burrow

A busy day today. I like staying here because I get the chance to be a part of the inner workings of a typical wizarding household. On the downside, I’m about run off my feet -- herding invisible thestrals is easier. How does Mrs. Weasley manage to juggle it all?

Today the twins stole Percy’s prefect badge and tried flushing it down the toilet. In the midst of that crises, ( I really think Percy was ready to put Fred and George’s heads down the toilet) Ron misplaced his rat. The badge was easy enough to rescue, as it wasn’t hard to miss where it was making the toilet overflow into the floor. Once Percy had shut himself in his room to attack it with an entire can of magical mess remover, the rest of us turned the house upside down looking for Scabbers.

It was Fred and George who found him in Ginny’s room, curled up in the cup of one of my bras. They picked him up, bra and all, and dropped him in Ron’s lap. Poor Ron’s ears turned bright red, and he froze, torn between the natural desire to get the lingerie out of his lap, and his horror of actually touching it.

I think the only thing redder than Ron’s ears was my face. I put full body binds on both the twins and suspended them upside down from the ceiling. I guess Mrs. Weasley found them and got them down, because they were on the loose at dinner, and I know I certainly didn’t set them free. I have a feeling I’d better be on the lookout for revenge attempts in the near future.

I treated Mr. Weasley to a ride in my car today, by way of keeping him from tinkering with it when I’m not looking. I think the temptation of a real Muggle car sitting in the yard would be too much of a temptation to resist. I found that driving and answering his questions at the same time is a hard thing to do.

“So ‘p’ is for ‘pretty fast‘, ‘d’ is for ‘damn fast’, ‘r’ is for ‘really fast’, ‘n’ is for ‘not fast’. “ he knowledgeably recited. “What do one and three do?”

GOOD GRIEF ! ! ! ! ! ! !

When we got back, I parked it and spent about an hour answering questions. He sat in the driver’s seat and fiddled with the steering wheel like a little boy playing with his father’s car.

“Let me show you something.” he said suddenly, with an air of secrecy. “Come on.”

I followed him around back where his blue Ford Anglia was parked out of direct view of the house … and particularly, the kitchen window where Mrs. Weasley spends a great deal of her time.

“Molly gets frustrated with my experiments, you know.” he said. “So this has to be between us. I have a pet project here, you see, but I’ve hit a little snag.”

“I just drive them -- I’m not a mechanic.” I warned.

“Oh this isn’t mechanical…it’s magical.”

“Mr. Weasley…you aren’t doing anything illegal, are you?”

“Well…it’s just experimental…it’s only illegal if I fly it.”

“Fly it? This car can fly?” I asked, highly amused.

“Not quite yet. You see, it’s a matter of some…well…delicacy.”

“You don’t want Mrs. Weasley to know…and you don’t want your colleagues to know either.” I said sagely. “You need a way to turn the flying option on and off that isn’t obvious.”

“Exactly so.”

“And you still want the car to function in the ordinary way?”

“Precisely, precisely.”

“Well…” I said thoughtfully, sliding into the driver’s seat. “What about a button to turn the flying option on and off? Built right into the dash? Through the radio…the wireless…maybe.”

“Ah. Yes…well…it’s a rather sensitive machine and I don’t quite understand all of the workings yet.”

“Most people don’t, Mr. Weasley.” I laughed. “That’s why they have mechanics. But my mother works in a factory that makes car stereo replacement….this part here.” I said, pointing. “I know how to take it apart. I could remove the wires and we could attach the flying charm to the existing button so that when you want it to fly, all you have to do us push the button. The beauty is that the button is already there, part of the original factory system…no one would have a reason to suspect.”

“Brilliant. When do we start?”

“I need to get a set of radio removal tools first.”

“Tools?” asked Mr. Weasley, an excited glint in his eye. He began rummaging through his pockets and came up with a handful of knuts. “Will these do?”

“Not in a Muggle store. I go in there with those, they’ll think I’m foreign. Oh wait -- I am. Seriously Mr. Weasley, leave it to me. The tool I need is dirt cheap.

We both started guiltily at the sound of Mrs. Weasley calling us to dinner. Mr. Weasely, who was leaning in the window, bumped his head on the top of the frame.

You know, I’m going to feel horrible if I aid and abet him and he gets caught by the ministry -- or worse -- his wife. But Mr. Weasely is a loveable soul and there’s something so amusing about the scheme that I can’t resist. Tomorrow I’m going to get the tools I need and then see what I can do.

August 16, 1991 -- The Burrow

Well at least I don’t have to worry about Fred and George trying to get back at me for the other day. They’re so thrilled to have discovered what their father and I are up to that they’ve forgiven me entirely. I think Mr. Weasley had better keep the key close to hand. I can just see the twins taking the car for a spin and getting caught.

“This is so awesomely illegal.” said Fred gleefully as he leaned over my shoulder from the back seat to watch the operation.

“This is so cool.” George agreed. “Not as cool as the Gringott’s break in -- now that person is truly an inspiration to mischief makers everywhere.”

“Someone broke into Gringotts?” I asked.

“Nothing good can come of that, you mark my words.” said Mr. Weasley grimly. He was sitting beside me on the passenger seat, watching the proceedings with the avidity of a kid in a candy shop. “Only a powerful dark wizard could have done such a thing. There has been nothing like this since…well, you know.”

“What did they steal?” I asked.

“Nothing. But getting in and out alive is a feat in itself.”

“Oh bravo, Kerri.” said Fred, imitating Percy’s most pompous tones as I slid the radio out of the dash.

“So that’s what’s behind there.” said Mr. Weasley, leaning in for a closer look. “Those colored things are called wires?”

“A wire harness to be precise because they’re all bound together. I need to disconnect them before I do anything else or I might get electrocuted.. Mr. Weasley was lovingly cradling a box in his lap that was full of assorted Muggle tools he’d collected over the years. I rummaged through them until I found what I needed. “Mr. Weasely…” I said, picking up another object “This is a beater from a mixer -- a kitchen tool.”

“Is it?” he asked excitedly. “And can I keep the…wire harness?”

“I can’t imagine what use it would be, but of course. You won’t need it in here, anyway.”

“The wireless won’t work now, will it?”

“No. Not unless you decide to install a wizard’s one later.”

“You really are very mechanical, Kerri.” he said happily.

“Not really. I just happen to know a little something about stereo replacements, that’s all. All done.”

“All done.”

“All you have to do is apply the charm.”

“And then let’s go for a spin.” said the twins in unison.

“Ah…well boys…” said Mr. Weasley with obvious reluctance. “It isn’t really for flying…just for…you know, experimentation purposes.”

This did not go over very well. I made my escape before Fred and George could let loose their barrage of protests. Poor Mr. Weasley…I can’t help him there.

So that was my afternoon. I spent the morning out shopping with Ginny. I had to go out to buy the tools anyway, and she wanted to come. I thought it would be good for her to get out and experience the Muggle world a bit so I agreed to take her along.

I love the Weasleys dearly, but like most wizard families, they’re almost completely ignorant of the world beyond theirs. (Though Mr. Weasley really does try). If they were ever in a situation where they had to, they would not be able to blend in or do the most basic things like hail a cab or nuke a hotdog without attracting the wrong sort of attention. Muggle studies in this country leaves much to be desired.

So after the auto supply store it was the mall and a hamburger place. Ginny has been a bit low lately anyway, as the day of Ron’s departure for Hogwarts comes nearer. They’ve never been split up before and she’ll be an only child with him gone. She admits that she’ll miss having him around to play with and pick at.

You know, I always wanted siblings…especially an older brother. I guess I have one, but it isn’t quite the same thing. I tend to think of the Weasley children that way though. When I’m under this roof I don’t feel like a guest -- I feel like family.

August 18, 1991 -- The Burrow

Tomorrow Charlie and I are leaving, he for Romania, I for Merlin. Somehow, in the midst of all the cramp and chaos, Mrs. Weasley managed to pull off a surprise party for us.

Charlie got self warming gloves and I got FIVE POUNDS WORTH OF CHOCOLATE FROGS ! “Since Charlie is going into cold and you’re going into the stress of university, we thought that the gifts were practical.” Mrs. Weasley told us. And tasty…I’m going to weigh 300 pounds by the time I’ve eaten my way through that bag.

We organized a sort of Quidditch game, which wasn’t easy because there weren’t enough of us and we couldn’t use a real snitch in case it got lost and Muggles found it. Mostly it was like playing keep away on brooms with FredandGeorge being reckless with their clubs. One of them knocked me off my broom at one point and Charlie took his bat away and gave him a few gentle love taps with it.

We had a glorious dinner. Lots of hearty foods that you shouldn’t touch if you care about your weight or heart. There was a great abundance of it and I ate until I was almost sick. I found Ron to be wonderful company in that pastime. That boy is really shooting up, and no wonder the way he eats.

After dinner, Ginny asked me to get out my guitar, so Charlie got out his drums. It was fun to be playing with him again -- I’m going to miss him so much. I wonder when we’ll get to play together like that again?

I’ve had such a fun week that I hate to leave. My stomach just drops at the thought of going to Merlin. I’m not afraid to fail --- I never fail at academics of any sort. Snape would say that I should be glad I have my father’s brains. I guess what I’m afraid of is change, which is ridiculous, because that’s a large part of what life is about.

And I don’t like being thrown out into the world alone again. I remember all too vividly those first horrible weeks at Hogwarts. It isn’t the same though. I’m older now and I can take care of myself. Still, it will be unpleasant, knowing that I can’t stroll down to visit Hagrid or track down Charlie or Aedennan to hang out with. But I may make friends every bit as good as the old ones, so I should look forward to that.

I think Ron is having similar anxieties about going to Hogwarts. He has his brothers at least, but that may be part of the problem. Percy will shove him around and FredandGeorge will tease him to death.

“You know about animals and stuff.” he said, sitting down beside me after dinner. “Are there trolls at Hogwarts?”

“Trolls?”

“Fred and George…”

“Are pranking you.” I said flatly, not needing to hear more. “Don’t you believe any of their wild stories.”

His ears turned red. “I reckoned….with them you never know.”

“Ron, you will love Hogwarts. I was terrified when I first went, and now I can’t wait to go back there. You’ll have fun -- I promise. “

We were distracted by Scabbers climbing up my arm to rest on my shoulder, tiny claws tickling my chest. “He likes you.” said Ron. “Mostly he just sleeps.”

“Rats like me -- great -- what does that say about my personality?” But Ron wasn’t listening. He was looking thoughtfully toward Fred and George.

Tonight Ginny and I sat up late in her room and played with each other’s hair. I let her try on some of my school dresses and things. “It must be nice to be all grown up and on your own.” she said wistfully, turning in front of the mirror.

I remember thinking the same thing. I thought that when you grew up, you automatically knew how to do everything and you didn’t get scared or nervous. I don’t think that age exists, which ironically, makes me feel old. But then as Snape would say, “You’re young yet.”


Author’s Note : As always, comments, criticism, and complaints are greatly encouraged.

Next chapter : Kerri settles into her new surroundings and begins a new job where she makes another friend.
Excerpt - He was handsome, perhaps thirty years old, but with the haggard look of a much older man. Dark circles were under his hazel eyes and his light brown hair, which was shoulder length, was just beginning to show signs of gray. Nevertheless, he smiled a very sincere, warm smile and said “I’m Remus Lupin.”



Chapter 6: Chapter 6
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Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard : August 20, 1991

It’s a miracle I had a place to move into yesterday. I had just let myself in with my new key when I heard a panicked sort of screech in what proved to be the kitchen. Heading in the direction of the sound, I found Tonks standing horror stricken in front of a microwave full of sparks. Swiftly, I pulled the plug, tore open the door, and hit the interior with a quick freezing charm.

“Some Auror I’m going to make.” said Tonks in a shaking voice.

“Never put aluminum foil in the microwave….that’s the shiny stuff it was covered with.”

“I know what foil is!” she snapped, then looking shamefaced, added “I’m sorry. I’m just stressed, that’s all.”

Her face was white as a sheet. “Want a chocolate frog?” I offered.

“No thanks.”

“I have a five pound bag that the Weasleys gave me -- don’t make me eat them all myself.”

“All right then.” she said with a smile.

“I’ll be right back.” I ran out to the car to retrieve the bag, which was wriggling a bit from the charm on the candy.

“I’ve never seen so many all at once.” said Tonks, looking at the writhing bag in amazement. “How do you open it without them all escaping?”

“Very carefully.”

“Well you do it. I botch up everything I touch. I’ll never pass my coordination and dexterity tests.”

I freed two chocolates without mishap and we sat down on the sofa to eat them.

“Well….welcome home.” said Tonks wryly. “I wanted to have lunch warmed up when you got here, but so much for that.”

“You didn’t know.”

“I’m not touching any more gadgets in this house unless I have you show me how first.”

“Do we have any more food in the house, or was that it?” I asked.

“That was it. My parents sent it to us. It was a casserole before it went up in flames.”

“Let’s get a pizza then. Do we have a phone?”

“Yes.” said Tonks, her tone dubious.

“Is it working?”

“I suppose…I haven’t broken it yet, at least.”

“I’ll order if you can pay. I’m pretty short just now.”

“Now that I can do.”

So I ordered a pizza and mercifully, Tonks already knows a bit about Muggle money so that part went smoothly.

I started unpacking while she watched for the pizza to come. “It was just one bed, but I transfigured it into twins.” she told me from the hall.

“You did a good job. I’d never have guessed.”

“You take the bed furthest from the door. I’ll come in late from parties a lot and I don’t want to bother you. You don’t mind if I throw a party here now and then, do you?”

“No. But I’d appreciate a warning first.”

“No problem. I know you and are going to get along here just fine.”

And I think so to.

The house is indeed quite small. There are four rooms; living, bed, kitchen, and bath. I can stand in the middle of the bathroom and touch the opposite walls with my fingertips. The living room has space for a t.v., two chairs, a sofa, and not much else. Don’t get me started on the bedroom -- its so close in there that we’ll be banging our shins trying to walk around.

But I don’t mind. It’s a cozy little place, a bit out of the way and set back from the street down a long drive. As Tonks said, it backs up to the ocean on one side and a wooded area on the other, so there are no prying neighbors to worry about. I think that the privacy is owed to the nearby werewolf commune which has anti-muggle protective spells surrounding it for a specified radius. We’ve also gone around the property and cast a few similar spells of our own. All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the place.

This will, however, be a busy week for me. I have to report to Merlin and set up my classes. I also need to apply for a job --- I have to be able to chip in on the next pizza.


August 21, 1991

Well, today I went over to Merlin and registered for classes. Tonks came with me to show me around. It’s nothing like Hogwarts, it’s smaller and has a snobbily exclusive feel that I don’t think I like.

My classes this semester are : Educational Techniques 101, Classroom Management, Advanced Care of Magical Creatures, Healing Techniques for Magical Creatures, Advanced Potions, Advanced Charms, Advanced Herbology, and Advanced Defense Against the Dark arts.

“You’re mental.” said Tonks, noting the double schedule. “You’ll kill yourself.”

“I can manage. Academics are my strong point,”

“Well, you were a Ravenclaw.” she said thoughtfully. “I was a Gryffindor…parties are my strong suit.”

We stopped by the Muggle post office where I opened a P.O. box account so my mother can keep in touch with me. When she walked away from the magical world, it meant nothing but.

“I thought you were pureblood.” said Tonks.

“I am. My mother is a witch, but she lives as a Muggle.”

“Why?”

“It started back during You-Know-Who’s heyday. She…the family…had apparently rebelled against him. Things turned ugly and she fled the country and walked away from the magical world altogether.”

“That’s why I want to be an Auror.” said Tonks, nodding her head emphatically. “To make a difference in the world. All the families that were torn apart back then…that should never happen again, and I want to help make sure that it doesn’t. What about your father?”

“He was a wizard, but I never knew him.”

“I’ve been lucky, I guess. My parents have a mixed marriage, my dad being a Muggle, but they’re still together.”

I was not especially comfortable with this subject so I changed it at that point. We picked up some groceries, which interested Tonks immensely. “My father has taken me in stores like this before, but I haven’t been in one since I was a kid.”

When we got home, I taught her how to use the stove -- something simple -- grilled cheese. We got though it without disaster but I’m not sure I’d trust her on her own.


Saturday, August 24, 1991

What a busy week! I hadn’t planned to start working right away -- I’d expected more time to settle in.

Thursday morning I went to the workhouse to apply for a job. The place is un-plottable, a wizard’s only realm. Most of the workers are not permitted wands and have to walk to work though, so they dress in Muggle clothing with various degrees of success.

Quite frankly, the place is a hell hole, the likes of which I’ve never seen or imagined. The front office is quite nice though, a false front to conceal the festering cesspool behind.

Personnel is a tiny office, not much larger than our bathroom at home. The desk takes up a full half of the room, and one corner is occupied by a working toilet of all things. The walls are papered with winking, smiling, hair flipping witches in various states of undress, posed on brooms and with cauldrons.

The man behind the desk was a short, fat fellow with a deep voice and not much hair. “Yes?”

“I’d like to apply for a job.” I said, trying to ignore the posters on the walls.

“Fill this out.” he said, handing me a form.

I had to sit on the toilet lid to fill it out. I was stumped at a question toward the end that asked :


Please check one. Are you a :
1. Hag
2. Half troll
3.Goblin
4. Werewolf
5. Vampire
6 Other ( Specify)

“This question here --- I’m a student at Merlin.”

He gave me an appraising look. “You are aware of the nature of this establishment?”

“I have a double course load and I need a flexible schedule.”

He scratched his jaw thoughtfully. “We need someone we can trust with a wand in the duplication office. We have a werewolf in there who has a bit of education, but the workload is out of control lately and he can’t keep up. If you don’t mind working in close confines with a werewolf, the job is yours. What hours do you want?”

I named them, and to my surprise he said. “You can start now.”

I hadn’t come prepared to stay the afternoon, but I didn’t dare refuse. He led me through the factory, a hot, loud place that belches fire and smoke -- a cauldron factory to be precise. Most of the workers were shirtless men who openly stared at me as we passed by.

We turned into an office that has a huge glass window in front that looks out into a packing area. It has a climate control spell on it or I don’t think I’d be able to take the heat. A man was inside working, his back to us. An arching ribbon of blank instructions zoomed past him from left to right and he tapped each one quickly with his wand to print it as they dropped neatly into a waiting tray.

“New assistant.” said my escort without preamble. His voice made the man lose his rhythm and instructions went flying in all directions. My escort beat a hasty retreat while the other man slumped his shoulders in weariness before turning around to face me.

He was handsome, perhaps about thirty years old but with the haggard look of a much older man. Dark circles were under his hazel eyes and his light brown hair, which was shoulder length, was just beginning to show signs of gray. Nevertheless he smiled a very warm, sincere smile, and said, “I’m Remus Lupin.”

“Oh?” I asked, in surprise. “I’m Kerri Howard. Professsor Dumbledore sends his regards.”

Now Remus looked surprised. “You know Professor Dumbledore? How is he?”

“Yes -- he’s fine. He let me attend Hogwarts for free and paid for Merlin in exchange for an equal number of years service as a teacher. I saw him the other week and he told me I might meet you here. He said you were a former student.”

“More years ago than I care to admit. I’m glad to hear he’s well. He was very good to me.”

“Well…how can I help you?” I asked, looking at the mess on the floor.

“Oh this is easy enough to fix. Wingardium Leviosa….Accio instructions.” Two quick waves of his wand and they all levitated off the floor, neatly zooming into his hand. “The work in here isn’t hard, but there is a lot of it, at least up until the day shift leaves. This office stays open two hours after that and that’s when things actually slow down to a crawl. Later on if you don’t mind, I ‘d like to hear about Hogwarts. You don’t look as if you could have left very long ago.”

“A year.”

“Well, lets get to business then.”

For the next couple hours I was too preoccupied with what I was learning to pay attention to much else. People came and went, but I barely noticed.

“You’re good with a wand.” said Remus, watching me. “Very accurate…what I’d expect of a Hogwarts graduate. You learn quickly too.”

“You’re a good teacher.”

“I’m a tutor by trade, I just can’t use my credentials. People get nervous about people like me teaching their children . They did tell you, didn’t they?”

So he’d figured out that I was none of the things listed in the question on the application. “About the lycanthropy? Yes. And if I were you I’d go to the states -- less prejudice.”

“It isn’t just that --- it’s the laws. I can’t tutor in a private home unless I have another tutor to supervise me. Well, having two tutors just defeats the purpose of hiring the first. Are you American?”

“I was born over there, but both my parents are Brits.”

“You have the accent.” he said with a smile.

“I don’t have an accent -- - all you people over here have accents.”

We both looked up as a trio of young men passed by the window for the umpteenth time. Even I’d begun to notice their frequent treks. One of them, a platinum blonde with one ear full of multiple piercings, stuck his head in the door. “Nice partner you have there, Remus, Well done.” He gave the thumbs up sign and left.

Remus shook his head, but he was laughing. “Don’t pay them any attention. They’re annoying, but harmless.”

“Your pack?” I hazarded.

“Not technically. I’m independent at the moment, but they seem to think I need adopting.”

Another hour passed, during which the young men walked by several more times, gazing in the window with great interest. “What a ham.” said Remus, watching the blonde flexing his muscles at me through the glass.

“I can’t imagine why on earth you wouldn’t want to live in the commune with him.” I laughed.

It was about then that a newcomer walked into the office. He was built like a barrel and had thick, matted gray hair and beard. His teeth seemed abnormally sharp, as if he’d filed them that way, and he brought with him the rank smell of unwashed flesh. Remus’s smile faded and his attitude was suddenly very guarded.

His voice was still pleasantly polite as he said, “What can I do for you Fenrir?”

“Hello there son.” the words were friendly, but the tone made the words a joke. His very presence put me on edge. “I heard you had a new assistant. Very nice.”

“Is there something you need?” asked Remus, a definite touch of frost in his voice this time.

“Need copies of this.” he said, passing a single sheet of paper to Remus, his eyes on me.

It took Remus two seconds to complete the task. “Anything else?”

“Nah. That’ll do it. I’ll let you know if I think of anything else though. See you later son. You two sweetie.”

Remus gave an exhalation of relief when the man left. “Avoid him like the plague.” he said soberly. “He’s very dangerous. Most of us are okay, but he, and a few people who adhere to him, are positively evil. He infected me.”

“How old were you?” I asked in horror.

“Eight. I can scarcely remember a time when I wasn’t …like this. Whatever you do, stay away from Fenrir Grayback. Now let me teach you how to do invoices.”

I wanted to ask why the man was running loose instead of sitting in Azkaban, but the change in subject was pointedly final. At four, the night shift arrived and most of the day crew went home. The platinum blonde poked his head in the door to say goodbye and voice a few obscene opinions about Fenrir.

“Watch yourself.” Remus warned. “The walls have ears.”

“What’s he gonna do? He can bite my hairy werewolf ass.” With a wink at me, he was gone.

“Fenrir is apparently not very popular.” I ventured.

“No. I’m not the only person here because of him.”

“Why isn’t he in prison?”

“Because he’s useful to some people…the owners of this place for example. You can convince people to your way of thinking more easily if you have an attack happy werewolf at your disposal.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“That’s how it is. So…how is Dumbledore?”

“Fine. He speaks highly of you. He told me you were a brilliant student.”

Remus smiled the first genuine smile since Fenrir had been in earlier. It changed his whole appearance, making the years just fall off him. “I made reasonably good grades…I even made prefect…a very long time ago of course. I was a Gryffindor.” He showed me his class ring, gold with a red stone inlaid with the Gryffindor lion.

“Ravenclaw.” I said, flashing mine, the twin of his, but with a blue stone and a Ravenclaw eagle.

Remus finished the last invoice with a wave of his wand and let it fall into the waiting tray. “There. We should be mostly through for the next hour unless the night shift needs anything. We can do hardware for collapsible cauldrons to keep busy. Have a seat. Now --- tell me all about Hogwarts. McGonagall is still there?’

“Head of Gryffindor.”

“Still? She must be seventy by now. She’s quite a lady. Flitwick?”

“Head of Ravenclaw.”

“Hagrid?”

“My mentor.” I said fondly. “He inspired me to specialize in Care of Magical Creatures.”

“I always liked him.”

“I’m sure he was fascinated by you.”

“No. He never knew about it. The only people who did were Dumbledore, Madam Pomfrey, and a few close friends. It isn’t the sort of thing you bandy about. Madam Pomfrey is still there?”

“Yes.”

“Batwing? He was head of Slytherin.”

“No. It’s Snape now.”

“Snape?” asked Remus, looking up at me from his work with sudden interest. “Not Severus Snape?”

“Yes. You know him?”

“We were in the same year.”

Now it was my turn to be interested. “You were friends?” I asked eagerly.

“Not exactly. He was Slytherin, I was Gryffindor…you know how that goes. What does he teach?”

“Potions.”

“Of course. It was his best subject. Good for him -- it sounds as if he’s made something of himself. Is he a good teacher?”

“He’s…tough.” was all I could trust himself to say.

Remus smiled knowingly, hazel eyes bright. He is truly handsome when he smiles that way because it lights up his whole face. Then, quite suddenly, the door opened and his smile faded to be replaced by a look of calm impassivity. I didn’t need to turn around to see who had walked in.

“Hello son.” came Fenrir’s grating voice. He dropped an armload of papers on the table between Remus and I. “I need copies of these. Not tonight --- first thing in the morning.”

“Of course.” said Remus, his voice expressionless. “I’ll have them ready then.”

“Have a good night. You too sweetie.”

Neither of us replied.

“Ten minutes to quitting time.” said Remus after he had left. “We’ll have to do it today in order to have it ready in the morning. Which he knew of course. He does this a lot.”

“I’ll help. Show me what to do.” I said, getting to my feet.

“These are a bit more complicated so I’d better do them myself to save time. If you’d just tidy up the room it would be a big help.”

We sprang into action and managed to be done with one minute to spare. “I’ll walk you out.” said Remus as he locked the office door. “The night shift are all vampires. Again…most of them are harmless…but still.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“If you graduated from Hogwarts then I don’t doubt it, but humor me. It’s a Gryffindor thing….we’re supposed to be honorable and gallant and all that. Old habits die hard I guess.”

So we headed out together. “You can’t apparate inside the complex.” he explained. “Security is tight considering the…nature of the place. They aren’t very trusting of their employees.”

“With people like Fenrir loose, I don’t blame them.”

“You have to apparate from the alley outside. Well…you can”

“You can’t?”

“There is a law now that forbids people like me from apparating to or from public land.”

“When did they pass that one?” I asked, sure I hadn’t heard it before.

“Last year.”

“I was home with my mother for the past year. You know, you really should consider going over there if things are that bad. Werewolves have completely equal rights.”

“Old traditions die hard here.” said Remus thoughtfully. “Epecially with Fudge in power. It takes money to go overseas and I wouldn’t anyway. I was born here. I couldn’t imagine leaving.”

We paused in the alley. “Well, good night.” I said.

“You don’t belong here, you know.”

“I’m making honest money. There’s no shame in that.”

“I’ll warn you that they’re taking bets on how long you’ll last.”

“They’ll be surprised then.

“Well. Good night Kerri.

“Good night Remus. See you tomorrow.”

So I apparated home and left him to walk, feeling a bit guilty about it. Just when you think your life is bad….Spending one day in that place has been enough to make me resolve to quite whining about my father and not having money and things like that. At least I have opportunities….people like Remus are just stuck in dead ends. It really makes you appreciate what you have.



Author’s Note : As always, comments, criticism and even complaints are highly encouraged.

Next Chapter : Letters to Charlie and Hagrid. Kerri meets her boss, an old enemy from Hogwarts who likes to bully his employess. Consequently she gains great respect for Remus' seemingly endless supply of patience and self control.

Excerpt :
“She’s pretty isn’t she Lupin?” asked Gustav suddenly, breaking the silence. “Prettier than anything you’ll ever have. When was the last time you had a woman who didn’t go rabid and howl at the moon once a month?”
Remus didn’t answer and his face was coolly impassive. I felt a surge of fury on his behalf, knowing that he had to keep quiet if he wanted to keep his job. Gargantua knew it too, and it seemed to empower him, giving him license to say and do anything that popped into his head.

Chapter 7: Chapter 7
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Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley :August 24, 1991

Dear Charlie,
It’s been a week and I’m finally settled in so I have time to write.

So…how are the dragons? You know I have to ask. I want to hear all about them. I hope you’re doing well and not freezing off any vital organs -- I imagine Romania is quite cold.

Tonks and I are getting along as I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know. I hate to admit it, but I’m glad you set this whole thing up. I like this little house. I guess I kind of like playing house, feeling like I really am independent. I’ll probably weary of it though when classes start and I don’t have time for housekeeping.

We had an accident with those chocolate frogs. I’ve been sharing them with Tonks and she was getting one out of the bag the other day when she bumped her head on the corner of the cupboard door. She dropped the bag and…well,,,you can imagine. Almost five full pounds worth of chocolate frogs hopping in all directions. We still haven’t caught them all. Does the charm ever wear off, do you suppose? I always eat them before it has the chance to.

Mr. And Mrs. Tonks came over yesterday to see how we were doing. A chocolate frog jumped on Mrs. Tonks and crawled up her leg, startling her. I know it sounds funny, but it wasn’t at the time. It was quite mortifying. So much for my housekeeping skills. I don’t think they impressed her much.

And good grief…as I’m writing this I see the shadow of a chocolate frog on the inside of the lamp shade. Better get it before it melts.

QUIT LAUGHING CHARLIE --- It isn’t funny !

I have a job at the local workhouse in the duplication office. What a hell hole that place is, but at least I’m making a little money. (A very little). How do people fed their families on that kind of money? I don’t suppose they’re expected to. Probably the Ministry hopes they’ll all move somewhere else or die of starvation and ill health. The man I’m working with is a werewolf who is about thirty years old and already going gray.

And by the way -- he graduated from Hogwarts -- Gryffindor. The nice thing about Hogwarts is that you can get a pretty good idea about a person’s dominant personality traits just by asking what house they were in. I don’t know why, but I seem to have a lot of friends from your house, come to think of it….

Anyway, I have a question for you before I close this letter. I’ve been trying to get in touch with Aedennan Quirrel since I returned to the country, but I’ve had no luck. He should be home from his year in the field, shouldn’t he? I don’t get replies from him, which is odd, because he always used to be such a good correspondent. Have you heard from him? Let me know.

Take care -- and send pictures
Kerri

* Editor’s note : None of Cerridwyn’s letters to or from Quirrel are still in existence. It is doubtful that Quirrel kept the letters that he received from her; and after Quirrel’s death, Cerridwyn burned the letters she had received from him in a grief-stricken rage.


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : August 24, 1991

Dear Hagrid,

How are you? Busy, I’m sure, getting ready for the students to arrive. Wish I could be there.

I’m doing well, getting settled in and everything. Charlie ran off to Romania at the last minute to study DRAGONS and I’m about to die of jealousy. Other than that, things are fine. Before he left, he set me up with a roommate, who is an old friend of his from Gryffindor. I think we’re going to end up being good friends…it might be nice to have some female friends for a change.

Instead of living on campus as I’d planned, I’m at the address written on the envelope, so please send all letters here. It’s a nice little house right on the ocean, that backs up into a wooded area. It’s nothing as grand as our Forbidden Forest, but one of these days I’m going to go exploring in there and see what I find.

I was wondering if you could let me know -- is Aedennan Quirrel there yet? I miss him a lot. He was the only other Ravenclaw in the band, and we were pretty close even though he was a few years older. He had that horrible stutter when he spoke, but what a voice when he sang. We wrote to each other for a while, but lost contact during the last year or so. I hope he’s okay…considering the dangerous nature of his field. (But then people might say the same about mine).

Hope this letter finds you well.
Love, Kerri


Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard : Wed. August 28, 1991

I had quite an unpleasant shock at work today. I’d seriously think of quitting if I hadn’t taken a liking to Remus. I’d feel guilty if I just abandoned him to work that office alone and unassisted. The fact that we both graduated from Hogwarts carries a lot of weight -- running into him here is almost like running into a long lost relative.

It started when Remus announced that the owner’s son was coming in to observe me.

“Why?”

“To see if he thinks you’ll be capable of running this place by yourself on the day of the full moon. It’s a couple of weeks away yet, but it isn’t too soon to begin preparing.”

I wasn’t sure what made me more nervous…being ‘observed’, or the idea of running the office solo. “Manage alone?”

“Well…we aren’t useful for anything that close to…that time.” said Remus, his voice impassive. I’ve noticed that he seems to prefer to avoid using the word ‘werewolf’ if possible. “You’ll be ready by then, don’t worry. “ he added more brightly. “You’ll fall behind, I have no doubt, but you won’t make mistakes.”

“Oh, very comforting. And I don’t think I like the idea of being ‘observed’.”

“Don’t let him rattle you. I’ll warn you right now that he isn’t the easiest person to get along with. He’s fresh out of Hogwarts so maybe you know him. Gustav Goyle.”

“Gargantua? Gargantua Goyle is here?” I asked in horror.

“Well, he is quite large, yes.”

“And you’re being very generous by calling him not easy to get along with. He’s a jerk.”

Remus stifled a smile. “Believe me, I don’t want him in here any more that you do, but we don’t have a choice. “

“When will he be here?”

“I wish I knew. He likes to sneak in without warning. I think he’s hoping to catch me doing something I shouldn’t be.”

“He was a Slytherin prefect….he was always doing stuff like that.” I said, nodding.

“Well whatever he says, don’t rise to the bait. Try to follow my lead. He loves it if he thinks he’s gotten to you. I’ve seen him drive women to tears.”

“He’s not going to make me cry. He might make me blast him through the window, but he won’t cry.”

“Nonsense.” said Remus mildly.” No amount of magic in the world has enough force to get him off the ground. Besides, if the window breaks, so does the climate control charm. You have no idea what I had to go through to get permission to cast it.”

About an hour later, Basil, the platinum blonde, poked his head in the door. “Trouble coming.” he said, and hurried off.

“You know they tell me that he actually does work sometimes.” said Remus, looking amused. “I’ve even heard that he’s good at his job.”

The door opened a second time and Gargantua’s superfluous bulk filled the frame. Puffing slightly from his walk through the factory, he looked at me with an expression that went from stupidly surprised to cruelly amused in two seconds flat. “You?”

“My assistant, Kerri Howard.” Remus intervened.

“Gustav.” I said quietly.

“Mr. Goyle to you. What happened to land you in here? You were normal when you were at school…sort of.”

“I’m in town to attend Merlin.” I answered, and explained about the double course load.

“Well I suppose you are pretty much at the end of your rope. I know you couldn’t afford Hogwarts and you’re nine years in debt to the school. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“Apparently you’re doing well for yourself.” I said with studied politeness.

“It helps to be born into money.”

“Miss Howard is learning quickly.” said Remus in a brisk, professional tone. “I’m sure you’ll be pleased with her performance and be confident in her ability to…”

“Run this dump while you’re trying to gnaw off your own tail.” Gustav finished the sentence with a laugh. He sat down on Remus’s stool, his fat butt sagging over the sides. “Lets see how you do then. Get to work.”

“We’ll just carry on as if you weren’t here then.” said Remus with a significant look at me that I took to mean, Ignore him.

So began one of the longest hours of my life. Gargantua watched me work, his eyes following me with more avidity than I thought strictly appropriate. If I needed to get past him, he wouldn’t budge, forcing me to brush against him as I passed. The situation was very uncomfortable, but Remus carried on valiantly as if nothing was wrong. I admired his patience and tried to follow his lead as best I could.

“She’s pretty, isn’t she Lupin?” asked Gustav suddenly, breaking the silence. “Prettier than anything you’ll ever have. When was the last time you had a woman who didn’t go rabid once a month and howl at the moon?”

Remus didn’t answer and his face was coolly impassive. I felt a surge of fury on his behalf, knowing that he had to hold his tongue if he wanted to keep his job. Gargantua knew it too, and it made him feel empowered, able to say and do anything that popped into his head.

Gargantua chuckled to himself and shifted his ponderous weight. The stool creaked ominously and I hoped it would give.

The door opened and in came Basil. “When you get a chance, I need shipping labels. “ He dropped the list of addresses on the table, shot a scathing glance at Gargantua, and stalked out of the room after tipping me a wink.

“What’s up with that?” asked Gargantua. “They aren’t sharing you among themselves are they?”

“Kerri, I need someone to run these up front…” Remus began.

“Kerri, stay right here so I can observe you.” Gargantua cut in with a nasty sneer.

Remus and I exchanged glances. The expression on his face was pleading with me to stay calm and not lose my temper. The answering smile I gave him was meant to be reassuring but not altogether genuine. I was having visions of doing Gustav Goyle some serious bodily harm.

“Who knew you needed a Hogwarts education to do this job, eh Lupin?” asked Gargantua. “Just what you dreamed about growing up to do, I’m sure.”

Remus didn’t answer.

“Hey Lupin --ever date a French poodle? How about a Greyhound? Bet you go for the smaller breeds so they can‘t out run you.” said Gargantua, completely out of the blue. “I mean if you’re canine yourself at the time, what does it matter?”

It was too much. If Remus wasn’t going to speak up, then I was. I didn’t need this job as much as he did. I spun around to tell Gargantua off and walked right into a barrel chest. It was Fenrir. He had just walked in, and by the expression on his face, he had heard the dig about the French poodle. To my surprise, Gargantua was actually starting to squirm.

Fenrir ignored me. His attention was focused solely on Gustav Goyle. “French poodle? You fat ass pig…think you’re better than the rest of us, don’t you? Well our day is coming, just you wait. Best you think about that before you go making enemies. You watch your step Fat-ass or you’ll find yourself in the same boat with the rest of us. All it takes is one little nip…just enough to break the skin. Right Remus?”

Remus didn’t reply. He was busily making copies of instructions, his expression as blank as if he hadn’t heard a single word of the exchange.

“I need copies of these, sweetie.” said Fenrir, handing me a stack of invoices. “And I’ll wait for them.” With that, he picked up my stool, pulled it around next to Gargantua, and sat down next to him, thigh to thigh.

I glanced at Remus who gave his head the tiniest of shakes. I understood : For once, he wanted Fenrir to stay.

“I have an order of address labels ahead of you….Mr….Grayback?”

He actually smiled at me. “Take your time sweetie. See there, Fat-ass? She has manners.”

Gargantua was actually breaking out in a sweat. I shot Remus an amused look and he gave me a faint smile in return. I’ve never known anyone like him before with whom I could carry on an entire conversation without speaking a single word.

“You’ll do fine.” said Gargantua, getting to his feet as I finished the last label. He beat a rather hasty retreat…at least as fast as he could waddle out the door.

Fenrir laughed, and it wasn’t a pleasant sound at all. “I don’t care what you think of me boy -- he’s worse than I am. You and me now, we’re the same kind.”

Remus was still patiently ignoring him. “Your copies.” I said, swiftly stepping between them.

“Thanks sweetie. See you later.”

“You are not like him at all!” I exploded after he had gone. “And how can you just stand there and take that crap?”

“I’m used to it. You get used to it over the years. And thank you.”

“You shouldn’t have to get used to being treated that way -- no one should.”

“You can’t blame people for hating creatures like me when there are Fenrir Graybacks in the world.”

“You aren’t a CREATURE.” I angrily spat the word back at him. “You’re…you’re what Dumbledore calls a ‘brilliant student.”

“Dumbledore was always good to me.”

“Dumbledore isn’t a bigot. You can’t be blamed for something that was done to you by a psychopath…” suddenly I remembered Dumbledore’s words to me with astonishing clarity. “ People who think about you that way don’t matter -- it’s your friends whose opinions matter, and they know better because they know the sort of person you are.”

“People are afraid of people like me. Fenrir….he goes around infecting as many people as he can because he thinks that if werewolves are the majority, then laws will be changed.”

“That’s insane.” said flatly.

“Of course.” Remus agreed. “And he only makes things worse for the rest of us.”

“Well, he had good timing today, at least.” I said with a sigh. “I was about ready to start hexing.”

“I can teach you how to survive in this place if you’re determined to stay. The first thing you need to know is that you have to learn to take insults politely and pleasantly if you want to keep your job.”

“Gargantua is afraid of Fenrir?”

“Anyone with sense is -- Fenrir is the only person in this place who doesn’t have to worry about getting fired. Don’t you believe all that ‘sweetie’ nonsense either. Don’t ever turn your back on him --- he becomes a little more unhinged every year. “ Remus, who usually spoke mildly, was very vehement on this subject. “The Goyles use Fenrir and he uses them. One day one of them is going to regret it … probably the Goyles.”

“WHOOOO !” exclaimed Basil, banging the door open. “It’s hot out there, but I bet it’s hotter in here. Dammit! Is that smell from Goyle farting or from Fenrir not bathing?”

“Probably a bit of both.” I told him, handing him his labels.

“You two want to go for a beer after work? I’ll buy, Remus.”

“I’m tired. I’m going to go home and sleep.” said Remus. “Thanks anyway.”

“I’m going to enjoy life before I get to that stage.” said Basil, looking him up and down. “What do you say, Kerri?”

“No thank you.”

“Why not? I kiss good -- it‘s worth it for that alone.”

“I don’t drink.” I said with a laugh.

“No? Well we’ll have to see what we can do to corrupt you. Get you away from Mr. White Knight here for starters.” He blew me a kiss and left the room.

The rest of the day passed without further incident. At quitting time Remus walked me out to the alley, as he did every night. “Look, lets do side along apparition.” I said. “I’ll take you as near your home as we can get without attracting attention. You look as tired as I am annoyed.”

“You don’t have to bother.”

“It isn’t a bother. It only takes seconds and it’s silly for you to walk home. Name a location.”

He did, and it was another alley in an even worse neighborhood than my brother’s place on Spinner’s End. There was an overpowering smell of urine and assorted bits of trash and debris everywhere. I didn’t want to think about what I might be standing in. There were lots of small, run-down houses barely more than shacks packed cheek by jowl in untidy rows. Some were wizards’ addresses, others were Muggle. In that sort of place I suppose no one takes the time to notice incorrectly numbered addresses.

“I live across the way.” said Remus, pointing. “Just one room plus a bathroom, but it’s mine. I’d invite you in but….it isn’t the best place for entertaining.”

“That’s okay.”

He started to turn away and then stopped. “Kerri, thank you.”

Again, I understood what he was leaving unsaid. He was thanking me for acknowledging his humanity. “No problem. See you tomorrow.”

“Will I?” he asked with a smile.

“Of course. I told you, I’m tough. It will take more than Gargantua to get rid of me.
But will it? I wonder if he heard the doubt in my voice. I’m wondering if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. For two knuts I’d not show up tomorrow and just go get a job flipping burgers. Bit I can’t -- in just a week I’ve come to think of Remus as a friends. Hogwarts is like an extended family so he’s kind of like a long lost older brother. I can’t just leave him there. He doesn’t belong there any more than I do…perhaps less so with that Gryffindor nobility of his. If it was me, I’d have crucioed Fenrir Grayback up one end and down the other by now. He must have the patience of a saint, which I don’t . But then Snape says I take after my father, who wasn’t exactly known for patience either.


Authors Note : As always, criticism, comments, and complaints are greatly encouraged.

Next Chapter : Letters to and from Snape. Kerri is invited to visit the werewolf commune where she begins getting to know Basil and his very rowdy friends. 

Excerpt : “Remus is the worst.” said Streak. “We can’t keep him away from women. Always running around during the full moon biting them on the backside. The number of female werewolves around here who were infected by him biting them on the bum is incredible. Way to go Remus -- some day I hope to be as successful as you.”













Chapter 8: Chapter 8
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Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : August 25, 1991 -- Spinner’s End

Dear Kerri,

I hope this letter finds you well and settled comfortably into your new setting. Please find enclosed a small monetary allowance. I know being a student is expensive and making ends meet a constant juggling act. As I receive an adequate salary and have no dependents, I ask you to indulge me in bestowing some of the surplus upon you.

In one week’s time I shall leave Spinner’s End and return to Hogwarts, so you may contact me there. And so, another school year begins. Teaching was never my first career choice and as I prepare to return, I find myself regretting that you have no choice in your career either. But, who can say what the future will bring? At most, you need only serve a nine year sentence.

As always, best wishes for continued academic success. I look forward to hearing of your exploits.

Sincerely, Severus Snape

PS. You might have informed me of your change of address. Fortunately Professor Dumbledore was aware of your location and able to relieve my concern when this letter was returned to me.

S.S.


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : August 31, 1991

Dear Severus,

I’m sorry I made you worry -- please let me explain. This new relationship between us is awkward for me. I’m simply not used to having a brother in my life. I thought about writing, but I wondered if my letter was truly welcome. As a result, I decided to wait and see if you would take the inniative to write to me first. It has crossed my mind that you might have invited me to Spinner’s End at Dumbledore’s urging. You have to agree -- it’s the sort of thing he’d do.

At any rate, if you forgive me, then lets just start over from scratch.

Thank you for your very generous gift -- you really don’t have to send me money, but I’m very appreciative of it. As you’ve guessed, things are pretty tight just now. Naturally the workhouse does not pay enough for one person to live on, let alone a family. I don’t know how other people manage.

Speaking of the workhouse -- Gustav Goyle’s family owns the place. What a nightmare ! He discovered my presence the other day and was absolutely dreadful. Beyond dreadful -- there is no word in the English language to describe his horrid behavior. I know he was one of your prize students, but if I ever catch him in a dark alley somewhere I’ll give him a curse he’ll never forget.

As to your concern that I have not had the chance to choose my career, I really don’t mind. I’d have become a teacher with or without the indentureship. I love Hogwarts more than any place on earth and I’ve always known that I would never leave, therefore I always knew that I would teach.

But what about you? If teaching wasn’t your first choice, what was? How did you end up at Hogwarts then? And if you aren’t happy, why don’t you do something that does make you happy? I know you’re a smart man, Severus, you could do anything that you put your mind to.

I hope my questions do not annoy you. It’s just that here we are, brother and sister, and we really don’t know that much about each other.

One more question while I’m thinking about it -- Is Aedennan Quirrel at school yet? I’m trying to get in touch with him again. Let me know, could you? Thanks a lot.

Kerri


Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard : August 31, 1991

I’m a member of a band again ! The last thing I’d have expected when I woke up this morning. You just don’t know what twists and turns your life may take between the time when you get out of bed and when you get back in.

“Tonks?” I asked, peering over at the flash of pink on the pillow in the bed opposite mine. It was early in the morning and the room was dim.

“What?” she asked, voice soft with sleep.

“Want to go explore the woods with me?”

“It’s 7:30 on a Saturday --- are you out of your mind?”

“Possibly.” I told her as I started putting on clothes. “Insanity runs in my father’s side of the family.”

“Kerri?”

“Yes?”

“There’s something in bed with me -- moving under the covers. I think -- I think it’s a chocolate frog.”

We both burst into a spontaneous round of giggles.

“Maybe I’ll go exploring with you another time.” she said, glancing under her sheets. “Some friends of mine are getting in today and we’re going to a book signing. Want to come?”

“No thanks. I really want to get out into the woods, especially after working in that hell hole all week.”

“Maybe you should get a job on campus or something.” Tonks suggested, now groping beneath her blankets.

“No. I am not letting Gargantua Goyle get the better of me.”

“I agree with you --- I just didn’t know you Ravenclaw types had it in you. Reckless stubbornness is usually a Gryffindor thing. Hey -- if you get a chance, get in a good curse for me too. He tattled on me one time for impersonating McGonagall.”

“What?”

“I did it on a dare. I was supposed to make myself look like her and go say something stupid to Snape like….’What color underwear do you have on?’ or something like that. Anyway, I guess I lost my concentration or something because I had the wrong eye color and Goyle noticed.”

“Well, I’m dressed and I’m going.” I said, laughing. “Sure you don’t want to come?”

“I’m sure. Watch out for werewolves.”

“You watch out for chocolate frogs. “

“Trust me … I can handle those.” said Tonks, shaking out her covers.” You wait until I get my hands on this one -- breakfast.”

“Well happy hunting.”

So I got a bottle of water and my wand and headed off into the woods. I didn’t have to go too deep before I came upon an animal track. It was like nothing I’d ever seen in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts, and perplexed me a bit at first. It was clearly defined, but didn’t seem to be frequently used, judging by the fair amount of forest debris that littered the surface.

Then it hit me. The werewolves. They would run these woods regularly every month, but only for one night. They came closer to the house than I’d realized, and I was willing to bet that Tonks hadn’t known it either.

I decided to strike out away from the trail, Remus’s warnings about Fenrir burned firmly into my mind. These woods were younger than the forest around Hogwarts and I am nearly sure that the werewolves are the most magical creatures that frequent it. But I like animals of all sorts, and just getting out among trees for a while does wonders for my soul.

I’d been walking for quite a while when I heard voices. I froze and listened to one voice that suddenly raised above the others in song. It was a very unflattering ditty about Fenrir that involved Fenrir not being able to get any dates and an obscene reference to a female pig.

I almost choked with scandalized amusement and wanted to see who on earth would be that gutsy. I ought to have known from the sheer audacity of the lyrics, but I didn’t recognize the voice, which was exceptionally good, and reminded me a bit of Billy Idol from the eighties. Quietly moving through the trees I came upon -- “Basil, was that you?”

He and four other young men that I knew from work were lounging around a fallen tree. Basil himself was standing on it, balancing with his arms held out at either side. “Hey Kerri. What are you doing here?” he asked, jumping down with a flourish.

“Taking a walk.”

“You have to be careful….there are werewolves out here you know. Lucky you ran into us. This is Streak, Augustus, Mel, and Brand.” he pointed to each of his buddies in turn. “Want to know why we call him Streak?”

“Probably not.”

Basil laughed. “Work with us long enough and you’ll find out.”

“Was that you singing?”

“Pretty nice little ditty, eh? It has more verses…want to hear them?”

“No thanks.” Most of the words I’d heard in just the one verse were words that I’d never heard used on Hogwarts grounds. Using obscenities like that would put a student in detention for a week. Nevertheless, I couldn’t deny that it wasn’t clever. “You have a good voice.” I told him.

“I know.” he said matter-of-factly as he picked up a guitar that had been propped nearby. Sitting down, he played a few chords.

“Good, but you’re flat.” I told him, looking with some puzzlement at the red-head, Mel, who was walking around me with a scrutinizing expression.

“I am not flat.” Basil insisted.

“Neither is she.” was Mel’s verdict as he finally stopped ogling me.

I decided to ignore him. “Want me to tune it for you?”

“You know how?” asked Basil dubiously.

“Oh sure. I have one of my own at home.”

“Fine.” he said, passing the instrument over to me.

I sat down on the moss cushioned tree trunk and started working.

“Hey…can you…” Basil began.

“Hush. I need quiet.” I told him.

It took a few minutes for me to get it just perfect. It was old and battered, but the sound was pure. I played the tune to the song Basil had sung earlier, making them all laugh.

“You have a good ear.” said Basil. “And you play good.”

“And she’s pretty.” Mel pointed out.

“She’d do.” said Brand, a handsome, dark haired young man, as he frowned at me in a thoughtful sort of way.

“What are you talking about?” I asked, nonplussed.

“Ever thought of joining a band?” asked Basil.

“I was in one at Hogwarts….why?”

“We’re going to start one, but we don’t have a girl in it.”

“We need a girl for eye candy.” Mel explained. “You don’t even need to have talent…just look hot.”

“Well who wants to look at a bunch of sorry ass werewolves like us?” asked Augustus. He was shorter than any of the others, and from what I’d seen at work, was the more quiet and steady one of the group.

“Speak for yourself.” said Streak, a tall, skinny young man with a mop of curly hair. “I find that people often look at me.”

Basil rolled his eyes and said “Why don’t you come over and try out for us, Kerri? At least come by and play with us for a while.”

“I suppose I could.”

“Just come by the commune and ask anyone to show you where I live. Give us time to get back there though -- maybe a half hour or so?”

“I’ll be there.”

“Great.”

They went their way, I went mine. I decided to shower before going to meet them, since I’d gotten all hot and sweaty from tramping through the woods. By the time I was done, the half hour was up.

I decided to drive over. It might not be quite delicate to apparate to a complex full of individuals virtually banned from that right. I knew approximately where the commune was, because it was two miles from our house, straight through the woods. I drove around by the road, and pulled up outside a place that was something like a Muggle apartment complex consisting of three wings and a high wall that formed a rectangle around a paved courtyard.

Bare, is the word that come to mind when describing it. Severe, linear forms with sharp right angles and rows of identical windows set at precise intervals, looked down on the barren yard. Gray walls -- gray pavement -- no color or embellishment whatsoever. The werewolf commune was built for utility, to hide one faction of society’s rejects and render them dependent, effectively preventing them from mingling with the population beyond. I knew from things I’d read that the Ministry handed out birth control there as freely as wolfs- bane potion before a full moon. A kinder, gentler method to lower the werewolf population than euthanasia, which was the accepted norm one hundred years ago.

The werewolf commune was an imposing place. It struck me as I parked my car outside and walked toward the gate that Basil knew this and was using it to test me. Did Kerri have the guts to go walking into such a potentially dangerous place alone? 

Yes, she did. 

I found the courtyard empty save for three children playing gobstones,, who looked up curiously as I approached. “You lost, lady?” asked a little girl with short, dark hair and skinned knees. 

“No. I’m looking for Basil. He told me to ask someone to show me where he lives. Can you do that?” 

“Yeah -- I know Basil. Come on.” 

I followed her into the center wing and up several flights of narrow, steep stairs whose banisters seemed to serve double duty as clotheslines. Here and there people were chatting on the landings, or outside open apartment doors. I saw no more children, and most of the people I did see were middle aged or older. 

I was taken to a corner apartment on the top floor. The girl unceremoniously pushed open the door to a small room with a floor littered in spilled popcorn and candy wrappers. The walls were moving with posters of Quidditch players, singers, half naked girls, and in one corner, a full set of chocolate frog cards. 

“Up there.” said the girl, pointing to a rugged rope ladder that led through an open trap door in the ceiling. 

“Thank you.” 

“Yeah.” 

She left, and I sent my guitar up through the trap door with a well aimed lifting spell. Then I climbed up the ladder myself, thankfully grasping an offered hand that pulled me up onto the roof. I found myself looking into Remus Lupin’s friendly eyes, which seemed more gray than hazel today. “What are you doing here?” I asked. 

“I could ask you the same thing.” 

“You said ‘stay away from Fenrir’, not ‘stay away from Basil.” 

“Stay away from Mel and Streak might be more to the point.” he answered wryly. 

“We roped Remus into managing us.” explained Basil, who was sitting on the lid of a nearby chest. “See, we intend to do a lot of after concert partying and we need an honest, responsible person to hold the money for us.” 

“And clean up if we puke.” added Streak. 

“Come again?” said Remus, raising his eyebrows. 

“Sounds like you’ve been doing more than just thinking about starting a band.” I said. 

“We’ll, we’ve been thinking for a while.” Basil explained. “And like we said -- a girl would round things out nicely.” 

“And you are nicely rounded out.” added Mel, who had been checking me out again. 

Remus didn’t say anything, but his expression was one of disapproval. 

“He’s such a white knight.” said Mel, pointing at him. 

“Let’s shut up and play.” said Basil. 

So we did, a strange mixture of wizard songs and Muggle songs that they’d managed to pick up somewhere. And I really have to say -- Basil could go professional with that voice of his if he could just get a foot in the door. It’s always a pleasure to play with someone that you just sort of click with, and it was like that today. It goes beyond the sort of magic that you work with a wand -- older, deeper, more profound. Going in there I’d had no intention of agreeing to anything, expecting only to have fun playing music with them. Somewhere in the middle however, I felt my resolution waver. 

“You can sing, Kerri.” Basil complemented me. “You don’t look the type because you’re so quiet. We might be able to corrupt you yet. Stick with us long enough and we’ll turn you into a real party girl.”

“She can move too.” said Mel, who was eying me again. “Makes me jealous of her guitar watching her hold it like that.” 

“If you want the spot, Kerri -- you’re hired.” said Basil. 

Remus cleared his throat. “Aren’t there some things you should tell her first?” 

“Oh yeah --- we’re werewolves.” said Basil sarcastically. “We like to bite people…especially girls…that’s the real reason we want you in our band.”

“And Remus is the worst.” said Streak “We can’t keep him away from women. Always running around biting them on the backside…the number of female werewolves walking around here that he bit on the bum is just ridiculous. Way to go Remus…some day I hope to be as successful as you.” 

The other guys were practically falling over with laughter at this speech while Remus’ face had an odd expression somewhere between amusement and annoyance. “Tell her the other part.” he said dryly. 

“Oh…the other part.” said Basil, trying hard not to choke between gales of laughter. 

“Yes…here it is….our band will run the werewolf circuit, and as far as I know, you’d be the only non werewolf in any of the bands, Kerri. Although we might get to play in a few of the vampire clubs if we’re lucky.” he added thoughtfully. “That’s where the real money is.” 

“A very little money.” Remus warned. 

“In my financial state, every little bit helps.” I said. “And you don’t start a band like this just to make money -- you do it because you like music.” 

“Speak for yourself.” said Brand “I like money.” 

“And too, Kerri….” said Augustus, looking at me soberly “How do you feel about us?” 

“The fact that you’re werewolves? It doesn’t bother me --- if it did, I wouldn’t be here.” 

“We can only perform on weekends for the most part.” said Basil, going back to the money issue. “Most of us have pretty horrible jobs…well you know that…and quite a few have night jobs too. We don’t really get out much…our social lives suck….we’re party animals on the weekends though.” 

“Especially Remus.” added Streak “He can’t keep his hands or his teeth off…” 

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence.” said Remus, finally pulled out of his characteristic reserve. 

Even I had to laugh this time. 

“Well are you in, or not?” asked Basil, grinning. 

“Sure, if you’ll have me.” 

“I’d love to hav…” 

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence, Mel.” I said, borrowing Remus’ line. 

“Oh you’re going to fit in with us okay.” said Basil cheerfully. “Next time throw in a few curse words and no one will know the difference. Now -- what should we call ourselves?” 

“Remus?” Augustus prompted. 

“Why do you always ask me?” 

“You volunteered to manage.” 

“You begged me to manage.” Remus clarified.” And how about Hybrid? You’re a hybrid band because you aren’t all werewolves.” 

There was an appreciative silence at this suggestion. “That’s why we always ask you.” said Brand “You always have the answers.” 

“So we are Hybrid.” Basil confirmed. “Cool. Now we have a lot of serious planning to do.” 

Which took up most of the rest of the day. I stayed all afternoon while we set up practices and things. We’re planning to do a trial concert for the commune on October 1, and hoping to do a real one on Halloween. However, we have a lot of work to do between now and then, including pick out songs and get used to each other. Like I said -- you just never know the turn your life may take when you get out of bed each morning. It’s the very last thing I’d have expected, but I’m happy about it.
When I left, I took Remus with me and dropped him home. “Keep the doors locked.” were his parting words as he eyed a rough looking character loitering on the corner. 

“I thought you were hiking in the woods.” said Tonks as I told her all about the band over dinner. 

“I did. I just got sidetracked.” 

“I hope you’re prepared to face hostility. I don’t have a problem with it, but if word gets out on campus…some people will.” 

“I don’t care about what ‘people’ think.” I said coolly. 

“Tell you what -- I’ll throw you guys an after concert party when you debut.” 

“Here?”

“Sure.” said Tonks airily. “I’ve been to parties in dorm rooms smaller than this.” 

“I’ll tell the guys. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. So? How was the book signing?” 

“We all got our books signed by Lockhart.” 

“Not Gilderoy Lockhart?” I laughed, and told her about my encounter with him. 

“Well you can’t have both looks and brains.” said Tonks with a shrug “ And you have to admit -- he is cute.” 

“I guess so. Just not cute enough for me to stand in line for hours just to have him sign his name for me.” 

“Well my friends and I have been apart all summer so it gave us time to catch up. I’ll have them over sometime so you can meet them. Willow has a cute brother.” Tonks slyly added. 

“Did you not hear what I’ve been saying? On top of the double course load and the job, I now have obligations to a band. When do I have time for men?”

“Men are like chocolate.” said Tonks with a laugh. “There’s always room for one.”

Author’s Note :As always I am shamelessly begging for criticism, comments, and complaints…maybe not complaints…will take complements though if you have them. 


Next Chapter : Letters to and from Charlie, Hagrid, and Snape. Classes begin at both Hogwarts and Merlin and Kerri runs into Lockhart again.

Excerpt :
I shot an incredulous look at Tonks who was sitting on Lockhart’s other side and she laughed, accidentally knocking over her drink. The liquid spread quickly, saturating the full sleeves of Lockhart’s robes and leeching into the stack of photos.

Lockhart gave a strangled cry of horror and yanked up the sopping wet photos. “I can fix it…not to worry…Scroungify ! I mean Scourgify !”

Too late, the mess had doubled, spilling over the table into his and Tonks’ laps.




Chapter 9: Chapter 9
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Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : August 28, 1991

Okay Kerri,

Here you go -- pictures of me and some dragons. I’m the shorter, warm blooded one, although I don’t feel very warm at the moment. You would not believe how cold it is here, and it’s only August !

I don’t get to work with the dragons first hand yet. I get to collect stool samples to study what they’re eating and how much nutrition they receive from it. It has to be fresh --- very fresh -- the fresher the better. Wouldn’t Fred and George just love to see me out searching for fresh dragon pies ? I’d never hear the end of it. But actually, they’re easy to find, because they come out so hot that they steam in the morning frost. One bright side is that collecting dragon pies is a great way to keep warm.

And now you can stop being jealous.

Seriously, it isn’t that horrible, and I’m glad to be here. It will be easier once I learn the language, but there is a universal one -- Quidditch. These Romanians are wild about it, and playing Quidditch is another way to keep warm -- as long as you don’t venture too near the dragons and get yourself eaten. We lose more snitches that way. I’m good, but no way am I going down a dragon’s throat just to win a game.

I’m glad to hear you and Tonks are getting on. I knew you would. And I haven’t heard much from Aedennan lately either -- but we’re guys -- it’s kind of weird for guys to write to each other regularly, you know? I had a short letter last summer, but he sounded pretty burned out.

By the time you get this, classes should be starting there. Good luck and don’t work too hard.

Keep in touch.
Charlie.

Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : Approximate date September 6, 1991

Dear Kerri,

How is school? Things are off to a great start here.

Yes. Professor Quirrel is here. Been here for a while now. I heard that he got spooked by a hag and vampire while he was away, but no serious harm.

You know I think maybe he has a drinking problem. I run into him a lot in the Leaky Cauldron over the summer. I’ve never seen him in there so much before. Maybe your letters will do him some good and get his mind off his problems. I know you two were good friends.

But don’t worry -- he’s safe here at Hogwarts.

Harry got here okay and I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear. I thought I might end up having to fetch him, but the Muggles got him to the train on time. I had him for tea and he brought Ron Weasley with him. I didn’t know there was another Weasley boy and I hope this one is the last -- Fred and George keep me busy, I tell you. But this one seems a bit less high spirited than they are. The Weasleys are good people -- I think Ron is a good friend for Harry.

Harry is as good and clever a boy as you’d expect Lily and James’s son to be. He’s in Gryffindor like they were and I was too, so I’m real happy to see that. I’m glad to see that he’s fitting in and making friends too, like I told him he would.

The pumpkins are getting big already with a bit of help. No unicorn foals yet, but I expect some soon. Soon as they come I’ll send an owl and let you know.

Love,
Hagrid.

Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : September 7, 1991

Dear Kerri,

All is forgiven.

Yes. Quirrel is here…slinking around the castle like a student up to no good. He always has that expression on his face that the students get when they’ve done something horrible that they don’t want me to know about. Well, rumor has it that I’m out to get his job, so perhaps he thinks I’m out to get him as well.

Now to answer your other questions --

I began teaching because Professor Dumbledore offered me the job. I had always been good at potions, and while I never had the benefit of a university education, I was examined by the board and found proficient enough to teach. I dedicated myself to my newfound profession and reaped the benefit of my hard work when I became the youngest head of house in Hogwarts history. Unhappy as I am with my job, I am particularly pleased with that accomplishment, so please forgive me for sounding boastful.

Now, this next is between you and I alone, as I’m sure you will understand. My first choice was to support my father. It was a natural inclination as every son wishes to please his father -- acknowledged to be so or not. I do not like speaking of those years, nor am I proud of them.

There came a time when I realized the error of my ways and it left a sort of vacuum in my life. Support my father was all I had ever done. Professor Dumbledore recognized the sincerity of my reform and requested that I spend some time gathering information about the Dark Lord’s activities and relay them back to him. This I did until the Dark Lord disappeared, at which time I was given the teaching post at Hogwarts. I accepted for lack of a better prospect, and here I am today.

I know I must sound insufferably depressing, but I always feel so at the start of a new school year. This is going to be an especially long one -- a long seven years. We have a celebrity in our midst -- Harry Potter. I went to school with his father and they are just alike.

He’s empty headed -- incapable of answering the easiest questions. Naturally he’s an arrogant brat who thinks he knows it all. Why is it that the stupidest people are always those who labor under the impression that they are blessed with superior intelligence? On top of it, he’s a pert little brat. He smarted off at me in our very first class. I intend to rub that rude streak out of him if it’s the last thing I do.

I hope this letter finds you in better spirits than I am in at the moment. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having to tolerate Gustav Goyle. Whatever made you think he was a pet student of mine? I abhor the boy and always did. I’ve always suspected that he has bubo- tuber pus where his brains should be. And there have always been rumors that the Goyles have troll blood in them. I only made him prefect because I hoped that his size would intimidate those Weasley demons into behaving. ( And I know that you’re friends with the family, but even you must admit that those twins are horrible !).

What an ogre I’m being. I have no right to dump all this venom on you, and ordinarily, I do not speak my thoughts so freely. Perhaps I have gone a bit too far. This situation…having a sibling…is new for me as well, and I hardly know how to talk to a sister. All these years of teaching and I don’t even know how to talk to my own students.

I had best close this letter before I alienate you as I have everyone else in my life.

I remain yours --
Severus Snape





Excerpt from the journal of Cerridwyn Howard : September 8, 1991
Well its been a busy week. Why can’t teachers ever go easy on us during the first week? We have enough stress to deal with without that. Just like at Hogwarts, I’m knee deep in homework from day one. Which, on second thought, is probably why Hogwarts and Merlin are considered two of the best schools in the world.

I’ve developed a system for completing my homework efficiently, taking advantage of wait time, converting notes into flashcards, dividing up reading assignments into manageable chunks, things like that. I’ve thought about taking text books to work and propping them up on the table during those last slow hours, but it would make me feel guilty. Besides, I like talking to Remus.

I’ve met Tonks’s two best friends, Willow and Etta. We had lunch together on campus, and I’m almost sure that there was a plot afoot to set me up with Willow’s older brother. He showed up ‘unexpectedly’ and sat at the table beside me until he had to go to Quidditch practice. He’s kind of cute, but it will take a full blown knight in shining armor to distract me from my studies. Besides, I’m married to Hogwarts.

And what a nightmare ! Gilderoy Lockhart of all people, came walking in the door, surrounded by a group of girls all clambering over each other to get autographed pictures of him. Apparently he’s staying in town while writing his next book, and the school encourages to hang around by sponsoring occasional talks and things like that.

He was dressed in cornflower blue, the precise shade of his eyes, and plopped down into the chair beside me without asking if anyone was sitting there. He gave us all a jaunty wink as if he was God’s gift to women, and went to work signing pictures for his many admirers.

I would have liked to have left, but there was such a crowd of people pressing in around our table, that I couldn’t get up without ramming my chair into someone. And I have better manners than Lockhart does. I knew I didn’t like him the first time we met. I don’t usually make swift decisions about things, but I am a good judge of character. Gilderoy Lockhart is a pompous, arrogant, rude, moron.

“Take it easy, take it easy…there’s plenty for all.” he beamed, oblivious to the nasty glare I was giving him. I shot an incredulous look at Tonks, who was sitting on Lockart’s other side, and she laughed, accidentally knocking over her drink. The liquid spread quickly, saturating the full sleeves of Lockart’s robe and leeching into the stack of photos.

Lockhart gave a strangled gasp of horror and yanked up the sopping wet photos. “I can fix it….not to worry….Scroungify ! Ah…I mean Scourgify !”

Too late, the volume of liquid doubled, spilling over the edge of the table into both his and Tonks’s laps. Lockhart let out another screech of dismay and jumped to his feet. “Idiot girl!” he shouted at Tonks even as seven other girls surged forward with handkerchiefs to clean him up.

“You’re the one who made it worse.” I said coldly, getting to my feet. Several girls gasped and a few looked at me incredulously. “It wouldn’t have happened in the first place if you hadn’t squeezed yourself in between us like you did.”

Lockhart stared at me dumbly for a few moments and then recognition crossed his features. “I remember you … you were on my flight. I gave you my address. I don’t give everyone my address, you know…just the pretty girls.” he paused, as if he wanted me to thank him. Instead, I stared at him in complete disgust, too annoyed to formulate a reply. “You never came by. I expect you lost it, did you? Not to worry.” I watched as he signed a photo and tucked it into one of my text books. “Come by and visit me some evening.”

Still too dumb stricken to say anything, I gathered up my things and stalked off in compete disgust. People parted left and right to get out of my way, some looking amazed, others alarmed. I suppose the look on my face was quite deadly.

“Kerri, wait !” called Tonks, running after me. She caught up just as I left the building, slamming the door with more vehemence than strictly necessary. I didn’t slow my pace as I said, “See -- I told you he was an idiot. If I wasn’t sure before, I am now.”

“Most girls would kill just for the honor of being insulted by him and he gave you his address.”

“Then they’re idiots too. What a rude, arrogant, jerk.”

“I know…but still…it is impressive. It’s true what he says. From what I’ve heard, he only asks a select few girls to…”

“Roll in the hay?” I asked nastily.

“…well I’ve actually heard that his place is quite nice.” said Tonks, seriously, though the corners of her mouth twitched slightly.

I halted at a place where two walkways intersected and pulled the photo out of my book. “Maybe I could sell it.” I said thoughtfully, only half in jest. Instead, I set fire to it with my wand and watched Lockhart’s toothy grin melt into ashes before my eyes.

“You have a temper.” Tonks observed, laughing.

“It was bad enough that he just invited himself over like he did. Then he had to go and make that mess and blame you for it.”

“Well I did spill the drink.”

“He made it worse.”

“He likes you.”

“Oh shut up. I’ve seen trolls with more brains.”

With a sudden flurry of rushing feet and bags slapping against thighs, Willow and Etta caught us up.

“Let me see it!” gasped Etta.

“She burned it.” laughed Tonks, who seemed to find it highly amusing.

“Are you out of your mind?”

“Possibly.” I said, after a moment of reflection.

“Hey -- back off.” said Tonks. “She was the only one who stood up for me back there. You two were busy drooling.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t have answered his questions.” said Willow, looking a bit guilty.

“He wanted to know if Kerri was a student here and what her name was. Sorry.”

“Well there’s another reason I’m glad I don’t live on campus. If he does show up, Tonks, practice a few of those curses you’ve been learning on him. He’s so thick I doubt he’ll even notice.”

But seriously, I don’t think he will come by the house. He thinks I’m pretty, big deal. He’s too arrogant to bother with the trouble of pursuit. He’ll realize I don’t like him and just move on to some other girl who melts at his slightest touch. Heaven knows there are enough of them.

The band is coming along quite well. Every night after work Remus and I go over the commune for practice. He doesn’t need to be there, but he takes his role of manager very seriously. We practice for at least an hour, sometimes more, and then I drop Remus at his house and go home myself.

I spend most of my evenings studying, answering letters, and that sort of thing. Sometimes I help Tonks with her homework, which generally means letting her practice curses on me -- and boy does she know some good ones. It isn’t very fun being on the receiving end, but it’s worth it because she’s inadvertently teaching me some very interesting tricks.



Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard : Saturday, September 14, 1991

Today has been a long, rainy day with its share of ups and downs I guess. Mostly it was just sort of fun to spend and afternoon in with Tonks. She really is amazing.

We did girl stuff today, playing with our hair and experimenting with makeup. I don’t usually wear makeup -- it was her idea. She did a good job applying it using colors and techniques to enhance what I already have, not to create a cheap illusion of something I don’t. Maybe I’ll think about wearing it now and then to give my appearance a little polish .I really am a tomboy.

I was sitting on Tonks’ bed, watching her stand in front of the mirror as she willed her hair to change from pink, to blonde, to purple. “What do you really look like?” I asked.

She looked at me in puzzlement for a moment. “This is my face…this is my body. Just don’t tell anyone that I’m a natural brunette.”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked, flipping my pony tail at her.

“I wonder….lets see how you’d look with my hair.” she said with a wicked grin. I watched as her face screwed up in concentration, her features contorting into a passing imitation of my own except for the short, purple hair.. It was very weird. “I don’t think so.” she said, looking critically into the mirror. “Not your color. How about blonde…I’ve always liked blonde myself. I’ve had a lot of fun as a blonde.”

“Yuck…I don’t like it.”

“Neither do I. You see, my friends just love me because I can show them what they’d look like with a certain hairstyle before they make the mistake of doing it. Ooooh….jet black looks good. Your hair is dark anyway, but I really like the deeper color on you.”

“Shorten it.” I said, with a jolt of inspiration.

“How short?”

“About shoulder length. Make it completely straight and part it down the center.”

I watched as she made the desired adjustments. “I don’t like the style.” she said. “It reminds me of someone, but I can’t think who…. You’re right to keep it long, I think. I’ve never been able to wear long hair…not since that time I caught it on fire.”

I wasn’t really listening. I was gazing at the reflection in the mirror in amazement. Un-straighten the nose, lighten the skin, make the features more masculine and it would be Severus Snape. I’d never seen a resemblance before, but with my hair like that, there was a marked similarity.

With a shake of her head, Tonks was herself again. “Blonde, or purple Kerri? I think I want to give pink a rest.”

“I think the blonde is cute.”

“So do I.”
“I can see where that ability would be useful for an Auror.”

“Maybe I can get someone else to do the dexterity tests.” she said wryly. “Maybe the examiners could be convinced that it was me with a different look. Worth a try.”

We both looked up curiously at something bumping against the window. It was two owls holding a big vase of flowers between them. Tonks immediately rushed to throw open the window and retrieve them before they spilled. “It’s for you.” she said, looking at the card.

“Who would send me flowers?”

She set them down on the nearest nightstand. They had been charmed so that they had the appearance of a live butterfly sitting on each flower. Each butterfly was a different color and the size of a salad plate. It was absolutely tacky.

Tonks had opened the card. “Roses are red, this vase is blue, one of these days, I’d like to see you. Gilderoy Lockhart.” Her lips were twitching as she tried not to laugh.

“It’s horrible, isn’t it?” I asked, eyeing the flowers with disgust.

“Well…it’s colorful.”

“No one has ever sent me flowers in my whole life. The first time someone does, it’s an idiot like Lockhart. So much for that milestone. Incendio.” The flowers went up in flames and I cleared up the ashes with a wave of my wand.

Tonks was now openly laughing. “I think you just like setting things on fire and watching them burn.”

“If he shows up here, answer the door. Tell him I died -- tell him I’m in Azkaban -- tell him I got bit by a werewolf and moved to the commune.”

“Like that would put him off. He’s writing about werewolves for his next book.”

“Tell him anything --- just get rid of him.”

It was a black spot in an otherwise pleasant day. What am I going to do if he does come by? I just don’t know how to handle things like this. I don’t like to be rude or hurt people’s feelings…I don’t want to lie. My mother is a bit sour on men for obvious reasons so she never really took time to give me girl to girl advice on how to handle the opposite sex. I don’t know what to do other than hide from him.

Why do men have to be so stupid? I don’t mind the comments Basil and co. make because I know they’re joking, but Lockhart is something else. I haven’t given him the slightest encouragement. I think he expects me to show up at his apartment some night like a virgin sacrifice or something. When hell freezes over.


Author's Note : Comments and criticism are always welcome. Other opinions help me grow as a writer.





Chapter 10: Chapter 10
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Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley : September 8, 1991

Dear Charlie,

I’m writing this from a nice, cushy loveseat as I look out the window to amber rays of afternoon sun filtering through leaves that are still broad and green. There is a cool, clean crispness to the air that promises autumn to come, yet the days are still quite mild.

Frozen off anything vital yet ? Just cuddle up to a nice warm pile of dragon doo and I’m sure you’ll warm up right away.

Okay…that was mean. Nice pictures though. The dragons are absolutely stunning, and I am still jealous of you for getting to see them first hand.

School has started, and I’ve been too busy to do much of anything but study and work. It’s always that way at the start though, and once I find my rhythm I’ll be just fine. Good grades are as much about strategy as they are about study. All the study in the world will do you no good unless you know how to do it efficiently and effectively.

Guess what ? I’ve joined a band. There’s a group of guys at work who are pretty good and they offered me a spot in their new band -- Hybrid. (And yes -- if you’re wondering since I met them at work -- they’re werewolves). We’re in the early planning stages now, choosing songs and stringing them together, getting used to playing together, setting up places to play…all that tedious stuff. It’s a lot more difficult than the band we had at Hogwarts. We didn’t have to worry about things like venues and such. We just got together in the Great Hall now and then, and did in front of the entire school what we had just as much fun doing alone together. I never realized how hard it is to get a band up and running, but thankfully we have a good manager.

Other than that, not much going on. Tonks hasn’t even had any accidents lately, which probably means that a truly spectacular one is forthcoming.

I’ll let you go for now. I have more letters to answer, and I’m sure you have some poo to study. Stay in touch.

Kerri


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrd :September 8, 1991

Dear Hagrid,

I hope this letter finds you well.

I’m glad to hear that the pumpkins we planted are thriving so well. It’s kind of like a part of me is still there at Hogwarts with you all. Just please don’t get caught ‘helping them’ ! Look twice before you haul out that umbrella, especially with school back in session.

Thanks for filling me in about Aedennan. All accounts I’ve heard tell me that something isn’t right with him, though I’m not sure what. I find it hard to believe that he’s turned into an outright drunk, though. He was never a big drinker….he wasn’t a partier by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe he’s just burned out. I’ d like to come see him -- and you too -- but I’m pretty busy right now.

So Ron has made friends with Harry Potter, has he? I’m glad. Ron was pretty nervous about going to Hogwarts when I saw him last, and it sounds like he’s making the adjustment with no problem. And probably being friends with him is good for Harry too, since he was raised by Muggles. I know from experience that it can be very daunting coming to Hogwarts from an exclusively Muggle background. Just one potions class with Snape alone was almost enough to terrify me right back to the states.

Guess what we’re studying already in my care of magical creatures class? You won’t believe it. Dragons. I didn’t bother telling Charlie because he’s up to his eyebrows in them, and I knew he wouldn’t find it very impressive. We have an egg that we’re going to raise until it gets too dangerous -- about a week after hatching our teacher says. And too, they need to be able to socialize with other dragons to survive in the wild.

We’re taking turns caring for the egg and my turn was two days ago. It has to be kept in the fire to stay viable, and my roommate and I were sweltering with the heat. It’s too early to have a fire going 24 hours a day yet. Luckily, we were able to open our windows and get some cool air that was blowing in off the sea.

Classes here are fascinating, but I still miss Hogwarts. Maybe I’ll come visit when things are less hectic.

Love,
Kerri


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : September 8, 1991

Dear Severus,

Don’t worry about unburdening on me -- that’s what sisters are for, I suppose. And I’ve had quite a few dark thoughts from time to time myself. Everyone needs someone to talk to now and then, and you and I are uniquely outfitted to understand one another.

Thanks for telling me about Aedennan. I’ve posed the same question to other people, and by all accounts he’s been acting a bit odd. However, I think you’re misjudging him -- Aedennan was always the last person to be ‘up to’ anything. Honestly now -- did you ever give him a single detention in all the years you taught him?

Although I somewhat doubt it, I’ve heard a possible reason for Aedennan’s odd behavior from another source, and if I tell you what it is, I’m going to count on you not harassing him or running to the headmaster. I’m telling you this in complete confidence as your sister, and if you treat that lightly I’ll never tell you anything again. Is it possible that he’s been drinking on the job? Don’t you dare cause him problems if you find out that he is -- he needs to be helped, not harassed. I’m only mentioning it because if my source is right, it isn’t fair to the children he’s teaching.

I’m sorry to hear that your year is also off to a bad start -- sorry that you’re trapped in a job that you hate. However, could you please not take offence if I offer a little constructive criticism? You’re too strict -- you need to have more patience with the students. I know what you’re thinking, that I’m young and I’ll learn better one day. But when my time comes I am not going to rule my classroom by fear and threats. You keep order in your class by terrifying your students into behavior, and I know because I was one of them. That is not a good learning environment.

Please don’t be insulted by what I’ve just said --- or angered by it. I still have a very healthy respect for your temper and I’m still learning how to talk to you. This new relationship is very different from the old one, to say the least. I’m probably going to regret saying some of the things I’ve said when I watch the owl take off with this letter. We just have a lot of getting used to each other to do, and I’d hate for us to start arguing just as the process has begun.

This should please you -- potions here is very easy after the rigors of your class. I know I’m going to be top of that class this semester. I like potions because it reminds me of cooking, only you’re brewing magic instead of food. People say they hate it because it’s so precise, but that’s what makes it easy to me. Just follow the directions in front of you and you can’t go wrong.

And here’s a question I’ve just thought of. Was our father especially adept at any particular subject? Did he ever have interests beyond murder and mayhem? He must have been a normal person once with normal hopes and dreams. It’s hard to imagine sometimes.

And now my thoughts are getting dark too…and rambling a bit. I’m tired. I’ve been busy lately but once I fall into the groove of things I should be okay.

Your sister, Kerri


Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard : Wednesday, September 18, 1991

I’ve had it with men these days. Stupid, lecherous ones at least. Guys are fun to play music with and roughhouse with….why do they have to keep bringing sex into the equation? Maybe I’m blowing things out of proportion -- I hope so.

Yesterday was the full moon, so Remus and I spent yesterday trying to get ahead so I wouldn’t be so swamped today. We announced that we wanted as many orders as possible dropped off in advance. Needless to say, we stayed very busy. Of course Fenrir had to top it off by showing up at five till six with a ton of work. We stayed a half hour late and closed up the office with the hope that the next day would be a little less stressful for me.

Remus’ step was dragging as we headed out to the alley, his face gray and drawn as if he was in pain. “Are you all right?” I asked.

“I’m fine.” he said with a half hearted smile. “Don’t worry. What you’re seeing is normal. There are changes already going on in my body in preparation for tomorrow night. It takes a lot of energy. I’m tired, that’s all.”

After we apparated to the alley by his house, he said. “Don’t worry about tomorrow and don’t let it get to you. That place isn’t worth the effort.”

“I know…look….are you sure you’re okay?”

He laughed. “I must look absolutely dreadful. I’m getting to old for this, you know. There was a time when we didn’t live to be as old as I am now. These days the expected lifespan is between fifty and sixty, thanks to the wolfsbane potion. If you think I look bad now, wait until the day after.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“No. Thank you for asking. It just has to run its course. Have a good night.”

“You too.” I said a bit awkwardly.

“I’m going to go drink my potion and sleep for the next twenty-four hours. I’ll see you in two days.”

It made me feel guilty leaving him there alone and sick. He looked so miserable. It isn’t right the way the ministry treats those people -- the horrible laws that restrict their rights. I’m willing to bet that he wouldn’t be feeling so bad right now if he could take better care of himself. He’s making too many sacrifices to maintain his independence.

That night felt very empty without my nightly practice session at the commune. While they didn’t look anywhere near as ragged as Remus, Basil and the others were feeling quite rundown as well, so practice was cancelled. Basil had been relatively upbeat about the whole thing earlier that afternoon as he ate his lunch across from Remus who was sound asleep with his head on the table.

“I was born this way.” he told me. “Born right in the commune. I decided a long time ago to just make the best of it. I like wolves….they’re beautiful animals…wild and free, you know? Hey -- I get a day off of work each month with no penalty. It’s worth it for that alone.”

He and the others had been sipping peperup potion all day long, which is not remotely what the potion is supposed to be used for. The steam pouring from their ears was not so noticeable when they were out in the factory, but shut up inside the office it sometimes swirled so thick around their faces that it was hard to look them in the eye. At one point Mel had offered some to Remus.

“No. Thank you.” he said with a slight edge to his voice. “That potion is not meant to be drunk like water. You’d better not let the Goyles catch you at it.”

I was inclined to agree with Remus, thinking that Madam Pomfrey would have hysterics to see them abusing that potion so blatantly. But I’m not in their shoes and they clearly know their own bodies better than I do. If it helps them get through the workday, who am I to judge?

Since I didn’t have practice to attend, I spent the evening getting ahead on my reading, working on an essay, and drilling Tonks on ministry regulations for a test she has coming up. For all the partying she does, she can still keep up with her work, and makes very good grades. I wish I could do that. Maybe I could, but I’ve never tried. After that I wrote some letters to my mother and Aedennan and then went to bed.

At noon the next day I headed in to work, expecting to find utter chaos. Worse -- I found Gargantua Goyle in there eating lunch. I saw him through the window before I entered and half considered going home right then and there.Instead, I decided not to let him get the better of me, and boldly swung open the door.

“Hello….Mr. Goyle.” He’s two years younger than I am and calling him ‘Mister’ gets on my last nerve.

“Ah. Hello Kerri. How was your day?”

“What?” I asked, confused. In all my years at Hogwarts he never had a civil word for me. I stared at him blankly, trying to work out if there was a veiled insult somewhere.

“How was your day, school girl?”

School girl? School girl? Had he been drinking? “Fine.” I answered flatly, completely confused by his behavior.

“You look surprised.” he said, smiling. It was very disconcerting to have Gargantua smile at me. I wondered if I was about to be fired.

“I…I thought…”

“You thought that you’d be stuck doing this job alone while that werewolf is out.” he supplied. “You almost did. I decided to come help at the last moment.”

“Oh. You don’t have to do that. I’m sure you have much more important things to do with your time.”

“Not at all. It’s rather boring at the top.” said Gargantua cheerfully. “And the girls up there aren’t half as pretty as you.”

So that was it.

“Come sit beside me.”

He was sitting on Remus’ stool, a virtual smorgasbord laid out on the table before him. His fat butt hung over the edge of the stool while his stomach oozed over into his lap. The front of his robe was soiled with what looked like mayonaise.

“I only work half days, Mr. Goyle.” I pointed out as patiently as I could. “I’m not permitted a lunch break.”

“I’m the owner’s son, and you are if I say so. Have a seat.”

Miserably, I sat down on the stool beside him. It was close enough to him that I could smell onions on his breath.

“So, school girl…tell me about your morning.”

I have no idea how on earth I got through the day. Severus would say that I have my father’s charm, but I also have his temper, so I feel that Gargantua is lucky that I didn’t crucio him to oblivion. I tried to borrow a page from Remus’ book and be coolly polite and patient. It wasn’t easy because Gargantua created more messes than he filled work orders.

Most frustrating were the looks he kept shooting me…the kind of looks that a gentleman never gives a lady. He kept dropping things and asking me to pick them up, or finding excuses to make me lean over him. I’m not stupid…I’m wise to that trick…I know full well that he was looking down my top. It is very annoying to work with someone who won’t look into your eyes but addresses himself to your chest.

What a horrible day.

Today I walked in to find my bandmates there as usual --- thank God ! Remus was back in his usual spot, on his stool with his head on the table. He was awake at least.

“You have no idea how bad I missed you.” I told him.

He raised his head, and if possible, he looked worse than the last time I’d seen him. Like death warmed over. Nevertheless, he smiled at me. “Don’t look at me like that --- I’m fine. How did yesterday go?”

“It was horrible. Garganuta was in here all day.”

“What? Why?” asked Remus sharply.

I didn’t like telling it in front of the others. It was somewhat embarrassing and I knew they’d tease. Unfortunately, Gargantua chose that moment to walk past the window. He tapped on it and gave me a cheery wave. I answered with a half hearted one of my own and nodded when he mouthed at me to ‘eat lunch.’

Basil and his buddies immediately started to snicker. “Hold out Kerri.” said Basil “Don’t give it up for anything less than a corner office up front.”

Only Remus looked grave. “Be careful with him. There are no laws to prevent harassment in workhouses. I’ll try to stay between you while I’m here, but I won’t be much help during full moons.”

Basil quit laughing and said seriously. “And we’ll warn you if we see him coming. You can sneak off to the bathroom till he’s gone.”

“I heard that his father was chatting up some woman that worked in the front office.” said Streak darkly. “She quit because he wanted…you know…favors.”

“I heard that too.” Remus confirmed. “Well anyway….you get a lunch break out of it.”

“All the same, I’d rather not.”

The whole thing has me very unnerved. There should be laws to protect people working in the workhouses. Just because they might have an illness or a little troll blood in them, doesn’t mean they should have to suffer harassment and abuse. If nothing else, working in that place is an eye-opening experience and I won’t easily forget the things I’ve seen.

An idea has occurred to me. I wonder if Severus has said anything in my favor to the Goyles? No matter what he says, they always had the appearance of being pretty close knit. I’d like to think that might be the reason for the sudden attention I received…it’s better than the alternative.


Author’s Note :
Comments and criticism are strongly encouraged. Also, feel free to come visit me at my newly established Meet the Author Page

Next Chapter :
Letter to Hagrid, Charlie, and Snape. Letter from Snape. The day of the practice concert comes nearer and last minute preparations are made. Kerri finds out how Streak acquired his nickname and invites Remus home for dinner after a practice session with the band.

Excerpt : He flipped the page. “Everything looks just the same. Just as it did when I was there. Look…is that…” he leaned closer to peer at the photo. “…it is. I remember that photo. We accidentally threw a statue through it. We did some fast wandwork to fix that one, I tell you.”













Chapter 11: Chapter 11
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Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : September 9, 1991, Hogwarts.

My Dear Sister,

Enclosed you will find an allowance to help tide you over for the next month, as well as some documents. Be gentle with the documents as they are quite old and rare. They are an excerpt from research notes/journals kept by Tom Riddle when he was about your age. He was at the time already intent upon what you term ‘murder and mayhem’, though these may answer some of the questions you asked about him in your last letter.

My motive for showing these to you is also partly to encourage you to find a passion in life…a problem to be solved…a puzzle that is both a challenge and a pleasure to complete. Choose a research subject and strive to make the impossible possible. An individual with a mind -- and blood -- like yours can go far in the world of scholastic achievement.

 

Now…I will not say ‘you are young and will learn better’. Rather let me say this --- when you are a teacher you will know better. Nothing washes away idealism like standing before a classroom full of short people intent upon getting the better of you by any means possible.

 

Reading between the lines of your letter, I understand that you feel I was hard on that Potter boy. Yes, I am a strict teacher, and pride myself on it. By setting the bar high, I push my students to high achievement. This, however, is different. You must understand that I grew up with his father who was an insufferable bully, show-off, and altogether intolerable. The apple does not fall far from the tree.

 

Would you believe that Minerva McGonagall has rewarded the child for misbehavior? During his first flying lesson he got into an aerial fight with one of my students. After witnessing the infraction, Minerva was so impressed with his broom skills that she wheedled the headmaster into letting the boy play on the Gryffindor team in the position of Seeker. Just one example of how our little celebrity always gets his way.

 

It may well backfire though, as he is quite a bit smaller than all of my players. Which, of course is the reason that the ban on first years being on the teams was instituted in the first place. Well, be it upon Minerva’s head when the boy ends up in the hospital wing -- not mine. She’s just grasping at straws because she knows that all her Gryffindors together couldn’t catch a snitch in a broom closet.

 

As you may be able to tell, this has been a frustrating week. Your letter was a most welcome distraction from grading substandard potions exams. From that, and the explosion in my dungeon generated by a butterball Hufflepuff who can’t follow simple directions. I tell you this year is going to be one long nightmare.

Do you think Quirrell is drinking on the job? That is not a possibility I had considered. Although from what I’ve heard of the pitiful nature of his lessons, one might almost be forced to suspect it to be true. He’s afraid of his own subject, for pity’s sake. I can’t imagine how the coward can stand to face those Weasley demons each week --- now that is a truly frightening prospect. Nevertheless, somehow I do not think Quirrel’s problem is excessive drink -- that’s Trelawney’s field of expertise.

No. I have my suspicions about Quirrel’s behavior, and they are much more dire. I think he got in over his head in Albania and is still under the influence of it. If you do get him to reply to any of your letters and anything he says seems…alarming….do let me know. You are friends I understand, but there are the students to think of.

But how are you doing? Quite well I’m sure as you were always my most gifted pupil. You may laugh, but in some ways you remind me of myself in your dedication to your studies. Increasingly, I look forward to your moving back here so we can spend time together on a more personal level. Together, I think you and I could accomplish much.

So go over the documents I’ve sent and tell me what you think. You may keep them if you like, but guard them carefully. I await your letter.

Your Brother, Severus Snape

 

EDITOR’S NOTE : The mentioned documents remain in the sole possession of the Lupin family, along with the rest of the known writings of Tom Marvolo Riddle. As he always had sympathizers, and perhaps still has admirers, the family has declined to reproduce any part of them here.

 

Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : September 8, 1991

Dear Kerri,

You’re mean -- you know that?

 

No -- nothing has frozen off yet -- though I almost got my arm ripped off the other day. I was walking across and open field, which around here is a bad idea, I guess. Taking shortcuts in here just isn’t as easy as ducking behind a portrait passage at Hogwarts. There you just have Peeves throwing things at you to deal with.

I was walking along and heard the roar of wings coming at me. I turned in time to see a dragon swooping down in full hunting mode with talons stretched in my direction. You’ve never really lived until your life has flashed before your eyes as a dragon stalks you. I barely had time to throw myself on the ground and into some tall grass. Luckily the dragon decided I wasn’t worth the trouble of turning around for another pass so I escaped with just a scratched shoulder where the talons grazed me.

Just don’t tell my mother, whatever you do ! Actually, I don’t mind the cuts so much. They look worse than they really are and seem to impress the local girls whenever I go to town with the guys for a drink.

I think it’s so cool that you’re in a band again. You know that after Aedennan left you were the best in our group. You’re the first one of us to do anything musical outside of school. Hopefully I’ll get to come see you perform one day.

Don’t the werewolves make you a bit nervous? I’ve never met one myself. I think my parents knew one back when You-Know-Who was on the rise. He was part of Dumbledore’s inner circle, and I think it was kept kind of quiet that he was a werewolf because people are usually so horrible to them. I don’t think I ever remember them mentioning his name, but it just goes to show that you can’t judge people.

I sent Hagrid some dragon pictures and got an answer back. He’s out of his mind, you know --- absolutely dragon crazy. They need to get him one to look after at Hogwarts. They could build it a perch atop the owlery and could shoo it away from students when they go to post mail.

I’m getting silly now -- it’s late. I just got in from a trip to town and was too awake to sleep so I thought I’d write.

Later, Charlie.

 

Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : September 15, 1991

Dear Kerri,

 

How are you? I am fine.

I just had to tell you about the beautiful dragon pictures Charlie sent me. There’s a cute baby with it’s mother and the mother has a stag hanging from her mouth that she’s just feeding the baby with. Another one shows a grown dragon flying, and another shows one drinking, and another has just set fire to a pine tree that’s burning down. My favorite is the one with the baby -- isn’t Charlie lucky?

I wish we could have one here. Dead useful animals, dragons. We could make our own dragon hide gloves for the students to use in herbology because I know about tanning. And dragon dung fertilizer is the best you can get -- we’d have our own supply.

We could keep it in the forest. Deep in the forest -- you know there are places in there no student could get to on their own. Of course the centaurs might make trouble. And there’s Aragog to think of. He’s getting up there in age and doesn’t need too much stress.

Still it would be great to have a dragon to take care of. They’re the most beautiful animals around I guess. You know if I’d been able to be a fully qualified wizard, I bet my patronus would have been a dragon. They’re big and strong like me, see? Did you know dragon can eat a cow in one meal? Imagine the power of an animal like that.

I hope your still doing good at your studies, working hard and all. Things are great here. Still see Ron and Harry a lot and they really seem to love my rock cakes. Don’t worry about Professor Quirrel neither -- he’ll be fine. No place in the world safer to be than here. He’ll come round.

 

Love, Hagrid

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard : September 24, 1991

The night of our practice concert in front of the commune is coming up fast. We had a talk about it tonight after our practice up on Basil’s roof.

“From what I hear, everyone is coming out to watch.” said Basil cheerfully.

“Then keep it clean.” said Remus, who was sitting on the edge of the low wall that ran around the perimeter of the roof. His feet rested on the lid of a chest that had been improved with a freezing charm to keep drinks cool.

“We’re tame by most standards.” Mel protested. “Does that mean she can’t show cleavage?” Here, he pointed at me. “No one will come.”

Remus didn’t even blink. I, on the other hand, gave Mel a hearty slap on the back of his head.

“I would prefer that none of you take off your clothes publicly either before, during, or after the concert.” Remus clarified.

“That means you, Kerri.” said Basil, giving me a nudge. “Save it for a private party…just you and me.”

“Oh Lupin, you’re such a killjoy.” said Streak, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “We were planning on having Kerri do a stiptease.”

 

“Do any of you have any concerns?” asked Remus.

“We think you might be gay.” said Augustus. “If you don’t want Kerri to do a striptease…well look at her….something has to be wrong. I’m worried about you, man. OUCH ! She kicked me ! Spirited wench aren’t you? OW !”

 

“I mean any concerns related to the concert.” said Remus, smiling.

“My only concern is that you get your foot off the chest so I can get a beer.” said Brand.

“If everything is in order, I’ll be heading home.” said Remus, getting to his feet.

“I’ll drive you.” I said, aiming one last kick at Augustus who danced out of the way just in time.

The protests immediately began. If nothing else, the guys are good for my ego.

“Oh come on Kerri !”

 

“Yeah -- stay and party with us.”

“Let’s get wasted !”

“Let’s get naked !”

“Let’s do both!”

“Forget it.” I said, following Remus down the ladder.

“You don’t have to take me home, you know.” he said, offering me a steadying hand as I reached the last few rungs.

“It isn’t out of my way.”

“You do have your wand on you somewhere don’t you? I appreciate the gesture of not apparating to get here and all that, but going around town at night without a wand is not a good idea.”

“I have it. It rarely gets more than arms length away from me.”

“Good.” he said approvingly.

As we got into the car, my stomach gave an unholy growl. “Excuse me.” I said, blushing “I haven’t eaten since noon.”

“Neither have I.” he admitted.

“Why don’t we go get something to eat?” I suggested on a sudden whim. “Tonks usually has something for me when I get home, but she has a date tonight.”

“Thanks, but frankly, I’m flat broke this week. Of course I’m flat broke every week…”

“Tell me about it. I shouldn’t blow money that way either, but I’m starved. Tell you what -- come over and I’ll fix us some salmon patties.”

“I don’t want to be…”

“You worry too much about being a bother.” I told him “You aren’t. Come home and have dinner with me or I’ll go home and stuff my face with potato chips and candy. I’ll show you my photo album from Hogwarts.”

“Oh go on then. Just for a little while.” he relented.

He was surprised to see where I lived when I pulled into the drive. “I know you think I’m paranoid but Fenrir lives in the woods not too far from here.”

“Does he? In the woods?”

 

“He and some of his cronies are squatters. I think he just likes being an animal during the full moon so much that he likes to act like one the rest of the time too.”

“No wonder he smells so bad. It’s probably good that you warned me because I walk in the woods quite a bit.” I told him as I unlocked the front door. “Sit down. I’ll go get my album.”

“This is a nice little place.” he said as I returned.

I set the album down on the counter that separated the kitchen and living area, and then started dinner. “Look though my pictures. Some are of my friends but a lot of them are pictures that I took of the grounds before I left. I didn’t want to get homesick.”

“This is your old band?”

“That’s us -- in my seventh year. Charlie, Matthias, Ardis, Megara, Athena, and Me.”

“The red head -- that can only be a Weasley. He looks like Arthur.”

“Charlie Weasley. You know the Weasleys?”

“Oh yes. I haven’t seen them in years but we used to be quite close. How many children do they have now?”

I rattled off all their names.

“Only one girl? Poor thing.”

“I’m telling you -- she’s a tough little girl though.”

“She’d have to be out of self defense with all those brothers.”

“She’s starting Hogwarts next year.” told him. This year is Ron’s first.”

“He’d be…eleven. Well of course if this is his first year.” said Remus thoughtfully “Harry Potter would be about his age.”

“From what I hear, Ron and Harry are friends.”

“Really?” asked Remus, seeming oddly pleased with this bit of news. “The Weasleys are good people.”

He flipped the page. “Everything looks the same. Just as it did when I was there. Look…is that…” he leaned close to peer at the photo. “…It is. I remember that window. We accidentally threw a statue through it. We did some fast wand work to fix that one, I tell you.”

 

“We who?”

“My buddies and I.”

“How do you ‘accidentally’ throw a statue through a window?”

Remus laughed. “With talent, I assure you. We tended to have a lot of ‘accidents’.”

 

“You?” I asked, looking up as I flattened a handful of salmon mixture into a patty. “It’s always the quiet ones.”

He laughed, gray eyes igniting with amusement. “Is that Hagrid?” he asked, noticing another picture. “He looks about the same, but hairier maybe. I remember the time a pumpkin accidentally got lodged in his chimney and exploded.”

“I do believe you were a juvenile delinquent. I’d never have thought it of you.”

“It was a very long time ago. I’ve grown a brain since then, thank God.”

“Did your friends know about ---?”

“Yes. Just the three closest. Life was different back then -- it was a different world. Those were the best years of my life.”

“How was it kept secret all those years?” I asked, flipping a salmon patty with a deft flick of my wrist.

“Professor Dumbledore went to great lengths to keep it quiet, even before my arrival.”

“You must be the only werewolf to ever go through Hogwarts.”

“Probably.” he agreed. “Most of my kind don’t have the gold to put their children through. Others just don’t want to expose them to the teasing or the risk of an accident occurring. Werewolf children are usually taught at home. I know that suit of armor there…James put a charm on it and made it chase Snape up three flights of stairs.”

“Severus Snape?” I asked, unable to keep back a laugh.

“Well…even I felt a bit sorry for him that time.”

“What was he like as a kid?” I asked, setting a plate before him.

“Looks good.” he complemented me.

“Thanks.”

“Severus.” he said, going back to my question. “He was quiet, studious….the kind of kid that gets teased. And believe me, he did. Look at that…they replaced those tiles that ‘accidentally’ got knocked off by that chair.”

“Must have been a heavy chair.” I said, looking at the picture.

“It was the headmaster’s -- the one in the Great Hall.”

“How did you --- ? You’d have had to of gotten it outside and into the courtyard.”

“It wasn’t me exactly. I was just there when it happened.” he laughed.

I was sitting across from him, and it was nice to see him looking so relaxed and happy. I’ve noticed that his eyes change color along with his moods. If he’s angry, stressed, or otherwise emotional, they turn hazel. The rest of the time they’re a stormy sky gray. That night they were gray.

“There’s the old willow.”

“That thing is vicious.”

“Believe me, I know.” said Remus empthatically “Is there still a little gardener’s shed down by the lake?’

“No.”

 

“There used to be. We used to sneak off there with our dates…not that I had many.”

“Why not?”

 

“How do you tell a girl that you have lycanthropy? It never seemed right not to.”

I understood completely. How do you tell a boy that Voldemort is your father.? It never seemed right not to.

We finished eating and I set the dishes to washing themselves as we settled down in the living room. He asked about my classes at Merlin, which seemed to interest him immensely. “I always wanted to attend, but it just wasn’t possible. By the end of this year alone, I’ll bet you’ll be more advanced in some things than I am.”

He told me about his inquires at various venues on behalf of the band. “I’ve been up and down the length of this country, and of course they’re raising the fare on the Knight Bus. But I do have some potential takers. We can definitely get into The Lair for Halloween.”

“The Lair?”

“A werewolf pub here in town.”

We talked for quite a while and ended up completely losing all track of time. “I really have got to get home.” he said, glancing at the clock. “At least this is a private residence so I can apparate out. Unless I’ve forgotten how to do it.” he added ruefully. “See you tomorrow?”

“I’ll be there.”

With a smile and a wave he was gone. All in all, it was a fun, interesting evening. So Severus wasn’t always a big bully -- he used to be on the receiving end. No wonder he’s so bitter. A person can only take so much, and being chased up three flights of stairs by a suit of armor would make anyone snap. Kids just don’t realize the seriousness of letting jokes get out of hand. There comes a point when things just aren’t funny anymore.

OOOPS --- I hear Tonks telling her date goodnight on the doorstep -- best make myself scarce in case they come in !

 
Author’s Note : Comments, criticism, and complaints are strongly encouraged as always.

Next Chapter : Hybrid throws a practice concert for the werewolf commune which goes well until the dementors show up. Kerri accidentally discovers that she has a very unique ability to handle dementors. Later, she and Remus admire and discuss the significance of their patronuses.

Excerpt :

“No. We can’t go to Saint Mungo’s.” said Remus firmly. “They’ll want to know what happened and they’ll go complain to the ministry.”

 “Someone should !”

“No. One of us did that once and they were sent to Azkaban and never heard from since. The ministry knows this goes on -- they just don’t care.”

“There has to be some law!” I exclaimed in horror.

Remus, who was attending to a woman with a mangled hand looked up at me with tortured eyes. “Not for us there isn’t.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12: Chapter 12
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Dear Severus,

Thank you for the documents. They have some very interesting ideas in them. Reading them, I feel like I’m holding in my hands the very substance of genius, as long as I don’t consider the author too much. In this case, genius is the ability to successfully challenge the improbably, to see the likely in the unlikely…or something like that. I’m rather tired from sitting up late poring over these.

I told you before that the immutability of potions is the very thing that makes it simple, but he saw it differently. For him, potions were spells composed of organic and magical elements mixed into correct proportions to create a desired change. Why did I never see it like that? I just saw recipes to be followed, and not much more. I’d never thought that it might be possible to deconstruct a potion, turn it into a spell rendering the immutable mixture mutable -- portable, quick, easy to do and equally effective.

And deadly, no doubt. The research notes seem innocent, but I see what the value of this particular project was. The death spell, for example, is assuredly easier that brewing a poison, though both have the same result.

Did he really design a spell for the draught of living death? I see it here and I’m curious but I wouldn’t dare experiment with it. At any rate, scholastic glory must never have been his goal because he never published any of his discoveries. I suppose he was too busy with the aforementioned murder and mayhem.

But I see what it is that you wanted me to see. But I have never wanted glory for myself. I just want to be a Hogwarts teacher, which is an honor in itself. I don’t care about setting the world on fire or anything like that. Maybe I just haven’t found that passion that you talked about yet.

I noticed something else -- a very small thing, but it really struck me when I realized it. He and I make our letter ‘K’ the same way. It makes me feel kind of odd somehow.

I’m doing fine, my classes are going well. Work is a hell hole but I get along with the man I’m assisting so that helps a lot. I’ve joined a band and that will hopefully pill in a little more money each month. (And thank you for what you sent me, though it makes me feel guilty to accept it).

Oh -- and I’ve run into Gilderoy Lockhart again. Apparently he’s in town doing research for his next book and sitting on his laurels. It seems to me that all he does is walk around campus and flirt with crowds of simpering girls who are clearly out of their minds. I exchanged some heated words with him the other day but I don’t think any of it sank in. Like Gustav Goyle, I think his head is full of bubo-tuber pus.

Hmmmm…..maybe I’ve found a good guinea pig to try that living death spell on….

Your sister, Kerri






Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley : September 21, 1991

Dear Charlie,

What a close call. Wouldn’t Hagrid have been thrilled -- no -- honored to have almost been torn to shreds by a dragon? I’ve had letter from him that was almost a full page of nothing but dragons. He’s fantasizing about keeping one in the Forbidden Forest. He feels it would save on gloves for herbology, and fertilizer for the garden. When I write him, I’m not going to mention the word ‘dragon’. He only needs the slightest encouragement to go to Dumbledore and ask for one.


And you’re right to keep the story of your close call from your mother. If she knew, she’d either insist you come home or go over there herself to guard you every minute. Knowing her ferocity, she’d make the dragons think twice.

No, the werewolves don’t worry me in the slightest. Those in my band are a bunch of harmless idiots. One of them likes to take off his clothes now and then and streak through the factory, as I discovered the other day. I was standing by the office window that looks out into the factory, duplicating a string of instructions, innocently minding my own business. I was concentrating on what I was doing when I thought I saw a naked man run past out of the corner of my eye.

Naturally, instructions went flying in all directions. A naked man running past you at work is a very distracting thing. Remus, the man I work with who also manages out band, just sort of shook his head in a weary sort of way. “Well…now you know why we call him Streak.”

“Well I suspected as much…” I said, listening to the shrieks and laughter outside. He was out of sight but I could mark his progress through the warehouse by the way people were craning their necks and pointing. “Um….why?”

“Supposedly to protest the hot conditions out there, but I think he just likes the attention.”

“He won’t do that on stage, will he?”

Remus was quiet for a moment before saying, “I’d better speak to him about that at practice tonight. That’s really the last thing anyone wants to see…at least I don’t.”

“I don’t either.” I quickly assured him, which made him laugh.

I suspect…but I’m not sure, that Remus may be the same person that your parents knew. He doesn’t deny it, but he doesn’t openly flaunt his illness to strangers, and I know for a fact that Dumbledore thinks very highly of him. We’re getting to be very close friends and he makes life in that place bearable.

Other than working in a hell hole I’m okay. My grades are just fine. Tonks had a wee accident the other day with the ceiling fan. She still won’t tell me what she did to it, but it looks like they had a wrestling match and she lost. Well -- that might be exaggerating a bit. It wasn’t that serious. I was able to heal it myself using some of the techniques I’m learning in my class on healing magical creatures. I also learned a bit about patching people up from Hagrid, who took care of my minor bites, scrapes, and stings more often than I could count. There’s something to be said for learning from experience.

And don’t tease -- I did a good job !

Speaking of which, take care of your shoulder -- and don’t go walking alone across open fields anymore.

Kerri

Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : September 21, 1991

Dear Hagrid,

I don’t worry as much as you seem to think I do -- I’m concerned about some people, that’s all. Aedennan more than anyone. If I don’t get a decent reply out of him soon I’m going to give up altogether. Maybe we’ve just grown apart too much. We haven’t seen each other in years. And as for Ron and Harry, I’m not especially worried

about them, but I know they’re in for a tough time with potions class. Sometimes Snape goes beyond strict and slides into just plain mean.

I miss you and think about you a lot. The woods here are nice, but nothing like our forest. Very tame…none of what you would call ‘interesting creatures’ in there. Not unless you count the fox that keeps trying to raid our garbage bins.

I was writing a letter to Charlie a while ago and it got me started remembering some of our rambles though the forest -- and some rather harrowing near disasters. Remember the time I got into Bowtruckles? It’s a miracle I still have eyes. And remember the time I got into that swampy area and got grabbed by a Grindylowe? And lets not forget when I startled Bane and almost got trampled.

Really I’m lucky to be alive, but I had a lot of fun in those woods and learned a lot. Many of my fellow classmates don’t have the practical knowledge I have. It was good of Professor Dumbledore to give me permission to tag along with you so much. And good of you to put up with it.

I’m already thinking ahead to Christmas. I’m going home to my mother for the holidays but I may visit on my way to catch the flight back. I wish I could visit for Halloween, but I’ll probably have a concert that night…I hope.

And before I close this letter, I want to ask -- any unicorn foals yet?

Love, Kerri


Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard -- Thursday, October 3, 1991

I’ve just been through the most horrific experience I could imagine -- I’m going to have nightmares about it for weeks. I just can’t believe the things that the Ministry allows to go on, that people accept it as normal, and that I managed to get caught in the middle.

Remus and I arrived on the night of our practice concert to find that Basil and co. had been busy in the time since they’d left work two hours earlier. They’d set up a little raised platform in the center of the courtyard to use as a stage. Having done the work without magic, it was a pretty impressive feat in such a short time. A few people were milling around curiously, and some children were playing on and under the makeshift stage.

Remus shooed Basil and co. out of Basil’s room for me to change, and stood guard outside at my request. By the time he had herded them out and shut the door in their faces, it was almost time for the concert to start.

Everything went off without a hitch. The crowd was bigger than I’d expected it to be, because people had come from other communes in other cities. It was a bit intimidating because I’d never played for such a big audience, let alone one that was spread out around the stage instead of arranged in neat rows up front.

But Basil and I ‘click’ on a deeper level than physical or mental. When we sing together it’s almost like we’re the same person, time stands still, and nothing else matters. There was an energy in the crowd that we in the band all seemed to feed off of, an electric current that crackled through the air and beat in our blood in time to Streak’s drums. There is a magic shared by musicians that goes beyond anything worked with wands, a joy of working in unison to do something we mutually love.

Afterwards there was an informal party. I’m not into the party scene, but I didn’t want to slip out and leave people thinking that I didn’t want to associate with a bunch of werewolves. So I was there when a big bonfire was lit and people started dancing around it, eating, drinking, and generally having a good time.

I saw Basil disappear into the crowd with a girl on each arm. Streak was half naked, running through the crowd waving his shirt over his head with a manic gleam in his eye. Mel and Brand had a beer in each hand, and Augustus was leaping back and forth in front of the fire like a madman. I settled down on the edge of the abandoned stage and showed my guitar to a trio of curious little girls.

Remus hovered nearby, one wary eye on Streak, in case things got out of hand, and the other one on me. Apparently he felt I needed looking after, and I knew why when I caught a glimpse of Fenrir prowling through the crowd with three young toughs trailing him like a guard. Remus’ eyes narrowed to hazel slits until Fenrir and his cronies passed out of sight.

It wasn’t long after that when all hell broke loose. I can best describe the feeling as a cold chill, but that doesn’t do it justice. It was like….that swooping feeling of raw fear when your stomach drops and your heart rate accelerates, and you may not immediately know what’s wrong, but your instincts tell you danger is near.

In the ruddy light of the bonfire, ominous black shapes seemed to almost ooze over the top of the wall, noiseless and swift. I’d never seen one before, but I recognized them immediately as dementors.

It was absolute pandemonium. People were running and screaming, stampeding toward the doors of the commune for the safety within. Remus and I exchanged looks of horror and the crowd swarmed the stage and parted on either side of it in a desperate effort to escape. Simultaneously, we laid hands on the children who’d been examining my guitar so that they wouldn’t get swept into the mayhem.

I knew there was no point in trying to get them inside while so many people were running for the doors. The crowd was almost as dangerous as the dementors were, and I knew that we’d just end up being trampled if we tried to run for it. I pushed one girl to a crouch and guided her beneath the stage. Remus quickly followed suit with the other two, then we both got atop the stage, ready to challenge any dementors that got too close.

They were gliding through the crowd, arms outstretched, black robes billowing in some supernatural wind. They didn’t seem to be seriously trying to grasp hold of anyone -- it was more like they were playing.

“Why doesn’t anyone stop and fight?” I shouted at Remus, to be heard above the din.

“Half don’t own wands and the other half don’t have enough training for the patronus charm.”

A dementor was coming our direction, the frantic crowd parting to get out of its way. Long arms were reaching out as it glided along, face obscured beneath its hood like a grim reaper out of a horror movie.

“Expecto Patronum!” Remus and I shouted in unison.

Beside me, a great silver horse reared up, taller than I was. Powerful muscles rippled beneath it’s silver coat and a wild mane whipped out behind it with the momentum of it’s quick, fluid, motion. It’s nostrils flared and then Remus’ patronus charged the oncoming dementor at a breakneck pace that sent it shrinking back into the shadow of the wall.

In the midst of the chaos I was surprised to see Remus smiling at me. “I’ve never seen one like yours before.”


I could see it some distance away, energetically running down a dementor. It didn’t reach knee height but the dementor was fleeing before it. “Don’t even go there.” I said.

By now, most of the crowd had thinned and the dementors had fallen back for the time being as the patroneses flitted back and forth across the courtyard between them and us.

“It’s now or never.” said Remus quietly. “We have to get these girls inside.”

I nodded, and we jumped down from the platform. He picked up the smallest girls and I took the other two by hand. “Don’t let go of me, okay?”

One of them was sobbing, but she nodded and clung to my arm. Quickly, we made our way across the pavement to where Basil and Augustus were holding open the door. “Come on, come on, come on!”

A few more people were swept in with us and the door was yanked shut. Inside, it was even more chaos. The narrow halls and stairways were not meant to hold so many people at once. We were jammed in like sardines.

“They aren’t going to back off yet.” Remus shouted in my ear, “They’re surprised to have met opposition, but they’ll rally again once the patronuses fade. We have to get these girls somewhere safer before the second wave starts.”

Still holding tightly to the child in his arms who was now clinging to him and sobbing into his neck, he took me by the arm and began determinedly pressing up the stairs. Someone cursed at him and he shouted back impatiently that there were children with him. Understanding seemed to dawn on the people before us and they began trying to move out of the way to let us through. We made it up one flight, then two.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“To Royal and Celestia.” Remus panted, shifting the child he was carrying to his other arm. “They’re ----”

The words died on his lips as everything went dark, and the now familiar icy sensation washed over us. People were shrieking and shoving again. I looked over the bannister and saw, to my horror, a tall black form gliding across the floor.

“Expecto Patronum !” I saw the dementor on the landing below fall back, and suddenly became aware of another that had gotten onto the stairs and was coming right at me. Someone jostled me, trying to get out of the way, and my wand went flying. In the dark and mayhem I had no idea where it had gone. “Stay close!” I told the girls, and bent down to grope for it on the floor amongst all the trampling feet.

Another dementor had apparently gotten in from a window above. Remus’ attention had shifted to it, and the great silver stallion was galloping in its direction. The one below was perilously close, but Remus had his hands full for the moment, and my patronus was out of range below.

The kids I was supposed to be protecting had gotten separated from me in the mayhem. I could hear them screaming and saw them shrinking back against the bannister, a dementor looming above them, reaching for them with slimy, long fingered hands. I did the first thing that instinctively came to mind and launched myself at it, grabbing it from behind.

It felt icy to the touch, thin, oddly brittle. Still, it advanced upon the children as if it didn’t feel me holding onto it for dear life. Somehow I got my hand around it’s neck and gave it’s head a violent twist. It gave a high, piercing shrike and I fell with it as it seemed to shrink right into the floor. I landed flat on it’s empty cloak in a puff of fine gray dust. The breath half knocked out of me, I jumped to my feet, staring in shock at the cloak laying like a dark pool on the floor.

“Accio wand!” I heard Remus say. It zoomed out of nowhere and he caught it, thrusting it at me. The look on his face was one of complete shock, but his voice was steady as he put down the girl he was carrying and shielded her between the wall and himself.

The cold feeling suddenly melted away, so quickly that it was like being plunged into a hot bath. The dread and panic that I’d almost been too preoccupied to feel, also fell away, signifying that the dementors were at last retreating. I was staring at the abandoned cloak again, horrified at what I’d just done, fighting the urge to be sick. I knew that I had to keep a grip on myself and not fall apart in front of the children who were clinging to me once more.

For a few seconds everything was deadly quiet, and then, as suddenly as a wave breaking on a beach, people started screaming and crying with shock.

“Incendio.” I heard Remus say, and light blossomed from the nearest candle, hanging on the wall in a sconce.

Basil and Augustus were squeezing their way up the stairs toward us. “You guys are okay?”

“We’re fine. Take these children up to Royal and Celestia.” said Remus.

Basil nodded and began herding them upstairs.

“Kerri? Kerri !” I was too absorbed in shock to immediately notice Remus calling me.

“Yes?” I asked dazedly, looking up at him.

“I need your help. I need someone who is skilled with a wand. There may be injuries….there most certainly are injuries…and we need to do what we can to help. “ Numbly, I watched as he magically magnified his voice so that it rang throughout the building. He asked that the injured be brought to the nearest landings and the rest of the stairwells cleared.

Seeming dazed, people began moving to do as he asked. He removed the spell on his voice and beckoned me to follow him down to the foyer. There were several injured people waiting there.

So began a long night of climbing from landing to landing, doing what we could do to help. The only real thing to be thankful for is that none of the injuries turned out to be beyond our skills and no one had been kissed.

“Shouldn’t this be done by a healer?” I asked at one point.

“No. We can’t go to St. Mungo’s.” said Remus firmly. “They’ll want to know what happened and they’ll complain to the ministry.”

“Someone should!”

“No. One of us did that once. He got locked up in Azkaban and was never seen again. The ministry knows this goes on -- they just don’t care.”

“There has to be some law!” I exclaimed in horror.

Remus, who was attending to a woman with a mangled hand, looked up at me with tortured eyes. “Not for us there isn’t.”

I followed him from person to person. He’s fairly skilled with healing, but this, I suppose comes from having had to take care of himself for so long. I was glad for everything Hagrid had taught me and for what little formal training I’d received since school had begun. It wasn’t professional grade care, but it was better than nothing.

We found Fenrir on the fourth floor landing. He was propped up in a corner with his buddies standing watch. There was a very nasty gash on his head, and he had a black eye. “Someone shoved me down and I got stepped on.” he growled. “Just wait till I find out who it was.”

“You’ll be fine.” said Remus coldly. “It will look better than my shoulder does at any rate.”

Basil and Augustus had found us again and were trailing along behind, trying to do what they could to help. They stood aside while I helped Remus with Fenrir, looking down at him with evident distaste. Remus’s face was carefully impassive as he rocked back on his heels to examine the finished product. “I have good news -- you’re going to survive.” he said with uncharacteristic sarcasm. “Come on, Kerri.”

We climbed the next flight of stairs. As we did, someone stuck their head out of an apartment door and spouted a long string of obscenities at Remus, followed by, “Eager to help but you’re too good to live here.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Basil and Augustus start in the man’s direction.

“No you don’t Basil Logan !” came a commanding voice from above. A tall brawny man was looking over the edge of the bannister above. It was hard to determine his age, because werewolves tend to age so quickly, but my guess is that he was just slightly older than Remus. “You neither, Gus Carew! I’ll come down there and tie your tails in knots. And you there, Yestin Plunkett! You hold your tongue. You better be glad Lupin was here or things would have been worse. You’re so bad with a wand that you use yours to prop your window open!”

Yestin Plunkett scowled up at the man but didn’t reply. Instead he retreated back into his apartment, giving the door a hard slam.

“Thank you, Royal.” said Remus, looking up at the man above.

“Any time, Remus. The kids are safe -- I have them here.”

“Good.”

So we continued on to the next landing.

It was almost dawn when Remus and I got into my car, lost in a sort of weary silence. Neither of us spoke until I pulled up at his door. “Are you all right?” he asked, “I was preoccupied -- I didn’t think to check on you.”

“I’m fine. I don’t want to talk about any of it yet. You aren’t going in to work today, are you?’

He made a weary grimace. “I have to.”

“Look …. You were brilliant last night and you did most of the work. You stay home and I’ll go this morning in your place. I can handle it alone -- you know I can.”

“You can’t do that. You go to class in the morning.”

“I’m too tired to sit through them and I’d never be able to concentrate. It won’t hurt to miss one day.”

His eyes went dark with sympathy. “Dumbledore knew what he was doing when he gave you my name. You have no idea how much help you’ve been over the last month or so. But I wouldn’t let you do it. Besides, I can’t afford to miss any work. Every knut counts. If I’m even one coin short, I’ll lose my home. I can’t go back to the commune, Kerri.” There was an edge of desperation to his voice. “You go home and sleep if you aren’t going to class.”

“Okay.” I gave in. But I felt a bit guilty.

“Don’t worry about me.” he said with a swift smile. “Thanks for the help.”

By the time I got home, Tonks was just rolling out of bed. “Must have been some concert.” she yawned.

“It was.” I mumbled, and fell into my bed, shoes and all.

When my alarm went off at eleven a.m. I was far from refreshed. I changed clothes and headed out the door, stopping on the way to work to pick up a sack full of hamburgers. It was a bit of a splurge, but it was worth it to see the happy looks on the faces of my bandmates when I walked in the office and announced my intention to share.

“Look Remus -- a real sandwich with stuff between the bread and everything.” commented Basil, who was always pointing out the inadequacy of Remus’ meals.

Thankfully no one made any reference to the events of the night before. I suspected Remus had warned them that I didn’t want to talk about it, and I was grateful for it. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon when things slowed down that he raised the subject.

“Kerri….could I ask you something?”

I knew what he was going to say, and answered the question before he even asked. “I don’t know. It just happened. My wand was gone and that….thing….was going for those girls. I had to stop it so I just….did.” I finished lamely.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before. I’ve never heard of anyone killing a dementor before, but it certainly looks like that’s what you did. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”

I was quiet, not liking the way this discussion was going at all. He seemed to sense it because he said in a lighter tone, “ That’s a very unique patronus you have -- a winged boar. It’s oddly similar to the one over the gates at Hogwarts.”

“I know.” I said, feeling mildly embarrassed. “It’s such a fat, dumpy little thing. You imagine when you’re a first year that it will be something graceful and beautiful, and then you learn to do the charm and it turns out to be a glorified pig. I suppose its because of how much I love the school. Every memory I have that’s capable of conjuring a good, strong patronus is related to Hogwarts. Now that stallion of yours….that has to be the most impressive one I’ve ever seen.”

He seemed to hesitate for a moment and then said, “We had horses when I was very young. I loved them. That night….the night I….met Fenrir…I was out in the barn. We had a foal who was sickly and I just loved him to death. I was worried about him and I’d sneaked out to check that he was okay. I was eight years old.

The foal was just fine, and I was on my way back inside when something jumped me from behind. I was knocked to the ground and it pinned me there. I don’t remember the details that much…just sensory impressions. Heavy weight half squeezing the breath out of me….my shoulder being torn by sharp teeth…claws ripping down my back. I was too far away from the house for my parents to hear what was going on.

What I do remember very clearly is a horse charging over -- the mother of the foal, as a matter of fact. You’d think she’d have been spooked, wouldn’t you? She went after Fenrir just kicking and snapping her teeth. Well Fenrir is big but not as big as a furious, full grown horse. Besides, he’d done what he’d come to do. He took off into the night and I blacked out.

Later I was told that the horse stood over me all night long. That in the morning she raised such a fuss that my parents noticed and came out and found me, still alive, but barely. After that we had to sell the horses and move, but I never forgot here. To this day I love horses and my patronus has always been a stallion. “

He fell silent, hands busy at his task, eyes on his work. I wondered if he was going to regret telling me this in the morning.

“So that’s what you meant when you told Fenrir that his injuries would heal better than your shoulder.” I said softly. “You’re a better person than I am. I’d have shoved him down the stairs as hard as I could and then stomped on him.”

“Why bother? It wouldn’t change anything.”

“Why you?”

“My father owed some money and his creditor hired Fenrir to deliver a … warning.”

“What happened last night at the commune --- it’s happened before?” I asked.

“Azkaban is miles and miles out to sea, but as the dragon flies. They distance is nothing to them. I think the ministry lets it go on because they think it keeps us in their place. No one has ever been kissed. No one has ever been hurt before either. Last night there was a crowd, and people were doing too much pushing and shoving to escape.”

“But there has to be a law.”

“There isn’t.” he insisted.

But I’m going to find out. I’m going to try and recruit Tonks to help out -- she’s been learning all those ministry regulations, after all. Something simply has to be done. The law is supposed to protect people, not allow them to be endangered.

I try to sleep at night and I hear people screaming and see dementors reaching toward me. I think the horror of that night is going to be with me for quite some time.

Excerpt from the Journal of Cerridwyn Howard : Friday, October 5, 1991

I’m under a curse -- I really am -- it’s called the Gilderoy Lockhart curse. This has absolutely been the worst week of my life.

It started out in the library. Tonks, who was equally horrified by what had happened at the commune, had come to help me research dementor regulations. “It isn’t really my field, but I’ll be glad to help you look.” she said cheerfully. “I’d like to think that the Ministry wouldn’t let something like that go on, but…”

“She’s had us connected to the floo network so we went straight to the library from home. It makes things much easier, because like Hogwarts, you can’t apparate into Merlin. If you live off campus you either have to take the Knight Bus or get there by more conventional means, which means dressing in Muggle clothes. I notice that you get odd, if not vaguely hostile looks if you walk around campus dressed that way.

We arrived in one of the three massive fireplaces in the library. Merlin is small by Hogwarts standards, but the library more than makes up for it. It sort of reminds me of Gringotts, but without the mine carts. I really think you could get lost in there and never find your way out again.

The library is split into separate departments that are like libraries within libraries. We headed to the legal section, and Tonks told the librarian what we were looking for. She signaled that we should follow, and led us down row after row of high shelves. I swear we must have walked a mile before she stopped in a remote section lit only by the occasional candle floating in midair.

“Information on dementors is at this end, information on werewolves is at the other. Please don’t try to reshelf.”

The librarian left us, heels echoing hollowly on the stone floor. Otherwise, it was as silent as a tomb.

“Right.” said Tonks, who didn’t seem at all daunted by the number of books. “I’ll do dementors, you do werewolves. We’ll meet back at the table.” she said, nodding to the nearest one at the end of the aisle.

So we split up. It was difficult narrowing down books that would be useful for my particular need. There were so many that it was hard to decide where to start. Among the titles were, “Werewolf Trials of the Modern Era”, “The Drafting of the Werewolf Code of Conduct,” “Modern Werwolf Regulations,” and “A Survey of the Werewolf Commune System.”

The last two looked useful, so I pulled them off the shelf and went to sit at the table beside Tonks who was flipping through a book called, “A Guide to the Regulations Governing Dementors : Your Rights When Under Arrest.”

I began scanning the books I had selected, and felt more and more annoyed. Werewolves were inevitably referred to as ‘creatures’ or in neuter pronouns. “Is there something wrong with me that I see them as people?” I asked.

“Well, their classification has been a sticky point for the government too.” said Tonks slowly. “They keep being shifted back and forth between the Beast and Being divisions of the Department for the Regulations and Control of Magical Creatures. I think they’ve been classified as ‘beasts’ for about the last twenty years or so. Really, they have more rights now, than they have ever before. They used to just kill them outright, and it was illegal to marry one of them.”

“But I don’t think they should be regulated by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures at all. I don’t think they’re animals. I look at them and I see human beings who have an unfortunate disease that society censures them for. It isn’t right.”

“Well….you were raised as a Muggle so maybe it’s easier for you to accept them. There have been times when the werewolf problem was pretty bad in this country. They have the wolfsbane potion now, but people still remember what it was like back then. “

“Do you think they’re animals?” I asked pointedly.

“I’ve never actually met one.” said Tonks slowly. “Technically….no. Most days of the month, they’re just like anyone else. Like you said, I think they have an unfortunate illness. I guess there’s good and bad in everyone; wizards, Muggles, half bloods, pure bloods, squibs….everyone. Werewolves too. I myself have relatives in Azkaban who were Death Eaters.”

“You’re kidding.”

“That’s not the kind of thing you kid about. Let’s just say that my mother came from a very…colorful family. She was disowned for marrying my father and I don’t think she ever looked back.”

“If it makes you feel any better, there were some crazies on my father’s side too. That’s why I’ve never met him.”

“No big deal.” said Tonks with a shrug. “Lots of families have black sheep in them. Even some of the best. Like I was saying, there’s good and bad to be found everywhere.”

Still, I wondered if Tonks would want to sleep in the same room with me if she knew the full story.

“This paragraph here…” she said, pointing. “It says that dementors are not to leave Azkaban unless given direct permission from a ministry official. That means one of two things. Either they’re leaving on their own, or someone has set them on the commune. I’m willing to bet that like house elves, they can’t just up and leave on their own. At the very least there must be measures in place that let the ministry know if they do leave.”

“Remus said that someone got locked up for complaining once.”

Tonks shook her head in disgust. “Whether you think the werewolves are animals or not, it’s sickening. Those things should not be running loose like that. How can they do this? Yet another reason to get some decent people into the Ministry. Fudge is an idiot -- completely incompetent. He listens to whoever has the most gold. If dementors are being set on the commune, there’s no telling who’s pulling the strings.”

“There has to be a law being violated somewhere. Something concrete.”

“Let’s keep looking.”

We spent an hour sitting there with our heads together over heavy, dusty books that looked like they hadn’t been touched in years. I was getting more and more annoyed as I read the laws related to the commune. “They can’t apparate in or out of there…they can’t connect to the floo network…they don’t have a way to escape. That place is walled up like a fort -- it keeps people in better than it keeps dementors out.”

“That’s the idea.” said Tonks. “That’s why the communes were built in the first place; to discourage werewolves from mingling too much with the rest of the population.”

“Is the term, ‘Human Rights’ completely unknown to the Ministry?” I asked.

“Oh the Ministry is all for human rights -- but remember, the werewolves are classifed as ‘dark creatures’ technically. And even that’s a bit fuzzy since they lifted the law against marrying them in the fifties. If they’re creatures…then how can it be legal to marry them? Their classification has been a tricky, confusing thing for years. They go from being called ‘beasts’ to ‘beings’ and back again every few decades.”

“I’m so lucky I have you for a roommate.” I said. “I’m learning more about the law than I ever did in school.”

Tonks smiled. “I’ve taken a lot of law classes. They aren’t my favorites, but I do okay.”

We both looked up at the sound of footsteps coming around the corner, carrying loudly in the silence. Into view came….Gilderoy Lockhart.

“Oh no.” I whispered.

“Hello ladies,” he said brightly. “Studying hard?”

“Always.” answered Tonks, seeing that I wasn’t going to reply.

He picked up one of our books and peered at the title. “Researching werewolves are you?”

“So are you apparently.” said Tonks, nothing the book he was holding. ‘Werewolves for Dunderheads’.

“I thought you were writing your own book on them?” I asked.

He turned pink and shifted the book so that the title was hidden. “I am…I am going out of town for a few weeks to do my research. I just like to see what others have done first because I want mine to be unique.”

“Oh you’re unique all right.” I said.

As I’d expected, he didn’t get the implied insult. “Why thank you. One has to be gifted to achieve the fame I have earned, of course. It’s something that one is born with, you know. A ‘certain something’ that other people just don’t have.”

“And you certainly do.” I wryly agreed. Tonks, who was struggling to keep a straight face, jabbed me in the ribs.

“So.” he said, flashing a brilliant smile at us. “Studying Defense Against the Dark Arts, I take it? A subject that I know a little something about.”

“Not exactly.” said Tonks. “Kerri is doing some research for her bandmates in the werewolf commune.”

Lockhart, who had been sitting on the edge of the table nearest me, jumped off as if he’d been bitten. He was looking at me with slightly widened eyes and his face had gone pale. “Ah….well….yes…..I need to…to be going….now….I’m very busy. Yes. Well. Good bye.”

He hurried around the corner with a swish of fuschia robes. We were quiet, listening to his heels beating a hasty retreat. “Well if I’d know that’s all it would take to get rid of him, I’d have told him sooner.” I said. “If he doesn’t want to be around someone who fraternizes with werewolves then how on earth will he be able to research werewolves themselves? Idiot.”

“Don’t you mean ‘dunderhead’?” Tonks laughed.

I put that dunderhead out of my mind, never guessing the problems he was going to cause for me. I’ll bet he ran straight to the office guard as fast as he could go in that pretty pink robe he was wearing.

The next morning I was sitting in my transfiguration class when I was summoned out by a uniformed security guard who had a very menacing looking security troll with him. “I ‘ll need you to come with me.” he said.

“What? Why?” I asked, alarmed. It crossed my mind that Tonks had finally had some spectacular accident and as her roommate, they were coming to inform me.

The guard didn’t answer and the troll just grunted. Looking at the guard, I suspected that the troll might be a touch smarter than he was. I didn’t think I’d get any useful information out of him, anyway. Anxious to get to the bottom of things, I followed him out of the transfiguration building, across a broad lawn, and down a narrow walkway.

They waved me into the office of the campus guard. The troll sat down in a massive chair by the door and the guard asked me for my wand.

“My -- wand?” I asked, suddenly suspicious.

“Routine.”

“I don’t think I like your routine.” I said, and turned on my heel to leave.

The troll stood up, positioning itself in front of the door. Instantly, my hand went to my wand.

“Your choice.” said the guard, nastily. “Comply, or be immediately expelled.”

Now I was really alarmed, but I was not about to jeopardize my education. Too much was at stake. “Fine. I’d better get it back when I leave.”

It killed me to watch him take it. He examined it briefly, told me to wait, and walked through a door to the right. I was left alone with the troll, who had settled into it’s chair again. I kept a wary eye on it while I tried to stay calm.

“Come with me.” said the guard, reappearing at the door.

I followed him across a hall and he gestured me into an open office door. A crusty looking, thickset man of about fifty was sitting at the desk. A sign reading, “Adam Adams, Head of Campus Guard.” set on the desk beside a pair of manacles. I was forcefully reminded of Argus Filch.

“Where is my wand?” I asked.

“Here.” he said, gesturing to a locked cabinet.

“You have no right !”

“I have every right because you falsified your application. Allegedly.”

“I did not ! What are you talking about?”

He pushed a piece of paper toward me across the desk. I recognized it as part of my application. “Section 3, paragraph 2. Werewolves must declare themselves and provide documentation of their illness.”

“I’m not a werewolf!” I said, so furious now that I was shaking.

“I’ve heard a report to the contrary.”

“Who?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Gilderoy Lockhart!” I snapped with sudden understanding. “That moron ! Just wait till I get ahold of him!”

Adams raised his eyebrows. It hit me that aggressive outbursts might not be the best way to convince him that I wasn’t a werewolf. I forced myself to calm down and tried to remember how Severus handles himself when he gets angry. Calm….cold….silkily vicious.

I drew myself up to my full height…which can be impressive because I’m almost six feet…and looked him dead in the eye. “Mr. Lockhart is mistaken. I have friends who are werewolves. My roommate mentioned it to him and he must have misunderstood.”

“It’s possible. Misunderstandings happen all the time. But until this is cleared up, I’ll have to ban you from campus and confinscate your wand. I can’t jeopardize the safety of the students with a possible undeclared werewolf on the loose.”

“If you do not return my wand to me immediately, I will walk out of this office and complain to the American Embassy of Magic. Then I will go directly to the Daily Prophet and tell them the whole story. By this time tomorrow the entire country will know that Merlin University of Magical Arts is being investigated by the embassy because it is run by a lot of incompetent morons who don’t have enough sense to check their facts before they act.”

“You can’t threaten me.”

“I just did. I am innocent of the thing you are accusing me of, and as an innocent person I have nothing to hide. Therefore I have no problem whatsoever with screaming this story to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen. Do you really want to take the risk that you might be mistaken?’

“You overestimate yourself.” said Adams, pointing a finger at me.

I leaned forward over the desk and whispered with as much sincerity as I could muster, “Do you think so? You have no idea what you are dealing with.” Straightening up, I gave him what I knew was a very Snape-like smile. As I did, I had a sudden, saving inspiration. “I graduated top of my class at Hogwarts with full honors. There is a teaching commission waiting for me when I finish here. Contact Professor Dumbledore -- he’ll vouch for me.”

I knew from the slightly startled look in his eyes that my barb had stuck. “The word of Albus Dumbledore carries a great deal of weight. Very well. I shall send an owl. If he is willing to corroborate your story, I will return your wand…”

“Now.” I interrupted. “You will return my wand now.”

“See here !”

“You see here. I live off campus and I give you my word that I will not return here until given permission. I am not going out of here without my wand, unless I take a trip to the embassy.”

“If I catch you on campus before permission is granted, I’ll have you expelled.”

“Have me expelled and I’ll have your job.”

He reached over and unlocked the cabinet. I had to struggle not to snatch my wand from him and curse him into next week. He had me escorted off the property by one of his guards, and of course I was late for work.

“There you are.” said Remus when I arrived. “I was getting worried that you quit.”

“Not yet at least?”

“Is anything wrong?”

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

Remus is a good friend. He doesn’t press me to talk when he knows I don’t want to, and he always tries to cheer me if he thinks I’m upset. His light conversation calmed me down and helped turn me from my resolve to hunt Lockhart down and blast him into pieces. I never told him what happened, and I don’t think I will. I don’t want him to think that my friendship with he and the others are causing me any problems I can’t handle.



AUTHOR’S NOTE : Comments, criticsm, and even complaints will be greatly appreciated. Help me improve my craft.





Chapter 13: Chapter 13
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Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : October 4, 1991

Kerri --

Professor Dumbledore told me of the problem you had at school today. Are you all right?

S.S.


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : October 4, 1991

Severus,

I’m fine, thanks. Just mad enough to bite chunks out of solid stone with my bare teeth. You have no idea how badly I’d like to curse Lockhart right now.

This has been a horrible week. Severus -- I killed a dementor. I was playing a concert in a werewolf commune when there was an attack. I lost my wand for a moment and I snapped a dementor’s neck. How did I do that? Is that another ability I’ve gotten from my father?

But I know you’d be proud of how I handled myself today. I tried to be as much like you as possible, and it seemed to work. It wasn’t easy to be so calm though when I wanted to put my hands around the man’s neck. I think my temper must be worse than yours.

Kerri


Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : October 5, 1991

Kerri,


Do not do anything rash. An idiot like Lockhart is not worth a trip to Azkaban.


I saw the Dark Lord grab a dementor by the throat once, but I never saw him kill one. I don’t have an answer for your questions. I assume that dementors die just as everything else does, but I never heard of one being killed. Part of a dementor’s way of preying on it’s victims is paralyzing them with fear. The Dark Lord never feared them -- perhaps you don’t either, and maybe that has something to do with it. I wish I could be of more help.


I do have a temper just as bad as yours, I assure you. I have simply learned to control it. Calm impassivity can often throw an enemy more than aggression can. If your face and actions don’t show what you’re thinking, then the enemy cannot plan their next move because they can’t anticipate yours. Hence, you are empowered.

You seem very upset. You know I’m here if you need me.

Your brother, Severus



Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : October 5, 1991


Dear Severus,

Thanks for your support and advice. There are some things that other people, people I consider to be good friends, could never understand. There are some things I could never tell them. I suppose it’s the same with you too. Luckily, we have each other.


I’m calmer now, but the anger has been replaced by depression. Someone saw me kill the dementor. He’s a friend, but I saw the shock and surprise on his face. What I did isn’t normal and he knows it. That bothers me more than Lockhart thinking I’m a werewolf. I like this person. His opinion matters to me.


Times like this I just want to go to sleep and never wake up. All I want is a normal life, and my own blood denies that. No matter how hard I try to be normal, oddities do have a way of coming to the surface. I’m so tired of this filthy blood.


I should be content. I have the chance for a good education and a good career…but I want more in life than that. I wanted to get married and have a family like normal people do. I can’t do that -- I can’t burden someone else with this secret I’m carrying around.

Being a Hogwarts teacher is an honor and I’m setting my gender back 100 years by feeling like I won’t be happy if I never get married and raise a family. I need to just settle down and accept that I’m going to be a dried up old maid like McGonagall. The sooner I do, the better off I’ll be.

Kerri


Letter from Molly Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : October 9, 1991

Dear Kerri,

How are you doing?


Charlie writes that you’ve met an old friend of mine and Arthurs, Remus Lupin. We lost touch with him years ago and would love to see him again. I would like to invite you both to dinner this Saturday at 6p.m.


Love, Molly



Sunday, October 13, 1991

I had a good time at the Weasley’s the yesterday night. It really helped clear up some of the depression I’ve been feeling since the incident with the campus guard. The Weasleys are nice, normal people, and being around them makes me feel like a nice, normal person myself.

I took the invitation in to work the day after I received it and handed it to Remus without further explanation. He took it curiously and started reading. I had the fun of watching his expression register both surprise and pleasure…it really is a wonderful thing to see that man smile. “Of course I’ll accept.” he said cheerfully. “I don’t get too many dinner invitations. It will be nice to see Arthur and Molly again.”

“Come over to my house first so we can get there at the same time.” I suggested.

The invitation put him in an especially good mood, and I thought the timing was perfect as that pre-full moon weariness was already beginning to set in. I could see it in the droop of his eyelids, the slump in his shoulders, and the drag in his step as the day progressed. If the dinner date had been a few days later he’d have been too exhausted to make it.

But he did look quite cheerful on Saturday night when he arrived at my door. He was dressed in a set of green robes, just the right shade to bring out the silver in his eyes and hair. They were much less shabby than the clothes he usually to wears, and from the way
a few stubborn creases still held their places, I suspected that they stayed folded most of the time in reserve for rare social outings.

“You look nice.” he told me as I invited him in.

“Thank you. So do you.”

“I should. I slept all day.”

Tonks, who had been in our room experimenting with hair colors again, was now lingering curiously in the hall, so I introduced them. “And you have something in common.” I told them “Gryffindor.”

“The best of the four houses.” said Remus.

“You better watch yourself.” I said in a tone of mock warning.

“Well then we’d better get going.”

“Have a good time.” said Tonks.

“Don’t burn anything up while I’m gone.” I said.

“Just go away, will you?”

So Remus and I went to The Burrow, landing in the yard with all of our extremities still attached. Always a good thing. I saw someone get splinched once and I’ve had a horror of it ever since. “I hate apparition.” I complained as I shook out my skirt. “That and the floo network. That’s why I have the car for going short distances around town.”

“That’s not unusual. Many wizards choose not to apparate at all. Personally, my opportunities to use it are so limited that I do it whenever I get the chance.”

The yard was eerily quiet. Not a stray chicken, gnome, or hyperactive terror to be seen anywhere. The lights were on in the house, spilling out the windows and onto the grass, giving the place a cozy, pleasant feel. “They’ve added on quite a bit since I was here last.” said Remus, looking up at the crooked upper story. “But I suppose they would have to with all the children they have.”

We knocked on the door and Mr. Weasley answered. “Remus -- so good to see you again. Come in, come in. You too Kerri.”

“Hello Mr. Weasley

Mr. Weasley was shaking Remus’ hand. “Molly, they’re here!” he called.

Mrs. Weasley came in from the direction of the kitchen, wearing an apron and looking flushed. “Remus John Lupin…let me have a look at you…how are you?” she asked, giving him a hug and fixing him with the same critical gaze that she so often used on her children.

“I’m fine Molly. Just fine.” Remus answered cheerfully.

But the expression on her face was one of alarmed concern. Apparently he noticed because he added quickly, “Now don’t start making a fuss over me, Molly. The full moon is next week…that’s all.”

“You’re much too thin.” she pronounced. “I’m going to feed you up while you’re hear. I have steaks -- what you need is some good, rare, red meat to build up your strength for the transformation.”

“You remembered?” asked Remus, looking surprised and delighted.

“Of course I do. You don’t spend as much time with someone as we did with you to forget something like that. Now let me look at you, Kerri.” I startled slightly as I found myself pinned under Mrs. Weasley’s beady gaze. “I don’t like the idea of you working in that place -- either of you -- but at least you can look after each other.”

Remus was laughing, “Molly….I’m thirty-one years old. I’ve been on my own for a decade.”

I seemed to pass Mrs. Weasley’s approval because she didn’t have any criticism for me. “Well sit down, both of you.”

“Ah….” said Mr. Weasley “I have something I’d like to show you outside, Kerri.”

“Arthur !” exclaimed Mrs. Weasley in frustration. “Kerri doesn’t want to look at your junk!.”

“Yes I do.” I said quickly. “I find his experiments very interesting.”

Mrs. Weasley’s lips went into a hard, flat line, but she raised no more objections. Apparently that meant we had permission to go. Mr. Weasley held open the door for me and we made our escape.

“I have news you’ll be interested in, Remus.” I heard Mrs. Weasley say as we left.

“What did you do?” I asked as Mr. Weasley and I headed off across the yard. “Put in a radio?”

“No….but I did add something.” he answered with a mysterious air.

I followed him around the side of the house, past the chicken coop, to where the car was parked outside the shed. He slid into the driver’s seat, lit the tip of his wand, and held it to the dash.

“Oh, a compass. That was a good idea.”

“Do you think so?” asked Mr. Weasley anxiously. “I have much bigger plans….I’d rather not divulge them just yet, you know….I want to see if it works out first. I’m fairly sure though….”

“As long as Mrs. Weasley doesn’t catch you.” I teased.

“Exactly. And we’d better be getting back before she comes looking.”

“Keep me informed on your progress.”

“Will do.” Mr. Weasley promised.

“Where’s Ginny?” I asked as we started back.

“Visiting an aunt. She’ll be sorry she missed you.”

Inside, Mrs. Weasley had been showing Remus an unfinished sweater. It was child size and a rich emerald green.

“….as if he’s exactly like his father.” Remus was saying to her, looking exceptionally happy about something.

“Well I need to be finishing dinner.” said Mrs. Weasley, folding up the sweater and tucking it into her knitting bag.

“I’ll help.” I said.

“No, no dear. You sit down --- you’re a guest tonight.”

So the men and I settled down into chairs near the fire. “Have you seen this?” asked Mr. Weasley grimly, holding up an issue of the Daily Prophet. The headline read “Proposed Bill to ban Werewolves from Owning Wands.”

I saw a spasm of pure fury cross Remus’s features which he quickly smoothed away. Nevertheless, his voice was hard and bitter when he spoke, “Let me guess? That meddlesome old cow again?”

“Yes, if you mean Dolores Umbridge.” said Mr. Weasley with a grin.

“I’m not a vindictive person, really I’m not, but I truly hate that woman. I wish nothing for her but the worst. I’d like to see her walk a mile in my shoes…find out what it is to have your humanity questioned and your livlihood taken from you. She is a truly evil person.”

“Oh I agree entirely. She’s getting too much power lately, too. Fudge leans on her too much. “

“From what I hear, he has to lean on someone because he can’t handle the job on his own.” I said.

“He can’t.” Mr. Weasely agreed. “He should never have been given the post. But I wouldn’t worry too much about that bill, Remus. It’s too extreme. It will never go through.”

“I hope not, because if it does, that’s it for us.” said Remus darkly. “She wants to keep pushing until she pushes us right out of the magical world. You know she passed that law that says I can’t tutor a child unless another tutor is present. Well that just defeats the purpose of anyone hiring me in the first place. I don’t like having to present my documentation every time I go to an interview, but I understand the reason. That last law though…it put me completely out of business. I can’t get a job in my field. I hate that woman.”

I’d never heard Remus speak so bitterly about anyone before. For a brief moment, I caught a glimpse a stranger that I definitely would not want to cross.

“I heard about that one.” said Mr. Weasley. “That’s a shame. You were always good with kids. Me, I’m writing up a Muggle protection act that I want to try to get passed next year. I know full well that after all my hard work, Dolores Umbridge is going to try to stop it.”

“Don’t you let her do it, Arthur.” said Remus heatedly. “You stand up to her. For once let someone get the better of that woman. Give her hell, Arthur for all of us whose lives she‘s made miserable over the years.”

Mr. Weasley smiled grimly. “I fully intend to.”

“Keep me posted.”

“I will.”

“That woman is pure evil.” said Remus again. “If she had her way she’d be rid of all half bloods and muggle borns. Her politics are akin to Voldemort’s ---”

Mr. Weasley and I both gasped, he from horror and me from admiration.

“Remus, you’re the only person besides Professor Dumbledore that I’ve ever heard say Voldemort’s name.” I said delightedly.

“For HEAVEN’S SAKE YOU TWO !” exclaimed Mr. Weasley in consternation.

“I never had respect for that name…never. Not since he killed one of my very best friends and his wife. You should know that, Arthur.” said Remus, pinning Mr. Weasley with a very penetrating silver stare. “By not saying it, people are turning it into an object of reverence. Reverencing Voldemort? Not me.”

Mr. Weasley flinched at the third use of Voldemort’s name, but didn’t comment on it. Instead, he said in a somewhat hushed tone, “There have been some odd things going on lately.”

“I’ve heard. The break in at Gringotts.” said Remus with a nod. “Very strange. I’d be curious to know just what was in that vault. It took very serious dark magic to pull off a heist like that.”

About then, Mrs. Weasley called us in for dinner. The men immediately dropped the subject, by which I understood that it was not something that ought to be discussed in Mrs. Weasley’s presence.

“This is yours Remus.” she said briskly, directing him to a plate bearing a steak that was swimming in red juices.

“Is it still mooing?” I teased.

“It’s just perfect, Molly. Thank you. Kerri just has no idea what she’s missing out on.”

Mrs. Weasley had made a wonderful dinner of thick steaks with creamy mashed potatoes dripping in butter, sauted veggies, and dark, rich gravy. For desert there was trifle, and Mrs. Weasley announced that she had made chicken pies for Remus and I to take home.

“Honestly Molly, you didn’t need to do that.” Remus protested. “I’m not starving to death.”

“I wouldn’t know it to look at you. And you’re how old ---? Thirty one ? You’re too young to be going gray already. Arthur didn’t start going bald until he was forty. Of course his hairline did recede very quickly after that…”

“Going gray at my age isn’t unusual for my kind.” said Remus patiently.

“You need to take care of yourself, Remus Lupin. “ said Mrs. Weasley severely. “You’re in your prime now, but you aren’t getting younger. If you keep going like you are, you won’t live to see fifty.”

“I’m fine Molly, I’m fine.” Remus insisted.

“Don’t fuss so, Molly.” said Mr. Weasley, who had been looking a big flushed since the ‘receding hairline’ thing.

“At least let me help you clean up, Mrs. Weasley.” I said, by way of rescuing them both. Remus and Mr. Weasley beat a very hasty retreat to the living room.

“Call me ‘Molly’ , Kerri. You’ve come of age now.”

“I know. But I’ve been calling you ‘Mrs. Weasley’ for so long that the habit is hard to break.”

Between us, we made short work of the kitchen mess, and then went to join the men who were back on the subject of politics again. Perhaps by way of heading off any further scolding, Remus gave her his most cheerful smile and said, “So tell me all about your children, Molly.”

Out came all the albums and scrapbooks, and the occupation of getting him up to speed on the doings off all the Weasley offspring took up the better part of two hours.

“And what about you?” she asked, in a tone that signified danger. “Haven’t you settled down yet? No children?”

A somewhat saddened look crossed Remus’ features, one that I didn’t think anyone but me saw. “No. I’ve decided to stay single. I don’t think I should marry under the circumstances. It would be irresponsible and cruel to risk passing on my disease.”

“Nonsense. You need to find a nice, sensible girl to take care of you. “ said Mrs. Weasley severely. Then her tone softened. “There’s something to be said for love too. If the girl loves you and you love her, then that’s what matters. Bill and Charlie are getting to be marrying age, but nothing serious yet. “

“They have plenty of time.” said Remus mildly.

“I can’t believe Ginny is ready to start school next year.” said Mr. Weasely, laying a hand over his wife’s.

“I know.” she agreed. “Where does the time go? I just keep hoping that Dumbledore stays until they’re all through Hogwarts. He’s getting up there, you know.”

“One thing is sure…he’ll never retire.” said Remus knowingly. “Dumbledore will drop in harness. The only way he’ll leave Hogwarts is if they carry him out feet first.”

“Like me.” I said softly. “I love the school as much as he does. I fully expect to live out my life there.”

“I’m glad that there will be an extra pair of eyes to keep an eye on the children.” said Mrs. Weasley, giving my arm an affectionate pat. “Heaven knows Fred and George are a handful. They’re just like their father was at that age.”

Her tone was mildly reproachful, but Mr. Weasley just grinned in a pleased sort of way.

We talked a lot about Hogwarts; past, present, and future, and by that time it was getting late. Mrs. Weasley loaded us both down with food to take home and told us to come visit whenever we liked. “You come see me before the full moons and I’ll make sure you’re prepared for them.” she told Remus firmly.

We thanked her, and somehow managed to get out the door without having more food thrust at us.

“Can you believe this?” I asked, nodding at the multiple food containers in my arms.

Remus laughed. “Yes. She’s always been a good, motherly soul. After my Hogwarts years when I was out on my own for the first time, it was tough. Voldemort was at the height of his power….I was part of a group that Dumbledore had put together to fight him and so were the Weasleys. Things were difficult back then to say the least and the Weasleys were very good to me. Well….you can imagine.” he said, shifting the load of food in his arms. “Can you manage?”

“Oh sure. Go home and get some sleep. I’ll see you Monday.”

So we apparated out…he to his home and me to mine.

It was such a nice evening that I don’t feel half so depressed now. Only one thing bothers me -- poor Remus --- he and I have both resolved not to marry for the exact same reasons --- fear of the demons lurking within ourselves. The difference is that mine is in my veins and his takes over once every full moon.


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : October 7, 1991

Severus ---

I’m enclosing a letter from Aednnan Quirrel that I received this afternoon. This is not typical of him at all. I’ve never heard him spew anti- Muggle/half blood garbage before. He was always too noble minded.

The handwriting isn’t right either --- erratic, jumbled somehow. If the content of the letter didn’t contain certain facts and inside jokes shared between ourselves only, I’d suspect it was a prank.

I’m sending it to you because you asked me to tell you if I heard anything unusual from him. I’m concerned that he’s headed for a breakdown of some sort. I’m worried about both he and his students. Please don’t make any unnecessary trouble for him if you can avoid it.

Tell me what you think.

--- Kerri


Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : October 8, 1991

Dear Kerri,

I found Quirrel’s letter most interesting and thank you for sharing it with me. It does seem very unlike the silly, overly idealistic young man that I remember as a student. I never thought his choice of career suited him. I always knew he’d come to a bad end of some sort. He was too mild mannered for the dark arts post, and the philosophies voiced in that letter are certainly not for the faint of heart.

I suspect that his problem is more dire than merely becoming unhinged. Have you considered that he might be under some sort of external manipulation? Perhaps his words are the sentiments of another, and he is only parroting back what he has heard by way of pleasing that person. Please inform me immediately if you receive any more letters of this nature. There are the students to think of, of course.

Kerri --- permit a little scolding on my part when I say that you demean yourself by attacking your blood as filthy. Have more respect for what it means to be of Slytherin’s direct line. Yes, he had some unpopular ideas. What of it? Famous astronomers of the past were convinced that the world is flat, but do we condemn them for one bad idea? Consider the great things that Slytherin accomplished, the discoveries he made -- have you never read the history of your own ancestry? You are letting your hatred of the Dark Lord cloud your vision.

Many times, I also have wished that I had not been born. You, however are too young for that yet. You do not know true despair…you have never experienced the bitterness of grief, have tasted only the sweetness of success. I hope that you never have to experience what we who lived through those dark days had to endure. Then you may truly have a reason to wish for death. I do not wish that for you.

If nothing else --- do not devalue yourself on the basis of facts that beyond your fault or ability to change. That way lies madness.

May I venture to ask, now that you are calmer, what you were doing in a werewolf commune in the first place? I was under the impression that you were going to the workhouse to work, not make friends.

Be happy, be safe, be well.

Yours truly, Severus Snape



October 9, 1991

I really feel I should be writing back to Snape, but I’m a touch annoyed by his last letter. Yes, Aedennan was idealistic, but what’s wrong with that? Better to be idealistic than bitter and jaded like Snape.

That’s what I don’t get about Aedennan’s letter. How could he have changed so much? He was always the most tolerant, kind, fair person in our house. I think it came from being teased so much for that stutter of his. He knew what it felt like to be laughed at, so he always made an effort to treat other people with respect. And that meant everyone -- not just purebloods. He sounds like a Slytherin, for crying out loud !

Aedennan wanted to go into the dark arts field to make a positive difference in the world. Like Tonks, he wanted to do his part to make it a better place to live in. How could he have changed so much?

I think of him and I remember him being holed up in remote corners of the library late at night helping younger students with their homework. He didn’t care what house they were in, how much money they had, or what their bloodlines were. He was too rational and too principled to be prejudiced.

He must be going out of his mind -- stark, raving, mad. His letter, and Snape’s commentary on it are about driving me that way too. What did Snape mean by ‘external manipulation’? Does he think Aedennan has gone over to the dark side and is working for some sinister agenda? That’s ridiculous. If Snape had ever taken the time to get to know his students, he would realize the stupidity of such a notion.

Under coercion then? The imperius curse ? I don’t think that’s likely either. Snape thinks that anyone who can’t ace every potions exam is obviously lacking in other subjects as well. Aedennan knew the subject that he chose as his field of expertise -- if he didn’t, Dumbledore would never have hired him. Snape just thinks everyone is inferior to him -- that’s what his problem is.

Whatever the cause for Aednnan’s total meltdown, one thing is sure -- I’ve lost a good friend. I almost wish he’d never answered any of my letters.

And then there’s Snape -- Severus -- my darling brother. He had to go and tack on a question about what I was doing in the werewolf commune. None of his business. I can read between the lines and tell that he doesn’t approve. It’s none of his business who I’m friends with ! I just get more annoyed every time I think about it. I don’t answer to him and I’m not in the mood to be nagged at by him. I’m not his student anymore and he has no right. Idiot.

I’m going to have to wait to reply to his letter…cool off a bit. Otherwise I might not be very nice.

Speaking of the werewolves….I’ve hit upon an idea that I want to run past Remus once the full moon is over and he’s thinking clearly again. That won’t be till the weekend or early next week I guess. The full moon is coming up fast and he’s walking around in a complete fog.


October 11, 1991

A boring night tonight with no practice to go to. I wonder what the werewolf commune is like during a full moon? Wolves are incredibly beautiful animals after all. I wonder if they look any different from each other? Do they recognize each other? Would I be able to tell them apart? What is it like to be a wolf?

There are hundreds of things I’d like to ask, but I don’t think I’d better. Lycanthropy is a serious disease and a sensitive topic among people who have it. Werewolves don’t usually trust outsiders. I’m incredibly honored to have been allowed into the subculture even this small amount. I don’t want to offend anyone.

Today was a long, creepy day. Gustav Goyle came in to ‘help’ again, if ‘help’ means making more work for me to do. The motivation for this ominous surge of helpfulness on his part is starting to become disgustingly clear.

It was another afternoon of being looked at in the chest rather than the eye, of sly brushes of skin on skin that were too frequent to be accidental. Then there were the off colored jokes and lewd innuendoes that just have no place in a workplace. He clearly hasn’t matured any since his Hogwarts days. He was a nasty thing back then too.

It’s a really terrible working environment, but I try to play it cool like Remus does. I keep my head down, don’t attract attention if I can help it, and only speak if spoken to. Unfortunately, Gargantua, who never had a word to say to me at Hogwarts, can’t seem to leave me alone now that he thinks he has some amount of control over me. What a moron. Lecherous moron.

By the time quitting time rolled around, I’d have been willing to chew off my own leg to escape. At one minute till I had straightened up the office and had all my things gathered together, ready to go. Gargantua was stuffing a whole piece of pizza in his face as the bell rang. “Hang on a second.” he said. At least I think that’s what he said….it was hard to be sure around the pizza.

“What? Gar….Mr. Goyle?” I asked, trying not to sound as annoyed as I felt. I was poised with one hand on the door knob and the other gripping my backpack.

Gustav was washing down the pizza and gesturing me to sit down at the same time. I ignored the urge to bolt out the door, dropped my bag, and took the stool across from him. It was like watching a snake eating an overlarge rat. I could mark the progress of the pizza slice as it made it’s way down his gullet.

“That’s better. I’m starved, aren’t you?” he asked.

“I can’t wait to get home and eat.” I said pointedly.

“Neither can I, but I want to say something to you first. That stool must be uncomfortable.”

I stared at him in disbelief. He was keeping me behind to discuss seating arrangements? “I stay too busy to sit down much anyway.” I said blankly.

“That’s what I want to talk to you about. It’s just possible, if you play your cards right, that I might be able to get you a job up front.”

From the way he was smiling at me, I knew I was supposed to be pleased about this. I wasn’t. If I got dragged up front where I had to face him every day I’d simply have to quit. Besides, Basil’s teasing was fresh in my mind. It seemed that the Goyles had a virtual harem of bubble headed women in the front office, all very pretty, all very intent on getting ahead by less than honorable means.

Well, Snape says that I have my father’s charm. I think what he means is that I have the ability to tell people what I think they want to hear. I decided to fall back on that tactic. “Thank you, but I wouldn’t want that much responsibility. I’m better off back here where I can’t mess up anything important. I could never handle anything too technical.”

“I wouldn’t weigh you down with too much responsibility.” said Goyle, picking up a quill and playing with it. Grease from his fingers made it sticky and disheveled. He let out a loud burp and continued. “A pretty girl like you shouldn’t have to work hard.”

“I wasn’t born with the privileges you were, Mr. Goyle. I’m used to it.” I said, with a covert glance at the clock.

“No. But there are ways that someone like you could get ahead. You could at least earn certain…privileges for yourself in the workplace.”

“I appreciate the…sentiment…but I know my place and I’m perfectly content.”

He stared thoughtfully at my chest for quite some time. He seemed mesmerized. “Gustav?” I asked, unable to keep the annoyance out of my tone this time.

“We were never friends at school, were we Kerri?” he asked.

The question surprised me. “We were in different houses…we didn’t know each other that well.” I said delicately.

“Let’s face it. I’m in a position to make things better for you here.” his voice was steely, businesslike. I had to struggle to keep looking him in the eye and keep a straight face. I’d figured out what was coming. One part of me wanted to laugh and the other part wanted to bash his face in. I forced myself to stay calm as he went on. “If we could be…friends…if you know what I mean…I could make life easier for you while you work here. A cleaner, easier job. Maybe even a little more money. I know it must be hard…I know you owe the school…you must be rather desperate. Do we understand each other?”

“Perfectly.” I said in a snotty tone, not unlike the one Severus often uses. I knew my eyes were glinting like his do too.

“Your choice. No one would have to know. You wouldn’t be the first girl to get a similar promotion around here. No shame in it at all.”

He paused as if waiting for an answer. I wasn’t going to give him one -- if I did, I’d say something that would get me fired. Or sent to Azkaban.

“Well…that’s it.” he finally said. “You can go if you want. The offer stands.”

“Good night Mr. Goyle.” I said coldly.

“Good night Kerri.”

Tonks was absolutely livid when I told her the story over dinner later, but we also had a good laugh over it too. “Let’s catch him in an alley somewhere…” she said.

“Yes -- ?“

“Pull out our wands…”

“And stick them where?”

Tonks laughed wickedly. “I was going to suggest transfiguring his private part into an electric eel and see if he hits on any more women who work under him again. What a pig.”

I don’t remember McGonagall teaching us a maneuver like that in Transfiguration, but I don’t think anything is above Tonks’ capabilities. Fun idea, but I think I’d better refrain. Better to handle it in a more subtle way than the one she suggested.

I’m not sure exactly how I am going to handle it…according to Remus, there are no laws against harassment in workhouses, so there are no authorities to complain to. Now that I’m home, I’ve cooled down a bit. I’m just going to ride it out and see what happens. Maybe he’ll get over it and leave me alone. If it gets too bad though, I might have to quit my job. I’d hate to give him the satisfaction of that, but it might be a good idea to start thinking about what I’ll do if I end up out of a job. Try out Tonks’ suggestion maybe.

I really am a long way from Hogwarts.


Chapter 14: Chapter 14
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Letter from Cerridwywn Howard to Severus Snape : October 12, 1991
Dear Severus,

I hope this letter finds you well.

I’m doing better than the last time you heard from me. I’m not depressed and I’m keeping busy.

I hope that you use the letter I sent as a reason to help Aedennan, not get him fired. I’d like to think that he isn’t so far gone that he can’t be turned around. Also, I haven’t heard from him again and I doubt I will, because I didn’t reply to him.

Take care,

Kerri

Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : October 12, 1991
Dear Kerri,

I understand from what you left unsaid in your last letter that you are angry with me. Perhaps you, like those here, believe I am interested in Quirrel’s activities because I want his job. Granted, I have more qualification in one finger than he has in his entire body, but that’s beside the point.

I shall explain as much as I can, but there are certain things going on at this school that I am sworn not to discuss. Hopefully, the little that I can tell you will help you see that my preoccupation with your friend’s behavior is justified.

First, there have been sinister movements this past summer that you must have heard of in the news. Do not take everything you read in the Daily Prophet at face value. Have a critical mind and learn to question everything. Certain events indicate to those of us who are on the alert that the dark arts are alive and well.

Second -- and this part may anger you -- it is believed by some of us here that Quirrel has gone over to the dark side and has been working to bring about certain undesirable events. Consider that the last rumor the headmaster heard of the Dark Lord’s whereabouts placed him in Albania where Quirrel spent a great deal of time last summer. Nothing can be proven, and for now, we are only giving him enough rope to hang himself.

I wish I could be more clear, but I cannot violate my vow of secrecy. Please accept that I am privy to things you are not, and that there is more to the tale than meets the eye. Please be cautious in any further correspondences with Quirrel. At the minimum, do not tell him anything that I have told you or hinted at here. If he is innocent than no harm is done.

Your brother,

Severus

Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : October 13, 1991
Dear Severus,

You don’t know Aedennan like I do. He isn’t capable of what you seem to be accusing him of. When did you ever get to know him --- get to know any of your students? You never even got to know me until I left.

Have you taken any of your suspicions to Professor Dumbledore? I’m sorry -- I just can’t accept any of it. You told me to have a critical mind, and I do. I need more facts before I’ll ever begin to believe that Aedennan had gone bad. You’re using hints and speculation to try convincing me to lose all faith in someone I was friends with for years. Even you and I have not been that close. There were times when he was more of a brother to me than you are.

Don’t worry, I won’t tell him any of what you’ve said. I suppose blood does tell -- to some extent.

Your sister,

Kerri

Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : October 13, 1991 Dear Kerri,

I admit that I was harsh with you when you were a student here and that I never had a word of kindness or affection. I chose to be strict because I wanted to push you to achieve your full potential and I remained standoffish to protect you from association with me. And frankly, I have never mastered the art of talking to children. I preferred to wait until you were older before trying to establish a relationship with you.

I know you have little trust for me, and rightly so. Trust is not to be given lightly and I have yet to earn it. However, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you be careful where Quirrel is concerned and that you inform me of any more disturbing letters.
If you feel you cannot trust me, ask yourself this; is the Quirrel who wrote that last letter to you the same person you were friends with in school?

In answer to your question -- I have not gone to the headmaster -- he came to me. It is to him that I have sworn secrecy of certain matters.

Please be cautious. I am not going to be coy about something this serious. I believe there is a plot afoot to restore the Dark Lord. Guard your words and actions with care.

--- Severus

Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : October 14, 1991
Severus,

If you’re right then this isn’t the time for riddles. What are the indications you keep alluding to? Can’t you be more clear?

Are you referring to the Gringott’s heist? Mr. Weasley thought it was the work of Dark wizards, but surely Voldemort needs more than gold to come back to power.

Even if you are right, what does Hogwarts have to do with it? If Aedennan was part of a plot like that, shouldn’t he be wherever Voldemort is and not within Dumbledore’s reach?

Your letters are beginning to be as disturbing as his was.

Kerri

Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : October 14, 1991
Kerri,

Stop using his name. The day may come when respect is prudent.

You have many questions that I am not free to answer, nevertheless….

1. You are on the right track with the Gringott’s break in. No -- it isn’t gold that he needs, but Gringott’s houses greater treasures than mere Galleons.

2. Hogwarts is exactly where Quirrel needs to be for his particular purpose. I can say absolutely no more on that matter, though I wish I could bring you into my confidence. As his old friend, you might give me insight into how he thinks and acts.

Severus

Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard: October 7, 1991

Dear Kerri,

I told you not to take a double course load didn’t I? You’re going to kill yourself if you don’t slow down. I know you -- you always go above and beyond -- I think you like pain. But on the other hand, I’ve never seen you flunk out yet, and you always seem to land on your feet.

I’ve already had an account of your dinner with my parents. My mother sends letters three times a week! She’s more concerned about your friend then she is about you because she says he doesn’t look well. But then you know how my mother is, she’s not happy unless she’s worrying about something. I think it’s a woman thing -- makes me glad I’m a man.

I could use one of those chicken pies right about now. I don’t like Romanian food at all, but about anything warm is edible if you stay as cold as we do here. Which
reminds me. . . You should see the burns on my arms !

My shoulder is better, but now both my forearms are burned. We had to rescue a baby dragon that got tangled in one of our tents while it was learning to fly. Try detangling a baby dragon from a tent without serious injury -- just try !

Sitting here trying to write this is painful because I’m trying to keep my arms off the table. But you know -- it really is worth it. I know this sounds like Hagrid, but it was worth it to get to handle that baby dragon -- how many people get to do that in their entire lifetimes ? I wish you could be here.

Charlie.

Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : October 10, 1991
Dear Kerri,
How are you? I am fine.

I had to tell you that the new unicorn is here. I was out early this morning, helping the pumpkins along and I saw it. It was real foggy but something moved and caught my eye. I looked and right at the edge of the forest was the mother. I could just see the baby standing underneath her. Didn’t get a good look -- she won’t let me close -- but it looks healthy. I’d like to know if it’s male or female. Maybe the mother would let you get close enough to see.

Lots of work to do right now for the Halloween feast. Staying very busy. The pumpkins are almost as tall as me. Some are going to the kitchen and the rest are going as decorations. I need to be picking them and hauling them up to the school soon.

Good luck with your concert coming up,

Love, Hagrid


I simply need a break from these letters that Severus and I have been frantically exchanging over the last couple days. The latest one that came today is especially alarming. Why this, all of a sudden, out of the blue after what? Ten years? I wish I had someone to talk it over with, though I wouldn’t if I did. I can’t break my promise to my brother.

Thinking about the implications of what Severus has been darkly hinting at just makes me ill. I need to think about something else for a while.

Let’s see…everyone is working hard for our first concert at The Lair, Tonks included, as she’s planning a huge party. “This is the first time I’ve had the chance to throw a party at my very own place.” she said yesterday, fairly bubbling over with excitement. “I want this to be the party to end all parties.”

Which is just what I’m afraid of, though I didn’t tell her that. “You’re coming to our concert?”

“Of course. With Willow and Etta and our dates. I’m coming with Gideon Elmcroft of course.”

“And they all know about ----?”

“Well they’re not prejudiced if that’s what you’re wondering. I wouldn’t be friends with them if they were. We’re all looking forward to the concert, but it’s the party I’m excited about. I want to get as much done ahead of time as I can so there won’t be a lot of work that night. I want to actually enjoy the party. I say we order pizza.”

“After all our anti-Muggle enchantments someone will have to meet the delivery guy at the end of the lane at the very least.” I warned.

“I don’t care -- that’s better than cooking. I hate cooking. I always burn things -- usually myself.” There was a brief pause and then she asked, “You’re not into this party, are you?”

“I’m not a party person. I like to get together with close friends but wild parties are not my thing.”

“Wild parties rock --- just you wait. You don’t have enough fun in your life. You need to live a little. You work entirely too hard. But you know Kerri, you don’t seem yourself lately. Something worrying you? Not Gargantua, I hope?”

“No.” This was the truth at least.

She seemed to chalk it up to being overstressed with classes. “You’re nuts to be taking that double course load. Four years in two? That’s crazy.”

“Maybe.” I conceded, content to let her believe this was the source of my worries. I changed the subject back to the party and we sat up late making plans for it. I know how important it is to her, but I’m really dreading it. I’m nineteen going on ninety. I wonder if Severus was like this at my age? Probably -- somehow I can’t picture him as a party animal at any age.

I am looking forward to the concert at least -- our first real one. I’ve even heard that there were no hard feelings over the near disaster at our ‘dress rehearsal,’ and that a lot of the audience from that night plan to show up again.

Let’s see…what else? Oh, I’ve finally been cut a break -- the nicest thing happened today. Lockhart left town ! Amid much pomp and circumstance and many tears from female university students, he embarked on the research stage of his new book on werewolves. I spotted him telling his fans farewell in a courtyard at school and decided to go over and tell him goodbye myself. I can’t say why, only that I wanted him to see that I was still in school after his little stunt where he ran to the guard and told them I was a werewolf.

I cut through the crowd to get to him quite easily. It is easy when you’re a girl who’s nearly six feet tall. My father was tall apparently so I can thank him for one thing at least. At any rate, Lockhart could hardly fail to miss me suddenly looming up before him, eye to eye. “Mr. Lockhart?”

I saw horror flicker across his features at the sight of me, but I didn’t give him time to reply. “I thought I’d thank you for your concern about my health and let you know that I’m perfectly fine. I’m not ill and I’m still here at school.”

“Ah….yes…well I am glad to hear it.” Lockhart faltered. “Naturally I was concerned that if you were….ill…I mean to say, the strain of school work might have had detrimental….it might have aggravated your condition. But I must say I’m very glad to hear that you are quite well, Miss Howden. The confusion is the fault of your room mate. I did doubt what she told me because you do seem perfectly normal…certainly not the type…” Lockhart chuckled. “Well, you know. I’d be careful of her if I were you. You can’t have her spreading rumors like that. “

I had to brace myself to keep from being jostled by the crowd of silly women trying to get his attention. I seemed to be taking up too much of it for their liking. Possibly Lockhart noticed. “I’m glad you’re quite well. I have a duty to my fans, you see.” he said, raising his voice to be heard above all the chaos. “It is fans like you….like all of you….who have made me what I am today. Well, that and my expert dueling skills. “

“Have a good trip, Mr. Lockhart.” I said with a laugh.

“I will. A good luck kiss wouldn’t hurt, you know.”

Six feet tall or not, I was almost trampled by the eager fans who all came surging forward at his words. It took some doing to detangle myself from the crowd.

I don’t really know why I felt it so necessary to set the record straight with him. Just the principle of the thing I guess. Or maybe I wanted to enjoy that initial look of shock on his face when he thought he had an annoyed werewolf standing in front of him. If he’s that afraid of werewolves, then how will he be able to research them? What a moron.

Basil and the guys have never heard of Lockhart, but Remus, who apparently reads anything he can get his hands on, has. “Voyages with Vampires” was the best comedy I’ve read in years.” he told me the other day at work.

“Comedy?”

“It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. Don’t get me wrong -- he is a good writer. He certainly knows how to tell a vivid story and hold a reader’s attention. But in the middle of his stories, he goes off into these off topic asides about himself. In one part where he was telling about fighting off a vampire, he paused to mention that his hair stayed in place during the fight because of a special hair potion he’s developed. Truly an entertaining read.”

Remus seemed to be pretty nearly mostly recovered from the effects of the full moon, so I decided to run my idea past him. I waited until things settled down after four and he settled down in his usual spot at the table. “We have two hours to kill and someone will probably come in with a load of work at the last minute.” he said wearily.

By ‘someone’ I knew he meant Fenrir.

“I want to ask you something.” he said, as I sat down across from him.

“Yes?” I asked in surprise.

“The chair Goyle sent you -- what did I miss the day I was out?”

“Oh. Well, I probably should tell you about that.” I said, sidetracked from my purpose. I told him the whole story and watched his expression go from disgust to absolute loathing.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

“Take him up on it --- maybe I’ll get a footstool next.”

Remus laughed and then said more soberly, “Seriously…how long before I lose my assistant?”

“I don’t know. I’m going to hold out as long as I can.”

“Well I’ll miss you. I hate the thought of going back to working in here alone but obviously you can’t stay if he’s pressuring you like that. It will only get worse.”

“Now I have a question for you.” I said.

“All right.” he answered, sitting up a bit straighter.

“Tonks and I went to the library and you’re right -- there isn’t a law to protect the communes from dementors. Tonks is training to be an Auror and thinks someone may even be giving them permission to harass you guys.” So I explained in detail about what we’d read.

He didn’t look remotely surprised. “Well, I did tell you.” he said gently.

“I know, but now I have another idea. If the law won’t protect the people in the commune, then someone should teach them to protect themselves. Why couldn’t I start working with the guys…just start small. It would take time to get to the Patronus charm, of course, but…it seems like every little bit would help. What do you think?”

“You’d have to be prepared to invest both time and money.”

“Money?” I asked in surprise.

“Basil and Brand are the only two who own wands. A decent one costs money.”

“Well, there’s the money the band will earn. If everyone pitched in…”

“Some of us are counting on that for living expenses.” said Remus quietly.

“A small percentage then so we can save up.”

“What about time? Are you willing to invest a great deal? You’re taking eight classes after all.”

“I can manage.” I answered bravely.

“Is it that important to you?”

“Well of course. It’s not right what’s going on there. Something has to be done to stop it.”

He was looking at me as if he’d never seen anything like me before. “What?” I asked.

“Normal people do not ordinarily come walking into the commune caring about werewolf rights.”

“Someone should. Even vampires don’t get the treatment you do.”

Remus smiled bitterly. “Because many of them come from old money. They can pay people off to have laws changed in their favor.”

“If I do this, will you help? You’ve had teaching experience. You’re a licensed tutor.”

“Who hasn’t had a student since….you know it’s been so long I think I’ve forgotten?”

“All the more reason to do it. Show the Ministry that they can’t stop you from teaching.”

Remus laughed, but bitterly. “They wouldn’t care. A werewolf teaching werewolves? Talk about the blind leading the blind.”

“Then prove it to yourself and the people in the commune.”

“You’ve noticed I’m not exactly popular in there?”

“All the more reason.”

Remus smiled, but the bitterness was gone this time. “You’re stubborn, Kerri.”

“I’ll take that as a complement.”

“It won’t be easy. Basil and his friends are bright enough but they have short attention spans. They may start out with enthusiasm and then decide they don’t want to do the work.”

“That won’t be my fault. I’ll have tried.” I said calmly.

“Let’s not jump into anything recklessly. Take a day or so to think about it. Decide if you’re willing to sacrifice time, energy, and sanity.”

“I’m going to be a teacher anyway, Remus. I may as well get used to that.”

And now I’m starting to sound as cynical as my brother, but I really feel good about this idea.


Today is an important day in the lives of Basil and his friends. It’s the day that they agreed to let Remus and I begin teaching them magic. I think they’re only goal is to be able to fight dementors, but there’s so much more to it than that. Werewolves don’t often get to learn the sorts of skills Remus and I are going to teach them. And too --- it’s a monumental day for me as well. My very first pupils !

We were sitting around after practice last night visiting and I noticed Brand staring very darkly out over the ocean which the commune back right up to. “I was locked up in Azkaban once.” he said quietly, jerking his head in it’s general direction.

“For what?” I asked.

“I was accused of biting someone. It wasn’t me, and it was proved, but it wasn’t a fun stay. Dementors…I hate them.”

This was the first time anyone had mentioned dementors since our encounter with them and it seemed like a good opening. “Listen you guys.” I said, speaking up to get their attention. I don’t know if it’s because I’m the only female in the group or what, but I notice that they usually do hush up when I ask them to. Every head turned in my direction. “I want to help you sharpen your wand skills. After the other week, I’ve been thinking about it. Something should be done in case the dementors ever come back.”

“Oh they will.” said Brand. “Trust me -- they come over here quite a lot.”

“Can you teach us to fight dementors?” asked Basil, sounding interested.

“Not right off. That spell is very advanced so you’d have to learn to do some easier spells first. It’ll take time, but we can work our way up to that. It’s better than nothing.”

“Sounds like school.” said Mel. “But a hot teacher is definitely a plus. ‘Why yes Miss Howard, of course I’ll stay behind tonight if you want me to.’”.

The others laughed.

“I’d take you up on it,” said Augustus seriously, “but I don’t have a wand.”

“I used to.” said Streak. “But I took off my clothes at a party once and left my wand wrapped up in them. Then someone stole all of it and I had to get myself home completely starkers.”

“You shouldn’t have taken them off in the first place.” I pointed out, trying to be severe but unable to keep from laughing.

“Oh come on Kerri -- you know you love it when I do that. Admit it.”

“Don’t flatter yourself.” I said briskly, wanting to return to the matter at hand. “Now. I have a idea on how to get wands for those of you who don’t have them.”

“So do I. “ said Augustus. “I tried to steal one once, but Remus caught me.”

“Don’t believe a word of it.” said Remus mildly. “I have more sense than to leave my wand laying around where any of these people could pick it up.”

“These people?” asked Mel in mock offence. “These people? What? Are you prejudiced against idiots?”

Remus laughed. “I wasn’t aware that you knew you were idiots. There’s hope for you yet.”

“Kerri doesn’t think we’re idiots.” said Streak. “She trusts us with wands.”

“Let’s set aside ten percent of the profit from the concerts.” I suggested quickly, before the conversation got any more out of control.

“I already have a wand.” said Brand. “Why should I help pay for theirs?”

“Because the more of you who own and can use wands, the more benefit there is to everyone.” said Remus, coming to the rescue. “You saw how much work it was for Kerri and I to fight of those dementors alone.”

“And we’re band mates.” I pointed out. “I’d like to think that you all would do the same for me. Besides -- you’re supposed to be friends.”

“You’re my friend.” said Streak in childlike voice, as he turned to Brand and gave him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Brand took a swing at him which Streak dodged while making kissing noises at him. Before it could break into a full scale fight I put full body binds on them both.

Basil seemed very impressed as he leaned over them for a better look. “Can you teach us that? That could come in handy. I could do that to Brand now and then and go through his flat. He always has the best food in there.”

“I can teach you.” I told him, trying hard to be serious despite Mel who was now rifling through Streak’s pockets. Streak was glaring at him with angry brown eyes, unable to do more than blink. “But I want to work with all of you, and that means saving up for wands.”

“And it wouldn’t hurt to set a little aside anyway.” Remus told them.

“I’m all for it.” said Augustus. “I’d love to be able to kick dementor ass. Do dementors have asses? They must, but somehow it’s hard to imagine.”

Remus shot me a ‘are you sure you want to put yourself through this?’ sort of look. But I just laughed. The guys may be nuts, but they aren’t stupid, and they’re really very good at heart.

“I’d be happy just to be able to do that to Streak and Brand.” said Basil.

“I suppose I should let them up.” I said, and performed the counter jinx.

So in the end, they all went for it, but we’re not going to start working with Basil and Brand until after Halloween. That will give Remus and I time to figure out exactly how we’re going to go about it. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m feeling very good about it. It will give me teaching experience and distract me from Severus and his dark suspicions.

Oh -- and I have another pet project. Since we connected to the floo network, some of our appliances are starting to be affected. The phone has a lot of interference and so does the television, much to Tonks’s frustration. Regular access to a television is new in her experience and I think she’s getting hooked.

The longer we live here and the more magic we use, the less the appliances will work. Eventually they’ll stop working altogether unless…I’m curious to see what happens if I tinker with them. Their functions are degrading gradually, so if I make gradual corrections, how long can I keep them working? Getting Muggle appliances to work in magical places is one of those things that supposedly can’t be done, so I’m sure that it’s a project that my brother would think worthy of my talents. Somehow I think it’s best not to let him know that I’m teaching magic to werewolves.


Author’s Note : Comments and criticism are encouraged and appreciated.

Next Chapter : Snape and Kerri continue to discuss Quirrel. Hybrid has it’s first concert, Tonks has her first party, and Kerri takes refuge in the more peaceful environment of Remus’s house.

Excerpt :

Places to which I could go were severely limited because I was still dressed in the robes I’d performed in at the concert. I’d look at bit odd in a Muggle mall. I thought about the school library, but I knew that if it wasn’t closed yet, it would be before the party ended and then where would I go? I couldn’t go hide out at a friend’s house because everyone in town that I knew was at the party. Except for one.

I didn’t even realize I was going there until I pulled up outside Remus’s house. I hesitated, hands on the wheel, wondering if I was going to be a bother. Well, I could promise to only stay for a few minutes…there was no harm in that.

I turned off the ignition, locked the car, and went to knock on his door. He answered almost immediately, a knowing smile on his face. “When I saw the shooting stars, I thought you might come by. Come in.”

“Streak is dancing naked on the roof, Mel was in a fight, and a couple I don’t even know are holed up in my room.” I sputtered.

Chapter 15: Chapter 15
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Letter from Cerridywn Howard to Severus Snape : October 17, 1991

Dear Severus,

No, I will not stop using VOLDEMORT’S name. VOLDEMORT is a murdering lunatic who deserves no respect. I feel that a psycho with as big an ego as VOLDEMORT’S would be flattered by people being afraid to say his name. I never want to give VOLDEMORT that satisfaction.

I can’t really think of anything else to say or ask about what we’ve been discussing because you obviously can’t tell me what I want to know. Right now I’m just trying to concentrate on other things in my life. I don’t want to have to live with the threat of VOLDEMORT hanging over my head wherever I go. VOLDEMORT can go to hell for all I care, and I hope he does. All I want is a nice, normal life like everyone else has.

I doubt I’ll get any more letters from Aedennan since I didn’t reply to the last one. He probably knows I’m disgusted with him. If I do get any strange missives from him though, I’ll pass them on to you. Obviously if he’s cracking up, someone should keep an eye on him. I mean -- he’s working with kids.

Things are going well here despite the fact that your letters have put me on edge. (Most of the time I manage not to think about my paternity, thank you very much). I’m top in all my classes and I know you’d be proud of my potions grades. I’ve never seen such complicated or volatile potions recipes in my life. One tiny error is all it takes to turn a potion into a poison…or blow up the entire laboratory.

Hmmm…..too bad I can’t have Gargantua Goyle around to use as a test subject.

Your sister,

Kerri

PS. Okay, maybe I went overboard with the VOLDEMORT thing, but I wanted to make a point. I am not going to live my life in terror of him no matter what happens -- and he doesn’t deserve respect.

Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley: October 19, 1991

Dear Charlie,

Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you -- but don’t you go on about my double course load when you keep getting mangled and singed. Two years from now I’ll have a first class education and possession of all my extremities --- unlike you.

Have I told you that I’m working for Gargantua Goyle? He’s being so disgusting to me -- you wouldn’t believe. He thinks because I work for him he can treat me any way he wants and I have to take it. I’m resolved to the fact that I’m going to have to quit my job because of him and I’m trying to think of a simple, quick, diabolical way to get back at him which won’t be traced to me. Tonks has had a very colorful idea, but something like that would be traceable, and make you wince so I won’t bother to explain.

On Halloween my band has it’s first real performance. We’re new so we don’t get the prime slot. We go on early and there are a lot of other, more established groups behind us. Getting through early has an advantage though, because Tonks is throwing an after concert party. I’m not sure if I’m going to go hide somewhere or stick around to make sure the house doesn’t go up in flames. She’s invited a lot of university students and I believe that half of the werewolf commune is going to be there too. My bandmates alone are like five human tornadoes. It’s going to be an interesting night at least. If you think dragons are dangerous, you should see Streak when he gets hyper.

Take care,

Kerri

Well, yesterday, Halloween, was a long, interesting day full of various ups and downs. Best to start at the beginning.

Tonks helped me dress for the concert, doing my hair and painting my face with meticulous care and skill. The guys arrived while she was still working and she told me to stay still while she answered the door. When she returned to our room where I still sat in front of the mirror, they came with her, flopping carelessly across her bed, except for Remus who stood politely in the doorway.

“Didn’t know you lived here.” said Basil, watching my face in the mirror. “Next full moon, we’re going to come howl under your window.”

“You do that and I’ll howl right back.” I told him.

“Hold still.” hissed Tonks who was applying gloss to my lips.

“She looks pretty damn hot.” said Mel appreciatively. “What do you think, Remus?”

“You look very nice Kerri.” came the answer.

“Thanks. I can talk now, right?” I asked Tonks who had straightened up to admire her work.

“I think so. Any more and she’d look like a….well….I’d better not put on any more.”

“Oh gee, thanks.” I said sarcastically. “Is it too much?” I asked, turning to Remus for advice, knowing better than to ask the boys.

“No. I think Tonks has done a fine job. We really should be going so you can tune up and so forth.”

“I’ll follow with Gideon and the others when they get here.” said Tonks. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

We went via floo powder because Remus and I are the only two of us who can apparate. We landed in a dark, grubby little place with a low ceiling that gave the room a close, uncomfortable feel. The walls were painted black and the fraying carpet was also black and marred by various tears and burn holes. A long bar ran the length of one wall, the lighter color beneath the finish showing where it was marked with deep gouges suspiciously resembling claw marks. There was a small section of floor set aside for dancing and the rest was cluttered with a jumble of gritty, banged up tables and chairs. The place smelled like cheap cigarettes and stale beer, adding to the seedy atmosphere of the place.

Well -- it was a werewolf club -- what was I expecting? I felt uncomfortable in this place as I had not been at the workhouse or even the commune, and I was immediately on my guard. For the first time since I’d become friends with Basil and co. I felt threatened and out of place. I hoped I would get over the feeling before people arrived and before anyone noticed. The last thing I wanted was to give the impression that I don’t like werewolves.

Remus pressed past between myself and the bar, momentarily resting what I perceived as an encouraging hand on the small of my back. He walked around the bar and disappeared into a doorway behind.

“Okay Kerri?” asked Basil, looking at me with penetrating blue eyes.

“Nerves I guess. I’ll be fine once we start to play.”

“Want a drink to loosen up?”

“You know I don’t…..” I began, but then I caught the twinkle in his eye. “Oh shut up.”

Remus reappeared, talking to a portly, bald fellow who I later learned was the owner. He was polishing a glass with a filthy, highly un-hygenic rag that would have given Madam Pomfrey back at Hogwarts fits of horror. I didn’t pay them much attention as I was tinkering with my guitar with trembling fingers. What a stupid time to get a case of nerves.

Annoyingly, those nerves hung on right up until I found myself in front of a rowdy, scroungy looking crowd of people. There’s just something about the heat of a guitar as it’s vibrations thrum through your fingers and into your blood. Behind me, Streak was on the drums, every beat throbbing in my heart. Basil and I had that magical moment when we clicked and our voices melded like they always do, and for that moment in time, nothing mattered but the music.

Now and then I’d catch sight of Tonks, always easy to spot because of her hair. She looked happy, completely at ease, and was dancing with the manic energy that I’ve come to associate with her. Astonishingly, she can dance without tripping over her own feet or anyone else’s -- another magical thing music can do, I guess.

That’s what I love about performing. I love to stand on a stage and watch people move to the rhythm my fingers dictate. The undulating bodies, the bright eyes and flushed faces, the fire and the passion….there’s just nothing else like watching it from the vantage of a musician making it all happen.

Nevertheless, when we were done, that feeling of wariness swept over me again, and I went to find Remus who was sitting at a corner table, half concealed by shadow. I couldn’t shake the odd sensation of imminent threat and I didn’t understand it, but I felt safer near Remus.

“Good job.” he said as I sat down.

“Thanks. What are you doing back here all by yourself?”

He had a drink but he seemed to be nursing it. Looking at him more closely, he seemed slightly depressed. “Nothing…just thinking.”

“In a place like this?”

“You’re right --- not a lot of that goes on here.” he said wryly. He took a drink and looked thoughtful again. He seemed to hesitate and then continued, “Ten years ago tonight I lost one of my best friends to Voldemort. He was betrayed by one of my other best friends…or someone I thought was a friend. Not a Halloween goes by when I don’t think about it. It was a long time ago, but you don’t just forget someone you spend that much time with. I still don’t understand how it happened.”

I didn’t know what to say. Why is Voldemort’s name coming up so much lately? I’m sick of hearing it. “I’m sorry.”

He started to say something else, but Tonks came running up at that moment, wincing as she caught her shin on a chair. “Ouch….Oh Kerri, you were wonderful ! You guys could go professional, I really think you could!”

“Thanks.”

“A bunch of us are heading home for the party.”

“I’ll catch up.” I told her.

“Well hurry before all the pizza is gone.”

“You don’t have to stay and look after me, you know.” said Remus, when she’d gone.

“I’m dreading that party with a passion. I think the house is going to be flattened.”

We watched as people began lining up at the fireplace for their turn with the floo powder. It looked like about half the bar was going to the party.

“I’m such a boring person.” I said wistfully. “I wish I was more like Tonks. She’s so fun and outgoing.”

“You’re not shy. You’re just not into the ‘party till you puke’ scene.’”

“I hadn’t thought of that --- I should have covered the furniture before I left. “ I said with a laugh. “But sometimes I wish I was, you know? I’d have a lot more fun.”

As he has such a talent for doing, Fenrir Grayback emerged from the crowd without warning, carelessly setting a big glass of beer down on the table so that it sloshed over the side.

“What?” asked Remus a bit testily.

“Thought I’d just say hello there, son.” said Fenrir in that grating voice of his as he sat down across from us. “You did good up there sweetie. Very pretty.”

“Thank you.” I said stiffly. Now I understood the reason for my unease. I hadn’t seen him, but somehow my instincts had known he was there.

He pulled a bag of coins out from under his cloak and spilled the contents onto the table. It was quite a sizable pile of gold. “Did a little job for the Goyles a while back.” he said.

“Oh? Whose life did you ruin this time?” asked Remus. His tone was neutral but his expression clearly said ‘go to hell’.

“Don’t know. Didn’t ask. Don’t really care. Here’s a tip for you, Sweetie.” said Fenrir, pushing some coins toward me.

“You don’t have to….”

“I know, I want to.” I tried not to flinch as he patted my shoulder. Beside me, I saw Remus casually finger his wand. “Have a nice night.” said Fenrir, getting to his feet, his chair scraping heavily on the floor.

Remus and I were left staring with disgust at the coins innocently glinting up at us from the table.

“I’m not touching them.” I said flatly.

“Neither am I. I’m not quite that desperate yet.”

Shortly after that, the owner came over and paid us. Moods dampened, we said good night and apparated out; he to his house, me to mine.

The yard was teeming with people I didn’t know. Someone had built a bonfire in the middle of the lawn that was going to leave a huge brown patch in the morning. Another someone had gotten carried away and conjured shooting stars which were scudding over the house and out across the ocean. Music was blaring from a radio inside the house, magically magnified to the volume of a live band.

I took all this in in a very quick glance as I hurried over to separate Mel from another guy who he was whaling the tar out of with his bare fists. A quick blast from my wand broke it up and I put a shield charm between them to keep them apart. Mel didn’t have a scratch, but the other guy, who I figured for a university university student was pretty bruised up. He didn’t take his eyes off Mel as he backed toward his wand which was laying on the ground a few feet away. Mel was looking positively wolfish; alert, tense, poised to spring.

I kept my wand trained on the stranger in case he went for Mel, and that’s what Tonks saw when she came running up. “What’s going on?” she asked sharply.

The stranger had picked up his wand and was looking like he was thinking of retaliation. Instead, he wiped a trickle of blood away from his eye, spat on the ground and said, ‘I should have known better than to come to a party in a house full of werewolves and Mudbloods.”

Tonks and I glanced at each other, pointed our wands at him, and shouted. “Expeliarmus!”

Hit by both of us at once, he was blown off his feet and landed hard on the grass.

“Get off my property.” said Tonks, rounding on him. “I didn’t invite you here. I’d rather have a house full of werewolves than scum like you.”

I felt my eyebrows raise in amazement. I’d never seen Tonks lose her temper before.

“Don’t worry. I won’t stick around here.” said the man, getting to his feet.

“I’ll make sure of that.” said Mel, whose fists were still balled up.

Tonks and I watched him leave, Mel menacingly stalking him from behind.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“No idea, but I don’t like him. Come eat.”

“I’ll wait for Mel. Make sure there isn’t any more trouble.”

“Well hurry up while there’s some pizza left.” Tonks warned. “Oh --- did you get a look at Gideon?”

“He’s handsome.”

“Isn’t he? And he didn’t even mind when I stepped on his feet. He has a brother -- catch up, will you?’

I watched her disappear into the crowd, then turned away to meet Mel who was walking back up the lane. “What happened?”

“He called me half breed.”

“Sorry about that. Neither Tonks nor I invited him -- we don’t even know who he is.”

“An asshole.’ said Mel shortly. He surprised me by throwing a friendly arm around my neck. “Some party though.”

“Yeah. If we don’t all get arrested for doing magic in front of Muggles.” I said, watching shooting stars arch across the sky. “I don’t see how they can miss that.”

I decided to go into the house to change into some normal clothes. In passing, I spotted Streak dancing on the roof, stark naked. Inside, people were jammed so close together that it was a struggle to push through to my bedroom door, which I found locked.

“Diomedes and Alamanda are in there.” some guy told me, shouting to be heard above the music. Someone bumped him from behind and I had to duck out of the way to keep from having beer spilled on me.

I was furious. I couldn’t even go to my room to change clothes because I-didn’t-know-who was doing I-didn’t-want-to-know-what in there. Disgusted, I forced my way back through the crowd and went to my car which was parked in the drive. Ashes from the fire were caking the hood and roof. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I knew I had to get away from there before I strangled someone.

Places to which I could go were severely limited because I was still dressed in the robes I’d performed in at the concert. I’d look at bit odd in a Muggle mall. I thought about the school library, but I knew that if it wasn’t closed yet, it would be before the party ended and then where would I go? I couldn’t go hide out at a friend’s house because everyone in town that I knew was at the party. Except for one.

I didn’t even realize I was going there until I pulled up outside Remus’s house. I hesitated, hands on the wheel, wondering if I was going to be a bother. Well, I could promise to only stay for a few minutes…there was no harm in that.

I turned off the ignition, locked the car, and went to knock on his door. He answered almost immediately, a knowing smile on his face. “When I saw the shooting stars, I thought you might come by. Come in.”

“Streak is dancing naked on the roof, Mel was in a fight, and a couple I don’t even know are holed up in my room.” I sputtered.

“Mel was in a fight? How is the other guy?”

“Some blood and bruising, but nothing serious. I stopped it before it got out of hand.”

“Good. Mel might not be able to use a wand, but he makes up for it by being good with his fists. He has quite a reputation among our kind.” said Remus. “Have a seat.”

He pointed me to an ordinary Muggle desk chair by the only window in the place, which looked out on the dingy street.

“Put that towel over the seat.” he warned me before I sat down. “The cushion has a hole in it and a staple pokes through. I found out the hard way. But still, free is free. Someone threw it out by the side of the road and it was in pretty good condition so I brought it home.”

Remus sat down on the hearth and poked at something in the fireplace with a long handled fork. “I have some sausages and potatoes here. They’ll be done in a bit.”

“You don’t have to feed me.” I said guiltily.

“I know I don’t.” he said simply.

While he was bent over the fire I took in my surroundings. We’d known each other for a few months now, but this was the first time I’d been inside his house. There were only two rooms, the one we were in and a bathroom, and both were very small.

A large bit of floor was occupied by a bare mattress covered with a colorful patchwork quilt. It was against the wall near the fireplace, apparently so that he could cozy up to the chimney for warmth. A bunched up piece of knitted fabric seemed to serve as a pillow.

On the other side of the fireplace was a rickety shelf that held an mismatched assortment of dishware, cookware, and utensils, all in neat stacks or collected in bins. In one corner was a battered old trunk with many books stacked on the lid, all different shapes, colors, and topics. The covers were worn but they had been lovingly cared for judging by the lack of dust. Leaning against the trunk was a briefcase that was so decrepit that it was held together with string. Peeling gold letters spelled, “Professor R.J. Lupin.”

Before me on a makeshift stand leaning on the windowsill was an unfinished pen and ink drawing. It was of an elderly man sitting on a doorstep looking weary. His head and back were bent and he held a hat in one hand as he wiped sweat from his brow with the other. “Did you draw this?”

“That’s my neighbor across the street.” Remus answered cheerfully. “He has a garden in back and every evening when he finishes working in it, he comes out front and sits on the doorstep. His grandchildren come and sit with him and his wife brings him a drink.” His voice had gone slightly wistful.

“I didn’t know you were an artist.”

“I’m not.” he laughed. “It’s just a hobby -- a cheap way to pass time. As a boy, I spent many hours recovering in the hospital wing, for obvious reasons. I used to draw to alleviate the boredom.”

“This is really good. I couldn’t do something like this.”

“Thank you.” he said, looking surprised and pleased. He got up and walked over to look at the picture. “Mostly I do portraits, but I can do landscapes too. It gives me something relaxing to do when I get bored with this.” He kicked a familiar looking box on the floor. ‘The Goyles let me take some work home with me and pay me by the piece. It isn’t much, but it’s the only way I can afford to live here. You see now why I don’t do much entertaining. I really feel I should have Molly and Arthur around, but where would I put them?”

“Maybe we could have them at my house.” I suggested. “If it’s still standing, that is.”

On the windowsill lay what I recognized as an outdated version of a university transfiguration text. “Advanced Transfiguration?”

“I like to keep up with things. I can buy books used and study from them on my own. They’re a bit old, but the theory is still sound.”

He walked back to the fire to remove the food which was starting to smell quite good. I watched him tip sausages onto a chipped plate alongside a steaming baked potato. “I’m out of butter. Sorry about that.”

There were no other chairs in the room so he set aside the transfiguration book and sat down on the window sill. “You were uncomfortable at The Lair, weren’t you?”

“Not because of….werewolves.” I said uncomfortably. “I don’t know why it happened. I hope no one else knew.”

“I doubt it --- you certainly seemed fine on stage. You are very gifted, you know.”

“I felt very out of place.”

“You were out of place.” he matter of factly affirmed. “And going in there alone would not be a good idea. People like Fenrir are in and out of there all the time. Fenrir is close friends with the owner. Keep in mind that we aren’t all as benign as Basil and the others. Most of the people in the commune are decent. Troublemakers don’t stay long. The really bad ones are usually homeless, like Fenrir who lives in the woods. You’re safe enough in the commune, but The Lair is something else altogether.”

“How much money did we make?”

“Ten sickles once the ten percent is factored out.”

“That’s it?” I asked in disappointment.

“I warned you that it wouldn’t be much.”

“I was hoping for more than that.. At this rate it will take forever to save up for wands.” I thought about my unspent allowance that Severus still sends me every month. He’d kill me if I used it to buy wands for a bunch of werewolves.

“No it won’t.” said Remus with his usual cheerful outlook. “We should be saved by summer, I’d think. I have you booked at Canis Major in London next --- they’re a very big place. They’ll pay more.”

Eventually, the conversation drifted back to Hogwarts as it usually does when he and I are alone together. At one point, he asked me if my parents had gone there.

“Yes.” I said cautiously. “My mother was a Hufflepuff and my father was a Slytherin.” Then, warily. “I’ve never met him.”

“Is he still alive?”

“Apparently. It’s a….delicate situation.”

Usually I don’t open up even that much about my father, but I think that all these letters with Snape had me wanting to talk about it to someone.

Remus was looking at me in a shrewd sort of way. “You’re how old? Nineteen? Those were dark days when you were born. There are lots of families who have black sheep in them and lots of young people with parents either dead or in Azkaban. There were losses on both sides.”

“My mother…she was okay.” I said hastily. “But my father….”I let my voice trail off significantly and he seemed to understand. “Are your parents still alive?” I asked.

“Yes, but I don’t go see them often. I feel it’s kinder not to. They’re living quiet, normal lives and their neighbors have no idea that their son is a werewolf. People being what they are, I think it’s best to keep it that way. I don’t even think their neighbors know that they have a son.”

“That’s horrible. It’s none of the neighbor’s business.”

“No….but my parents had a hard time when I was a boy.“ Remus explained. “We had to move quite a lot after I was infected. People would find out about me and our house would be vandalized and people would threaten my mother when she went into town. Once we had a neighbor threaten to burn down the house if we didn’t leave.”

“People are horrible….they have no right. It isn’t your fault -- you were a victim.”

“That was back before the wolfsbane potion was invented and I was pretty…er…tricky to handle then. They had to keep me locked in the basement during full moons, you see, and even then the neighbors could hear the howling and knew what was going on. It isn’t easy to hide a juvenile werewolf, you know. Some people just give their children up to the communes. That’s what happened to Augustus.” Before I could express horror at this, he casually glanced out the window at the sky. “Apparently the party is still in full swing.”

I followed his gaze. The shooting stars were flashing neon now. “Well at least they’re having fun.” I said bitterly.

“You’re a nice young lady, Kerri.” he told me with a smile. “And you’re very mature for your age in some ways. Don’t feel bad because you don’t want to get drunk and dance naked with Streak.”

The image made me laugh. “Want help with the dishes?”

“No, I can manage -- contrary to what Molly Weasley thinks. I’ve been on my own for a decade. I can cook, clean, do the wash…I even mend my own things. I’m very handy at mending things.”

Judging by the multiple patches on his clothing, I believed him.

“It’s getting late and I have class tomorrow.” I said, rather mournfully, dreading going back home. “Thanks for putting up with me.”

“I enjoyed your company. I hate to think of you going back there to all that. I know what Basil and the others are like when they drink. And it sounds like Streak is totally out of control. “ He paused thoughtfully for a moment and then said, “You can stay here if you like. Don’t worry..” he added, turning from the sink to face me. “I have completely honorable intentions. You can take the mattress and I’ll take the floor.”

“I can’t let you do that.”

“Of course you can. I don’t mind. Believe me -- I’ve slept in worse places. But if I were you, I’d work out a compromise with Tonks when I got home. Maybe agree not to have company after a certain hour.”

“And Streak has to keep his clothes on when he visits.” I added.

“That boy is a lost cause.”

In the end, I accepted his offer, though I was very uncomfortable doing it. I didn’t like that he had to sleep on the floor and I didn’t like being alone all night with a single man, even if I did trust him. I didn’t sleep well. Somehow I was aware of his presence all night long, even in my sleep. His warm, masculine scent permeated the quilt tucked under my chin and I could hear his deep, even breathing on the other side of the room.

Next morning, he woke first and made bacon and toast. “Sorry, I’m out of eggs.” he apologized.

I felt bad that he was sharing food with me, knowing how dearly he came by it. I’ve made up my mind to have him over for dinner some time to make up for it. I agree with Mrs. Weasley -- he doesn’t take good care of himself.

The house was still there when I got home, and I found Tonks standing bleary eyes in the living room, gazing around at the mess in a horrified daze. “Where have you been?” she asked.

“Out.” I answered, unwilling to elaborate.

“Things got out of hand.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You’re mad, aren’t you?”

“I’m trying not to be.” I admitted.

“Don’t worry about the mess. I’ll clean up.” She tried to speak heartily, but there was no conviction in her eyes as she looked around at the monumental task before her.

“I’ll help, but not now.” I said, feeling sorry for her. “I have a class.”

“Thank you.” she answered dully, dropping onto the sofa. She sprang up immediately because she’d sat on a piece of pizza. “My parents are supposed to come by at noon. They’re going to kill me.”

I sighed in annoyance. “If I stay home and help you, then you’d better help me study.”

“I will.” she said, brightening. “Oh thank you Kerri --- you’re a lifesaver.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

It was a long, frantic morning of clearing messes, repairing broken objects, trying desperately to undo in four hours what it had taken over one hundred people all night to accomplish.

“It was a great party though.” she said as we worked. “Up until the citation from the Ministry. We might have gotten away with it if the shooting stars hadn’t started trailing rainbows behind them.”

“We saw them.” I said absently, and immediately knew it was a mistake.

“ ‘We’ who?” Oh come on Kerri --- give it up --- where were you last night? And here I though you weren’t that kind of girl.”

“Back off Nymphadora.”

She made an annoyed face, but didn’t pursue the matter. “I like your friends from the band.” she changed the subject. “They’re funny. Would you look at this? Someone threw up in my book bag!”

“I’d rather not look, thank you.’

“Scourgify, scourgify, scourgify!” she shrieked, waving her wand furiously.

Laughing, I ducked as an owl flew through the broken living room window and dropped a letter in my lap. A quick glance at the envelope revealed my brother’s severe handwriting. I didn’t have time to read it then, so I set it aside for later.

Miraculously, we finished in time and I left for work, leaving Tonks home to greet her parents. I forgot all about the letter until I came home tonight --- and after reading it, I can’t get to sleep.

The gist of it is that a troll got into Hogwarts last night and almost killed Harry Potter. I’m beginning to become very concerned about what’s going on around there. When has something like that happened before? Not in all my time there. And what a coincidence that it would happen to Harry Potter of all people.

Could my brother’s suspicions be true? I don’t like to admit it, but I’m beginning to wonder if he’s right. I’ve seen Aedennan handle trolls before --- could he have let it in? He has the skill.

Too much has been going on these last two days. Sitting here going over it all has made me sleepy at least. Maybe now I can rest. There’s nothing I can do about it from here anyway, and as term ends at the end of the month, I’m very bogged down right now. I’m getting increasingly anxious to visit Hogwarts in December and see Aedennan face to face.


AUTHOR’S NOTE : Comments and criticism are strongly encouraged.

NEXT CHAPTER : Continued discussion with Snape about the Quirrel situation. Kerri finds a means to get even with Gustav Goyle. Basil and Augustus have their first lesson.

EXCERPT : As I read, I noticed a trail of slime running across the sign. Looking more closely, I spotted several flesh eating slugs amongst the blackthorn leaves. A little shiver of evil inspiration shot up my spine. Here, I realized, was an untraceable way to get back at Gargantua Goyle for his harassment of me.

I glanced over at the others. They were paying me no attention as they awaited the outcome of the battle between the plants. Another quick look around told me that no one else was in sight. Very quietly I did some quick transfiguration work on the slugs, turning five of them into bangle bracelets that I slid onto my wrists before anyone noticed what I’d done. Then, with the most innocent expression I could muster, I went to join the others.





Chapter 16: Chapter 16
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Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : November 1, 1991

Kerri,
I know you won’t get this until tomorrow, but I’m going to go ahead and write it tonight so you receive it first thing in the morning. I have some serious news for you. Curious things have happened here tonight of which you should be made aware in light of recent discussions between us.

Tonight an unknown person or persons let a mountain troll into the castle and Harry Potter and two other first years were found in a bathroom with it. The room was a complete shambles from the troll swinging it’s club at them. It happened while we were at the feast. Your friend Quirrel, who was not at the banquet, was the one who sighted the troll first and came to warn us. How that Potter brat ended up shut in a bathroom with it is anyone’s guess, as I do not believe the story the little liar is giving.

Do you not agree with me that all this seems to be a bit much to be a coincidence? Quirrel being the only person not present at the time in question? Harry Potter almost being killed on the anniversary of his parent’s deaths, during the first year of his return to the magical world? When has anything like this ever happened during your time at Hogwarts? It certainly didn’t during mine. Where would a troll come from? How would it proceed through Hogsmeade and onto Hogwarts land on it’s own without detection?

There are dark things going on in this school Kerri. I tell you plainly to beware of Quirrel. He has gone over to the dark side and is a threat to every student here --- Potter especially.

--Severus

Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : November 1, 1991
Dear Severus,

Between the lines of your letter it sounds as if there’s something you’re trying to get me to say or do. Stop beating around the bush and tell me plainly.

I will accept that Aedennan has changed, judging by his letter. I find it more believable that he’s having a breakdown of some sort than that he’s turned to the dark side and plotting to kill students.

On the other hand…because your letter has made me very concerned for the safety of the students…I don’t like saying this, but Aedennan always had a talent for managing trolls. If anyone in the castle would be capable of subduing and sneaking one into the castle, he’d be the one. I’m also willing to concede that his absence at the feast does sound incriminating.

But have you considered the idea that the culprit could be some unknown outsider? You keep talking about coincidences, so maybe it was a coincidence that Aedennan wasn’t at the feast. It happens. And how could a Hogwarts teacher go bad? Dumbledore hand picks all of them and you know he doesn’t make mistakes. And if he suspected Aedennan, why let him stay?

And honestly Severus, what makes you think that kid is lying? Do you always have to be so suspicious?

Kerri

Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : November 2, 1991
Dear Kerri,

In answer to your question, this is what I want from you : I want my sister to accept what I am telling her, to be as supportive of me as I am of her.

Do you honestly think some mysterious unknown could get onto the premises with a full grown troll in tow, sneak into the castle, turn it loose, and escape without notice? You are grasping at straws, my dear; use your head. You are not a fool and you know as well as I do what the evidence points to. You just don’t want to believe your friend capable.

I tell you again -- the headmaster is aware of the situation. It all comes down to good strategy. Which is better : To cut off the head of the snake that has invaded your home, or follow it back to it’s nest to eliminate the source? Quirrel is not the problem --- it’s the person he’s working for that worries me.

And trust me, I know the child is lying. I know when I am being lied to, a talent honed by so many years of teaching in this God forsaken place. I do not wish the boy dead, I only wish that my colleagues would wake up and see him for the deceptive, arrogant, little troublemaker that he is. When you meet him, you’ll see.

--Severus.

PS. Are there any other tidbits of information about Quirrel that it might be useful to know?

S.S.

Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : November 2, 1991
Severus,

I am telling you this not because I completely accept your theory, but because if my friend is innocent no harm is done, and if the isn’t the information may be of use.

First off, Aedennan is highly intelligent and perceptive of other people’s emotions. He probably already knows that you’re out to get him, though if innocent, he doesn’t know the reason why. He isn’t likely to address you directly about it. He’s more the type to ignore the little things and concentrate on serious matters.
He’s good with a wand --- very good reflexes. He favors the impediment jinx, is right handed, and good at hitting a target blind. He explored a lot as a kid and knows most, if not all of the passages and shortcuts in the school.

And Severus -- I believe that you believe what you’re telling me. I don’t have to agree with everything you say to be supportive of you.

Keep in touch,

Kerri


Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : November 2, 1991
Dear Kerri,

How are you, I am fine.

You won’t believe what happened here on Halloween. A troll got in during the feast. Harry and Ron won points for Gryffindor when they knocked it out. Pretty good, eh? They were trying to warn a little girl that it was there when they ran into it. That’s Gryffindor nerve -- makes me feel proud even if I did get expelled.

Boy, James Potter would have been proud. Eleven years old and able to take on a troll? I told the boy he’d be great at Hogwarts. He was worried he wouldn’t be magical enough when he first came. He was about as scared as you were when you first came. Remember?

Other than that, not much going on. You asked about Quirrel, and he’s about the same as always, looking real nervous. Still, don’t worry. I haven’t seen him in the pubs lately so I reckon he’s getting a grip on his drinking if that’s what was wrong with him. Don’t worry about it.

Take care and study hard. Looking forward to you coming around at Christmas. Maybe you’ll get to meet Harry as he comes around quite a bit too.

How did the concert go? Bet it was real good.

Love, Hagrid


Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : November 4, 1991
Dear Kerri,

HELP ! My mother is talking about coming here for Christmas ! Quick --- give me ways to talk her out of it. How am I going to hide all the scrapes and burns from her? They might impress the local girls, but Mum will go mad!

Working for Gargantua must be at least as bad, though. He must be making you miserable -- he loves making people miserable. He has a brother at Hogwarts this year according to Ron, and he sounds like a shorter version of Gargantua, but perhaps stupider. If that’s even possible. Ron can’t stand him. I thought about suggesting some jinxes for Ron to try on him, but I decided I’d better not. If my mother heard about it, I’d really be in trouble. How old do you have to get before your mother stops terrifying you?

Other than the fact that there are huge dragons zooming over our camp day and night, things are pretty uneventful. These Romanians are mad about Quidditch though, which is great. Sometimes when the coast is clear and it doesn’t look like we might be eaten if we go out on brooms, we get out and play a little Quidditch. So far, no casualties, but we did lose a quaffle once to a hunting female. Female dragons --- like the females of all species --- are the most vicious.

I hear that the Quidditch season has begun at Hogwarts and Harry Potter (allegedly as good as Charlie Weasley, but I don’t believe it) is going to be in his first match. It’s going to be against Slytherin and I hope they flatten them. And yes, I know you don’t care about Quidditch, but surely you must appreciate the idea of Slytherin getting trounced.

Anyhow, I need to close this off because I have a date. Talk to you soon.

Charlie

First thing this morning when I walked into the kitchen, I found this beautiful, golden haired goddess sitting there hunched over a bowl of cereal reading the Daily Prophet in a sleep shirt and socks. “Who are you an what have you done with Tonks?” I teased as I opened the refrigerator.

Tonks laughed and flipped her waist length hair provocatively. “What do you think?”

“I think I wish I could grow hair that fast. What’s up with the new look? Planning on becoming a model?”

“EEW no. Besides. I’d fall off the stage and break my neck. I just can’t wear shoes with heels. But it’s good isn’t it? I was in the mood for a change.” She turned around to watch me cutting up pears to mix with yogurt. “What are you doing today?”

“Not much. I figured I’d get ahead on an end of term paper. I have practice with the boys at six.. Why?”

“Want to go to the campus research gardens? They’ve opened them to the public for the weekend. Normally it’s only open to the herbology majors and their professors. We thought it would be nice to go somewhere warm and the gardens are enclosed and heated.”

“Who is ‘we’?” I asked, sitting down across from her.

“Gideon, Alexander, and I.”

“Who’s Alexander.”

“Gideon’s brother.” said Tonks, gazing casually at the paper while she spoke. Her eyes, blue today, glanced at me over the top. “I am not trying to set you up with him…really. I just thought it would be nice to have someone else for him to talk to, you know? It can be awkward when you go somewhere with a couple.”

I considered. I knew that the university’s research gardens were famous for their collection of rare magical plants from all over the world. Tonks was right that it would be nice to go somewhere bright and warm for a few hours, and no doubt it would be an interesting trip. “All right.” I conceded.

“Great. We’re supposed to meet them in the Herbology Courtyard at ten.”

We cleaned up our breakfast mess and then spent most of the morning primping in front of the mirror in our room. For someone who wasn’t trying to set me up with her boyfriend’s brother, Tonks was very concerned with my appearance. In the end I put on a dress of a rich brown color that seemed in keeping with the fall weather outside and put my hair up with a pair of combs.

“What about me?” asked Tonks, gazing at her reflection.

“Does he like long hair?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I didn’t change it for him -- I changed it for me. I don’t like his mustache, but do I ask him to change it? Honestly, have you ever kissed a guy with a mustache?”

I’ve never kissed a guy period, but I didn’t tell her that. “I don’t remember him having one.”

Tonks rolled her eyes. “He’s just grown it. Hmmm…maybe I’ll put my hair up too. I can’t have it loose like this. It always gets snagged in something or caught on fire. Don’t ask.” she added, seeing the questioning expression on my face. “Trust me. I’d just better put it up.”

“Is anyone else in your family a metamorphmagus?” I asked, wondering what it must be like to be able to radically change your appearance at will.

“No. I don’t think so anyway. But then my father came from a Muggle family and I don’t know my mother’s people. Which robe should I wear --- blue or red?”

“Blue matches your eyes.”

“Ah, but I can always change my eyes. The red is brighter and I do like bright colors.”

But eventually she settled on the blue and braided her hair, winding it around her head like a coronet. “There. Aren’t we a pair of gorgeous girls?” she asked, throwing an arm around me and drawing her face close to mine as we looked in the mirror.

“I suppose.”

“Suppose? You ought to know it. I think you spent so much time running wild in the woods with Hagrid that you never took time to realize that you’re pretty. You’re an absolute tomboy.”

“Not as much as I used to be.” I assured her. “And you’re no creampuff yourself.”

“Come on. Let’s go meet the guys.” she said with a laugh.

We got there before they did, the hems of our robes scattering fallen leaves as we walked across the flagstones. We sat down on the edge of the fountain to wait and the stone was quite cold, so it was a relief when the others arrived a few minutes later.

Alexander proved to be every bit as handsome as his brother, but minus the mustache. He was tall and well built, with blue eyes and a chin every bit as square and sturdy as Lockhart’s. He was impeccably dressed, in rich, tasteful fabrics and spotless black boots as highly polished as the finish of a brand new car. I pegged him immediately for a man of means.

When Tonks introduced us, he greeted me with a slight bow. Then he offered me his arm and we strolled through the double doors of the massive glass dome that housed the garden. Inside, it was as warm as a summer day, and sunshine refracting through the glass gave the place a bright, cheery air.

It wasn’t an organized garden with the specimens tucked into neat rows and beds. It was set up naturally, and had a slightly jungle- like feel. There was a winding trail wide enough for two to walk abreast made of a coarse brown mulch. On either side of it was a thicket of plants of varying varieties, almost like a maze, but not so structured.

Tonks and Gideon walked ahead, hand in hand, so Alexander and I were left to trail behind.

“So, what are you studying?” I asked Alexander as we looked at some plants by the side of the path. The had broad, spiky leaves of metallic sliver that were so bright that I could see my reflection in them. When they brushed into one another they sounded almost like wind chimes.

“Healing. I’m graduating next year. I did my internship at St. Mungo’s.”

“That should be an interesting profession.”

“Tell me about it. You’d be surprised the things you see on a holiday weekend.” Alexander laughed. “Once, this lady came in with broccoli growing out of her nose, mouth, and ears.”

“How on earth….?”

“It was a case of accidental underage magic. She’d been trying to make her five year old eat his vegetables, and well….”

“What on earth is that?” I asked, bending to look at the most bizarre plant I’ve ever seen. Was it a plant…or was it an animal ---? It had the features of both. What at first glance appeared to be cotton growing from large, elliptical seedpods were actually live, sheep-like creatures. Their weight pulled the branches of the plant down so that the pods dangled close enough to the ground for the things to feed on the grass beneath them.

A sign in front of the plant read:

TARTARICA BAROMETZ --- Native to the far East. First brought to Europe during the middle ages, Tartarica Barometz, or the Lamb Plant of Tartary, was once highly valued for the high quality wool that grows on it. Because of the rarity of the plant and the small yield, the wool was highly prized by the wizarding gentry. The plant receives nutrition by bending to allow the fruit to graze. Once the supply of grass is expended, the plant dies, and the wool may be harvested.

“That is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.” I declared. “And I’ve seen some pretty strange things in the magical world.”

“I agree. And believe me, I’ve worked with some weird plants in my herbology classes here. I have to take it because I have to know about healing herbs. Not my favorite subject.”

“I always liked herbology. I liked any class that let me get outside and play in dirt.”

“What are you studying?”

“Care of Magical Creatures. I’m going to be a teacher, although I’ll also help out with the game keeping duties.”

“Isn’t that hard work?” asked Alexander. “Dangerous?”

“It can be if you don’t know what you’re doing. I know a lot about forestry though from following Hagrid around. I can shoot a crossbow and skin a deer if I have to.”

“You’re kidding. Remind me not to get on your bad side. Do you hunt?”

“I can, but I don’t like it.” I answered slowly. “I don’t like slaughtering animals, but Hagrid taught me that that’s just how nature is. Every organism on earth takes the life of something to sustain itself. Even if you’re a vegetarian you’re killing a plant. You just have to be a good steward of the animals you’re in charge of.

“I’ve never been fond of the outdoors, but I respect you for taking on a job like that. It takes a lot of hard work. Personally, I prefer cities.”

By this time, Tonks and Gideon were well out of sight around a bend in the path. We rounded the curve and began crossing a small foot bridge over a narrow stream of water that disappeared into the brush. Growing in the water were blue, bell shaped flowers on tall stems. Each bud glowed with a faint golden light like a night light. “Aren’t they beautiful?” I asked. “They’d be lovely planted along a garden path or in clumps in front of a cottage.”

“They’d probably catch something on fire.” said Alexander practically, reaching over the edge of the bridge to feel one.

“Not planted in water they wouldn’t. You’d just have to be careful how you placed them.”

Alexander peered at the accompanying placard. “It says that they grow in bogs and are responsible for alleged ‘paranormal’ sightings by Muggles who spot the light at a distance. Paranormal? What does that mean?”

“Above normal. Muggles see the light and think they’re seeing evidence of ghosts or fairies or something.”

“How did you know that?”

“I was raised as a Muggle.” I answered, concealing my annoyance at the way some wizards are ignorant of the simplest things.

“Really? I’d never have guessed it. Why?”

“Because my mother left home to get away from my father. It wasn’t a good situation.”

“Ah. You were raised in America, I take it.” said Alexander as we began walking again. “I noticed your accent.”

“Accent? What accent? You have a Brittish accent to my ears.”

Alexander smiled as we came around a bend and ran into Tonks and Gideon. They were staring up at two tall plants. They were thick, thirty foot tall stalks with large, fleshy, red and purple flower heads on top. They seemed to be locked in a struggle, twining their stalks around one another, each trying to force the other to the ground. Tonks and Gideon apparently had a bet on the outcome.

“Look at them go.” said Alexander, slapping his brother on the back. “Just like us when we were kids.”

I was looking at the filler plants growing around the two battling stalks. They were blackthorn hedges, which caught my attention because my wand is made of blackthorn. The nearby placard read :

“BLACKTHORN : Used in Ireland as a defensive plant with the power to ward off evil spirits, the wood can be fashioned into potent wands and staffs. In the wild, blackthorn thickets are often guarded by fairies who find protection within their dense thorns. The fruits are useful in potion making as well as dye, jelly, and liqueur.”

As I read, I noticed a trail of slime running across the sign. Looking more closely, I spotted several flesh eating slugs amongst the blackthorn leaves. A little shiver of evil inspiration shot up my spine. Here, I realized, was an untraceable way to get back at Gargantua Goyle for his harassment of me.

I glanced over at the others. They were paying me no attention as they awaited the outcome of the battle between the plants. Another quick look around told me that no one else was in sight. Very quietly I did some quick transfiguration work on the slugs, turning five of them into bangle bracelets that I slid onto my wrists before anyone noticed what I’d done. Then, with the most innocent expression I could muster, I went to join the others.

The plant on the right was just pinning the one on the left squarely on the ground. They lay prone like a pair of fallen trees. “Yes!” exclaimed Tonks, clapping her hands and giving a triumphant little leap. “You owe us all lunch Gideon!”

The rest of the day was spent pleasantly enough. We had lunch together at a little café on campus and then Tonks and I went home. I secreted the bracelets in the bottom of my lingerie drawer. An odd place to hide transfigured flesh eating slugs, I guess, but I knew no one would mess with them there.

Now, what I need is a good chance to turn them back into slugs and plant them in Gargantua’s office somehow. How, I have no idea. I don’t know where his office is and my job duties have never required me to go there. Remus goes ‘up front’ now and then to drop off invoices and things, but he’d be curious if I suddenly expressed a desire to go in his place. After all, he’s trying to shield me from Gargantua’s attention as much as possible.

I kind of feel guilty about it, which is ridiculous since I haven’t really done anything yet. But really, is it so horrible to sic a bunch of flesh eating slugs on a piece of scum like Gustav Goyle? He deserves it. He says horrible things to Remus, takes advantage of his workers --- never mind what he wants me to do for a promotion. Sooner or later he’s going to force me out. Why shouldn’t I get even if I can?

I guess what I’m worried about is that this isn’t exactly a nice thing to do, and maybe it’s a sign that I’m starting to go loony like my father. No way would I tell Remus what I’m up to. He’d think it was horrible, and somehow it matters to me what he thinks of me. On the other hand, I’m sure Severus would find the idea amusing.

Tonks is still curious about who I stayed with on Halloween night, which just bugs me to death. Nothing happened, so being secretive about it is silly I guess, but I just don’t want people to know. I guess I’m a prude.

“What did you think of Alexander?” she asked when we got home from the gardens.

“He’s nice.”

“He’s going to be a healer.”

“He told me.” I answered mildly.

“You aren’t impressed are you? Most girls would love to go out with him and you just think he’s ‘nice’? The man you spent the night with during my party --- does he have a brother? Or maybe I could have him when you’ve finished because he must really be something else.”

“Oh shut up, Nymphadora,” I said, escaping from the room before she had the chance to reply, or hex me.

I wish she’d just cut it out.

I spent part of the afternoon digging out old Hogwarts texts for the boys to read. Remus and I have decided not to set up the lessons like formal classes. It would be like having to work closely with five more experienced Fred and Georges. Besides, they aren’t kids and they don’t have time. They have jobs and other responsibilities that kids don’t have.

So our lessons with them will mostly be practical, and only for Basil and Brand until the others get wands. In the meantime, I’ll loan them my books to read if they want them. The first lesson is tomorrow. Should be an experience.


We had our first lesson tonight in Basil’s room.

“Oh come on…if they kill each other, I want to be here to see it.” Augustus protested as I shooed the others out.

Once I shut the door on them, panting slightly, Basil pulled out his wand and suggested, “Let’s see who has the biggest wand -- me, Brand, or Remus. Mine’s eleven inches --- does that impress you, Kerri?”

“Mine’s eleven and a half. Does that impress you?” I answered wryly.

Brand thought this very funny and even Remus, who usually seems slightly put off by Basil’s vulgar sense of humor, permitted himself a smile. “Now that we’ve settled that,” he said “shall we get down to business? First off, we’d like to see what you already know.”

At his words, Basil and Brand both raised their wands.

“Just tell us.” I quickly clarified.

“Coward.” said Brand, lowering his wand.

“I can lift things.” Basil offered.

“So can I.” said Brand. “I can repair things.”

“I can too.”

“Do you know the spell that undoes locks?”

“Yes. And I can light fires -- can you?’

“Of course.”

“With two sticks rubbed together, I bet.”

Remus looked at me and rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay,” he said, sounding amused. “It isn’t a contest. It gives us a place to start, anyway. Let’s practice some of the spells you just named and see how well you’ve mastered them. NO -- stop!”

Basil had pointed his wand at a large dumbbell in the corner and Brand was aiming at Basil himself.

“One at a time.” I suggested.

“And on something soft.” Remus agreed, smiling. “Basil, why don’t you try the lifting spell on your pillow over there?”

“Easy.” said Basil smugly. “Watch me and learn, Brand.” Basil pulled up his sleeve did an overly elaborate motion with his wand, and shouted “Wingardium Leviosa!”

The pillow promptly exploded with a violent ripping noise, feathers flying everywhere.

Brand doubled over with laughter.

“What did I do wrong?” asked Basil, ignoring him.

“What did you do wrong?” Remus repeated in a conversational tone.

“I asked you first.”

“Tell me what you did, start to finish, every step.”

“Well….I raised my wand -- that was cool, Kerri.” said Basil, watching me magically repair the pillow, all the feathers zooming back into the fabric. “And I said, ‘Wingardium Leviosa’….I said it right, right?’

“You did.”

“I waved my wand and…”

“Show us how you waved it.” Remus suggested.

Again, he did the elaborate wave.

“It’s swish and flick.” I said, showing him.

“I didn’t know it made that much of a difference.” he said, looking from me to Remus.

“It makes a great deal of difference.”said Remus. “The correct gesture is just as important as the correct incantation. Magic is very precise.”

“And that sort of elaboration would lose you precious seconds if you had been working a defensive spell in a duel.” I added. “It’s a bad habit to get into. It’s best to keep things simple.”

“Try again.” Remus encouraged.

Basil nodded and raised his wand. “Wingardium Leviosa!” This time, the pillow raised four feet, hovered, and dropped back down.

“Go for it.” I told Brand who had been practically bouncing up and down with impatience all this time.

“Wingardium Leviosa!”

The pillow shot upwards violently, hitting the ceiling with a dull ‘flump’. He overcorrected and brought it zooming back down at an angle so that Remus had to duck out of its path. “And that is why we’re practicing with pillows.” he laughed.

“I always do that.” Brand complained.

“You need to learn control.” Remus explained. “Kerri, why don’t you work with him while Basil and I move on to the next thing?”

“You do the spell, but let me guide your hand.” I told Brand. I put my left arm around him, taking his opposite wrist in mine. “Don’t get any ideas.”

Laughing, he blew me a kiss, and then we went to work.

All in all, it went quite well. We didn’t teach them anything new, but we now have a pretty good idea of what they already know and how well they know it. Their knowledge is very patchy. They know several types of spells, mostly first and second year level and nothing higher than third.

Still, I’m very optimistic. Neither is stupid and both seem very eager. I feel good about what I’m doing to help them and it’s a good distraction from thinking about the recent content of Severus’s letters. 

Author's Note : Comments and criticism are always welcome.

Next Chapter : As the Christmas holiday approaches, Snape invites Kerri to spend some time at Hogwarts with the inention of filling her in completely on the Quirrel situation. Hybrid has it's second concert and Remus introduces Kerri to some friends there. Mel and Streak play a prank in the werewolf commune resulting in Kerri's humiliation. When Remus comforts her, she begins to feel more warmly toward him, although even she doesn't realize it.

Excerpt :
His hazel eyes were blazing slightly and I was quiet as I let his words sink in. No one…not even any of the teachers back at Hogwarts had ever put it in these terms before. I’d never thought of it like that before.

The wind kicked up, ruffling Remus’s silvering hair and billowing his tattered cloak out around him. It struck me that he was quite good looking and he suddenly put me in mind of a hero out of some old Gothic novel. Looking into his eyes I felt a strange sensation. It was like my heart stopped for a moment or two, and then came an odd feeling as if I was falling from a great height.








Chapter 17: Chapter 17
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Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : November 6, 1991

Dear Kerri,

Thank you. I greatly value your support. Right now I value the presence of someone with a keen mind and a loyal heart in which to confide. Things have been highly stressful here lately to say the least. I am the only person here privy to the headmaster’s suspicions about Quirrel and I find it helpful to have one person with whom I can share my thoughts on the subject.

This has been a long week. Another charmed mop showed up outside my office door, just endlessly mopping right there in the entrance way. Then some idiotic Hufflepuff first year turned himself green in one of my classes. He drank a potion we’d been preparing. The only excuse he gave was that he was ‘hungry’ and the potion looked ‘tasty’. I took ten points off of Hufflepuff and sent the little idiot up to the hospital wing. Why don’t parents teach their children common sense before they send them here?

During your teaching career you will often find yourself wondering why the school is not more selective about which students are permitted to take which classes. Take potions for example. Potions brewing requires the ability to follow instructions, pay attention to detail, and a talent for being able to measure ingredients with meticulous accuracy. Potions can be highly dangerous if mixed incorrectly and it takes only a pinch of the wrong ingredient to blow up a classroom and a class of students along with it.

Ridiculously, they expect me to turn every student they send me into a potions expert. One can only do so much with the raw material one is given, and some students simply have no business being within ten feet of a hot cauldron.

There should be a standard for students who are admitted into my potions class. If only there was a test for common sense. Of course, on the other hand, that would probably put me out of a job. Thank heaven for OWLs because they allow me to weed out the worst of them.

We have a Quidditch match coming up against Gryffindor and naturally three quarters of the school are clamoring for our defeat. People complain about Slytherin house and our so called lack of morality and scruples, but why should we be kind or merciful to people who are so dead set against us in the first place? I’ve always thrived on rivalry but sometimes it does become aggravating. Perhaps I’m getting old. More likely I’ve just been stuck in this God forsaken place too long,

Minerva McGonagall is driving me mad -- not that I’m letting her see it. That woman. She thinks she has the Quidditch cup in the bag and has been getting more and more smug as the day of the game draws nearer. It is due, I am sure, to her so called “secret weapon” that the entire school knows about. His father was good at Quidditch but I’m confident that my Slytherins will be able to squash the scrawny little thing flat. Perhaps then Minerva will understand the wisdom of not allowing first years to play on the house teams. Well, I did try to warn her.

Again, find enclosed a small allowance. By now you should see a pattern emerging. Expect a small sum of money at the beginning of each month. I know there is more to the life of a young person than eating, paying bills, and studying. There have been times in my life when I could barely make ends meet so I know what it’s like. I do not want that for you.

Your brother, Severus


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : November 3, 1991
Dear Hagrid,

Sounds like you all had quite an exciting Halloween. How did that troll get in, anyway? Was it wild or tame? We’ve never had trolls in the forest. Where do you think it came from?

So Ron Weasley was involved? I hope Mrs. Weasley hasn’t heard about it or you’ll think a tornado has struck the school when she comes sailing in there in fury. You think that troll made a mess? Just wait and see what she does. Even Charlie all the way in Romania lives in terror of her.

Thanks for asking about the concert. It went quite well. We didn’t make much money, but a little is better than nothing. Our manager has us booked this Saturday at a place in London, which apparently is a pretty nice place. Supposedly, it’s hard to get booked in there. You have to be already established, but our manager knows the owner so we’re in. (This once at least).

Things are okay, but busy. Finals week for this term is in the first week of December and I have some serious papers to finish and some practical exams to prepare for. Look for me sometime the week after.

Love, Kerri



Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley: November 5, 1991

Okay Charlie -- here it is.

Option 1. I’ll go over to your parent’s house and put the imperius curse on your mother and order her not to visit you. For a little monetary incentive I’ll go all the way and order her to forget that she has a son named Charlie.

Option 2. When she visits and sees all those scars, put a memory charm on her so she forgets.

Honestly Charlie, I’ll never understand the primal, masculine drive to risk life and limb over a stupid game. One of these days a dragon is going to carry you off instead of a quaffle and then what? Your mother will go over there and eradicate the dragons you’re trying to protect.

And by the way --- cute little jab about females being ‘vicious’, but it didn’t offend me because it’s true. We have to be vicious to contend with male stupidity.

Lots of love (sarcasm intended), Kerri



Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : November 9, 1991
Dear Kerri,

I am aware that your term is ending and that you’re bogged down in work just now. Is there any possible way you could come to Hogwarts after your finals? The situation here has gotten much more serious and I wish you bring you into deeper confidence.

There was an attempt on Harry Potter’s life at the Quidditch match today. He lost control of his broom and came perilously close to falling to his death. I had the presence of mind to recognize a jinx and immediately began working the counter jinx. I had to keep eye contact so I can’t verify that Quirrel was the culprit, but I know that he was. He tripped and fell into the row in front of him and that’s when the jinx lifted.

I might have done more but someone set my robes on fire. Don’t laugh -- the situation is too serious. If I ever find the culprit I’ll hang them upside down from the roof of the astronomy tower! These Quidditch matches bring out the worst in people.

I want you to come to Hogwarts once most of the students have left on holiday so we have privacy. I wish to acquaint you with certain facts, and then you must decide what to do with those facts. I would appreciate your aid in getting information from Quirrel and I have no right to ask it unless you are fully informed of the situation.

Please let me know as soon as possible so I can plan my next move.

--- Severus



Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : November 10, 1991
Severus,

I was planning to visit Hogwarts before I went home anyway. Will Friday - Sunday of the second week of December suffice?

Severus, you aren’t about to break any promises are you?

And maybe this isn’t the best time to ask, but did your team win?”
Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : November 10, 1991



Kerri,

I look forward to seeing you at the appointed time. Thank you for having the patience to hear me out. If you just happen to deduce certain facts on your own, then it is not a violation of my promise. Trust me, I have it worked out.

Thank you for asking, but no, we lost. I assure you that won’t be the case next time.

Severus




I have someone to take my place in the band while I’m away at Christmas --- Tonks !

It started today when she had a meltdown over her workload. “I’ve absolutely had it!” she burst out suddenly while I was home changing clothes to go to work. She gave the mountain of textbooks on the table in front of her a hard shove and they tumbled to the floor with a crash. “I need chocolate, damn it.”

“We polished off the last of the chocolate frogs weeks ago.” I laughed.

“I’m sick of studying -- all I do these days is work. Hey -- skip work and lets go spend the afternoon in Diagon Alley. I’ll buy lunch.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Willow and Etta have classes…Gideon is off with the team…” Tonks complained.

“Just take the afternoon off from studying.” I suggested. “Light some candles, take a bath, read a book. Read some fluffy, idiotic romance novel -- learn some new things to try on Gideon when he comes home.”

To my surprise, she actually blushed. “We aren’t that serious yet. Maybe I’ll do what you said though. I’m just so sick of working. Hey --- can I come to your practice tonight?”

“If you want. Remus and I will pick you up here -- we always drive over. You can’t just apparate in there, and it seems kind of indelicate anyway under the circumstances. I don’t feel right even apparating right outside the gate. And we stay late because of tutoring the boys.”

“I don’t mind. Anything is better than working or sitting around here being bored. I bet some of the other guys wouldn’t mind hanging out with me after practice.”

“No -- they wouldn’t.” I agreed. “Look, I have to go.”

“Give Gargantua a kiss for me.”

“Kiss him yourself.”

The workday went by quickly and without incident. Fenrir only came by once and early in the afternoon so Remus and I got out on time for a change. Tonks was waiting for us when we got to our house, looking much less frazzled than when I’d left her. She’d changed her appearance again, quite dramatically. Her chin length hair was jet black except for a braided strand that was crimson. Her eyes were as dark as mine and she wore a red velour top, snug black pants, and black boots.

“Gone Goth I see.” I commented.

“What?”

“Never mind. Feel better?”

“I did absolutely nothing all day -- it was great. Wotcher Remus.”

“Hello there Tonks.”

“I don’t suppose we have time to eat before we go?” asked Tonks hopefully.

“No. The others are waiting.” I answered.

“Oh well. Let’s go then.”

Basil and the guys had seemed very taken with Tonks at the party and were thrilled when she showed up at practice. They flirted with her and she flirted back until they were driving me nuts.

“Will you cut it out?” I snapped at Basil, “Her wand is longer than yours too so forget it -- she’s way too much woman for you.”

The other guys thought this was hilarious but Basil just shot me a slightly aggrieved look and invited Tonks to join us in the next song. “If you’re good, you can replace her.” he said, jabbing his thumb in my direction.

Tonks, who has never professed to have any musical ability, readily sprang up from her perch on the low wall that ran around the perimeter of the roof, and joined us. It turned out that she’s actually pretty good, to all of our surprise. It’s not exactly that she sings all that well, and she can’t play an instrument, but she has this magnetic energy that’s just infectious.

“You should have been in the band back at Hogwarts.” I told her. “Why didn’t you ever try out?”

“Because I stayed in trouble too much. Do you really think I could have?”

“Tell you what…” said Basil slowly. “If you want to, and if everyone else is for it, you can take Kerri’s place while she’s gone over Christmas.”

Tonks flushed with pleasure that this suggestion, her cheeks rosy against her fair skin. “I’d never be able to commit to anything permanent. I hate structure. But…sure….I’ll bet it would be fun.”

The rest of us agreed and that was that. So at least until after Christmas,Tonks will be joining us for all our practices. I’m glad, because I was feeling a bit guilty about abandoning the band over the holiday so now I don’t have to worry about that. I really wish she’d join us permanently because I think having Tonks around will be fun.




I’m not in the mood to get out of bed today -- and it’s Sunday so there’s no reason to. It’s a cold, gray, windy day outside. Wind coming off the ocean rattles the windows and makes the doors creak. It’s a good day to stay in bed.

Tonks is out all day at a party and I’m glad because I’m not in the mood for company. I’ve just been on an emotional roller coaster ever since I came back here. I used to go for long periods of time and not think about my father or my dirty blood at all, but ever since Harry Potter reentered the magical world, things keep popping up to remind me. My brother’s letters have me feeling like I’m going to step out into the yard one day and walk right into Voldemort. He’s even making me doubt someone that I’ve been friends with for years, and I feel guilty about it.

I need to just stay calm and see what I find out in December. Voldemort is not hiding in my closet or under my bed….I think. There is no reason for me to keep going through these bouts of panic and depression -- which strangely enough coincide with Severus’s letters. I have got to quit this.

It sounds like Severus wants me to spy for him and I won’t do it unless I’m convinced that he’s right about Aedennan. A murder attempt on Harry Potter? It’s ridiculous. Depending on how things go I might end up having a little chat with Professor Dumbledore. If I find out that Severus is just out to get the Dark Arts job and is using me to help him smear Aedennan to get it….I really do need to learn the cruciatus curse.

Let’s see…a lighter subject…I need to quit dwelling on this…

We had a good concert last night at Canis Major. I was so much more at ease there than I was at The Lair. It had a friendly, much less sinister feel -- and no Fenrir allowed.

Shabby seems to be there general rule in the werewolf subculture but the owner of Canis Major does keep the place clean and up to date on repairs. At least there are no claw marks running down the bar. The place is well lit and there is a long, spotless mirror behind the bar that runs the full length. All the different colored bottles looks so artful reflected in it. The touch I like best is that the ceiling is painted blue and decorated with little lights representing stars that are arranged in the pattern of the Canis Major constellation.

The crowd was lively, friendly, and received us favorably. After our performance, Basil and the others decided to stick around and party. I located Remus who was sitting at a table with a couple. I recognized the man as the one Remus had sent the children to on the night of the dementor attack.

“Kerri, meet Royal and Celestia,” said Remus cheerfully. “They’re responsible for getting us in here. Kerri, of course is the prime attraction of Hybrid. She’s what pulls in the crowds.”

“I am?” I asked in surprise.

“Of course. You’re more pleasant to look at than Basil is, you sing well, and people are curious about you.’

“Why should they be curious?” I asked, not thinking I liked the sound of that.

“Well, it’s generally known that you aren’t a werewolf and that you’re respectable enough to have a teaching position open for you at Hogwarts. They’re trying to figure you out.”

“How do you know?”

“I answer a lot of questions about you while I’m sitting back here.”

“Don’t let it bother you.” said Celestia. She was a very pretty woman, about thirty five perhaps, with big green eyes and a mass of long blonde curls. “They’ll accept you if you respect them, but it just takes time. They accepted me. I’m not a werewolf…” she clarified, laying a hand on her husband’s arm. “….I just fell in love with one. Four children later, I’m just like family.”

“I hope having children isn’t a necessary prerequisite for acceptance.” I laughed.

“No, but it helps.”

“Did either of you see Fenrir try to get in?” asked Royal, looking amused. Royal is a large man, powerfully built with thick, graying brown hair and brown eyes. I think he’s about thirty five or forty, but with werewolves, it’s hard to tell.

“No, I didn’t.. I hope they roughed him up when they threw him out.” said Remus, and I couldn’t help but laugh at this uncharacteristic viciousness. Remus is the nicest person in the world but Fenrir is a sensitive point with him.

Royal laughed. “They did. You’d think he’d know better than to…” he stopped in mid-sentence as something behind me caught his attention. He stood up, pointed a threatening finger and bellowed, “Boy ! You whip that thing out in front of me and I’ll cut it off!”

Streak, who was standing shirtless on the dance floor and was in the act of unfastening his pants, promptly froze. I was laughing so hard that I almost choked.

“He acts like an animal.” Royal growled. “That’s why people treat us like animals. I heard what you’re doing for Basil and Brand, Kerri. That’s really great.”

“Thank you.”

The owner, a beefy looking blonde man with a crew cut came over and put a few Galleons into Remus’s hand.

“Well that’s better, but it will still take forever to save up.” I said.

“What are you saving for?” asked Celestia.

“Wands for the rest of the band. We’re setting aside ten percent of our profits.”

“I’d love to help if I could,” said Royal, “But with three kids….”

“Four!” exclaimed Celestia, slapping him on the shoulder.

“Three…four…whatever. There are a lot of them anyway. I tell you Remus, you ought to settle down -- you’re almost my age. “ Royal looked suddenly amused. “Vashti is interested in you, I hear. Says she likes the quiet, brainy type.”

Remus took a curious look up at the stage where a band called Full Moon Rising was performing. Like Hybrid, they were all male except for the female lead singer. She was older than me, and looked like a siren out of a Hollywood movie. Tall, sensuous, ripe, voluptuous…any and all of those adjectives fit. She had black eyes, full, red lips, and a mane of wild black hair. She was dressed in a short, tight sequined red dress and was dancing like a stripper.

“Not my type.” said Remus coolly.

“She looks like a slut.” I said, and was immediately horrified that I’d said it aloud.

Celestia laughed. “Thank you! I can’t stand her either.”

Remus laughed. “I’m getting out of here before you get me into trouble. Both of you.” he added, looking pointedly at Royal.

“I was just repeating what was being said.”

“If you’re going then I will to.” I said, getting up.

“Streak isn’t streaking tonight.” said Royal. “Just because Remus is a stick in the mud doesn’t mean you have to leave too.”

“Trust me, I’m a natural stick in the mud. I don’t need him to inspire me.”

“Well, good night then.”

“Good night.”

“Royal and Celestia are very good people.” said Remus as we made our way across the room. “And very well respected. Royal is a sort of anti-Fenrir.”

“They seem nice.” I said as I watched him sneak another glance at Vashti. Men. “Want me to come by and help you with that hardware? Is it for self stirring or collapsible this time?”

“Not tonight.” said Remus with a smile. “I was up working all night last night -- tonight I’m going to sleep. Why don’t you stay here and have fun? You’re safe here, you know.”

“Nah. All the boys have paired off and I don’t want to stand around and be hit on by strangers.”

“You prefer being hit on by Streak?”

“It’s not so bad as long as he’s wearing pants.” I laughed.

He made a sympathetic grimace and we went our separate ways.

I’ve been seriously thinking, if Severus is serious about sending money every month, I could put it toward wands for the others. We could save up in just a few months time because my brother is very generous. Of course, he’d kill me if he knew -- but a gift is a gift to use in any way the receiver sees fit. Worth considering at least.




I am going to kill Charlie Weasley ! That weasel sent me a howler !

Tonks and I were sitting at breakfast this morning when an owl arrived, tapping on the window. Tonks jumped up to let it in and it dropped a telltale red envelope on the table in front of me before swooping back out again.

“What did you do Kerri?” Tonks laughed.

“Nothing. I can’t even imagine who sent it. I’ve never gotten one in my entire life.”

I gazed at it apprehensively as it began to smoke around the edges.

Tonks laughed. “I’ve gotten plenty of them and you’d better open it or it will just be worse. They’re designed that way.”

“Open it? I’m going to burn it. It has to be a prank.”

I stalked off to our room to get my wand, but the thing burned itself open before I got back. Charlie’s voice, magnified to an unnatural volume and half shaking with laughter, went off on a tirade about my jab about men being idiots in my last letter. I don’t even remember what all he said, only that it was stupid. I guess I was too shocked for it to sink in.

Tonks thought it was absolutely hilarious and she had to hold onto the table for support as she laughed herself sick. I was standing just outside our bedroom door, wand in hand, with what was probably a very dumbfounded expression on my face.

“What…on earth….was that…about?” gasped Tonks.

“Oh….he said women are vicious and I said that we have to be to make up for men’s stupidity. This just proves my point.” I said, brushing the ashes of the howler off of my breakfast plate with as much dignity as I could muster.

“Well we’ll just have to get him back. Any ideas?”

“I think we should tell his mother all about her ickle Chucky’s boo-boos so she goes over there and makes his life misery.”

Tonks laughed. “I know. Lets send him a howler but make him think it’s from his mother, scolding him about those injuries. Can’t you just imagine him getting it in front of all those macho Romanian guys while they’re sitting around the old campfire?”

“I know how to do a voice changing potion, but it works like the poly-juice potion. I’d have to have one of Mrs. Weasley’s hairs or something.”

“Hmmm….well, write to Ginny -- I bet she’d help. Oh come on Kerri -- let’s.” Tonks was practically pleading, eyes alight with mischief.

“I can’t believe that you weren’t well behaved enough to be in the band.” I said sarcastically.

“Kerri --- come on.”

In the end I gave in, Tonks’s excitement with the idea being contagious. And really…how dare Charlie? It must be brain freeze from all that cold weather over there.

“I bet we get an answer by tomorrow.” said Tonks happily as we watched the owl fly away with the letter to Ginny. “What exactly did you tell her?”

“The truth. But I wouldn’t count on a quick reply…she’ll have to find an unobtrusive way to get the hair.”

“Oh give the girl some credit. Do you have the potion ingredients?”

“Most of them. I’ll get the rest.”

“I’d love to see his face.” said Tonks with relish. “The other men will never let him hear the end of it. Men are so stupid that way. Oooops….calling them stupid is what got you into trouble in the first place, isn’t it?”

It seems like today has just been a good day for playing pranks because I walked into another one at the commune tonight. Remus and I were crossing the courtyard when someone called his name. “I’ll catch up.” he told me, and headed off to talk to the person. I continued inside and started up the stairs.

Now you have to picture how the building is laid out to fully appreciate the situation. The wing where Basil’s room is is basically a large rectangle with stairs going up along the walls with a large open place in the middle. There are many landings and because of how open it is, you have a pretty good view of any one landing from above or below.

On my way up I saw a little girl crossing a landing two floors up and on the opposite side from where I was. On the landing was an open broom closet that she glanced into before giving a shriek and coming pelting down the stairs as fast as she could go. The open door of the closet prevented me from seeing what had scared her and I asked, “What is it?” as she approached me.

“Dementor !” she wailed, and kept running without looking back.

I stopped on the next landing and looked up at the closet above with suspicion. I was pretty sure that if there was actually a dementor there, I’d feel it’s presence. Besides -- why would a dementor hide in a closet?

I could see a little better from this vantage point and I watched with interest as a man, walking downstairs, approached the landing with the closet. Sure enough…a werewolf…not a dementor burst out of the closet. The man gave a strangled gasp of horror and went back up the way he’d come, disappearing behind an apartment door.
A werewolf when there was no full moon?

My worst fears were confirmed --- a boggart.

Leaning out over the rail and craning my neck I spotted Mel and Streak several floors higher, peering over the banisters, snickering. I knew that somehow, some way, they were responsible for this situation.

I watched as a woman emerged from a door, began to cross the landing and met a giant, glowing green hand oozing slime, floating in the center of the walkway. It took a swipe at her and she immediately shrieked and ran back into her apartment again.

Great. How was I going to get past? Boggarts are the one thing I absolutely cannot deal with. If the others saw what form it took when I got near it, I’d never hear the end of it.

I stood rooted, watching people passing and fleeing. The boggart assumed the shape of a snake, a zombie, a yeti, a banshee, a vampire, two more dementors, and a second werewolf. Sometimes people darted past, sometimes people ran back in the direction from which they’d come. No one tried to get rid of it. How do people live in the magical world without magic? It must be horrible.

I knew I couldn’t stand there forever, but I dreaded facing the boggart with Mel and Streak watching. If I tried to get rid of it and failed, I’d look like a complete idiot. I’d be discredited as a capable teacher. I wished Remus would come.

Finally I decided that I couldn’t stand there any longer. I was just going to have to face the thing and that was that. Not being able to handle a boggart at my age is ridiculous. Dreading the encounter, but resolved, I pulled out my wand and walked up the remaining flights of stairs.

The moment my foot touched the landing, a mirror image of myself popped out of the closet, an expression of pure malice on it’s face and a crazed look in the eyes. “Riddiculus!” I shouted.

Of course nothing happened. It never does. I can never work that spell because it’s just so awkward to cast it on my own apparent double.

More muffled howls of amusement from upstairs.

Furious and humiliated, I turned around to go back downstairs and collided with Remus who I’d been too preoccupied to hear coming. He took one look at the scene and seemed to understand. I heard the cracking sound of the boggart changing form as he inserted himself between myself and it, but didn’t wait around to see what it was. All I knew was that I wanted to put as much space between myself and Mel and Streak before I went nuts and killed them.

“Kerri? Kerri!” Remus’s voice echoed hollowly off the walls. I could hear him trying to catch up.

I didn’t stop until I was outside in the courtyard, and then spun around to face him so fast that we almost collided again. “I am going to kill Mel and Streak!” I thundered. “I hate those things --- it’s humiliating.”

“Everyone feels that way about their fears.” said Remus soothingly. “Phobias are ‘irrational fears’ by definition and everyone has them. What might not be rational to one person makes perfect sense to another.”

“Mine is more irrational than most. You saw it, didn’t you? Imagine what it’s like trying to explain THAT to someone.”

Remus smiled ruefully. “Did you see what form it took after you started downstairs?”

“No.”

“The full moon. It’s always the full moon. Try explaining that one. Fortunately, it’s so…ah…unique, that most people aren’t quite sure what it is immediately.”

“At least you can work the spell.” I said miserably. “To do it successfully you have to be able to think of a way to make it seem silly and less threatening. I guess maybe I’m vain because I have a difficult time thinking of ways to make myself look like an idiot.”

“Look at it like this.” he said reasonably, without a trace of a smile on his face. “You have an advantage over me. Your fear…whatever it is…apparently lies within yourself. You have the power to control it and change it where I….well, I can hardly change the movement of the heavens and prevent the next full moon from coming. Can I just make my illness go away? No. I have to live with it for the rest of my life. But you -- whatever it is inside yourself that you fear, you can change or eliminate it altogether.”

His hazel eyes were blazing slightly and I was quiet as I let his words sink in. No one…not even any of the teachers back at Hogwarts had ever put it in these terms before. I’d never thought of it that way.

The wind kicked up, ruffling Remus’s silvering hair and billowing his tattered cloak out around him. It struck me that he was quite good looking, and he suddenly put me in mind of a hero out of some old Gothic novel. Looking into his eyes I felt a strange sensation. It was like my heart stopped for a moment or two, and then came an odd feeling as if I was falling from a great height.

Perhaps he sensed it. His eyes widened slightly as if in surprise and he looked down at his feet. “Kerri…stop me if I’m being too forward…but from what I just saw up there on that landing, it’s clear that something isn’t right in your life. That’s not…well, it’s a very unusual boggart. Believe me, I know what it is to have…inner demons.” He was speaking slowly, seeming to be choosing his words very carefully. “What I want to say is, if you ever want to talk about it, I’m a good listener. It isn’t healthy to keep things to yourself all the time.”

“You remind me of Dumbledore.” I told him.

“Why?” he asked, looking both amused and flattered.

“Because you’re both very perceptive. And thank you, but it isn’t something I can share. You should understand that -- you don’t advertise your illness.”

“No. But I’ve always had a few close friends in confidence. If you change your mind, you know where I live. You’re always welcome.”

Another wicked blast of wind ripped through the courtyard, whipping my hair around, chilling the back of my neck. Remus shivered a bit and bounced up and down on the balls of his feet, trying to keep warm. “Are you going to go to practice?” he asked.

“I suppose.” Talking to him had made me feel better. I didn’t feel quite so inclined to commit murder anymore at least. I still wasn’t ready to forgive Streak and Mel for making me reveal a weakness in public, though.

“Soon?” asked Remus hopefully. “While I can still feel my fingers?”

“It won’t be any better on the roof.” I reminded him as we headed back inside.

“I know. I’m going to ask Royal and Celestia to talk Basil’s neighbors into tolerating indoor practice.”

“Good. If it gets any colder, my fingers will be freezing to the strings.”

The closet door was securely shut as we passed it and I felt a surge of dread at the thought of facing Mel and Streak.

“That monster that jumped out at you was the scariest one I’ve ever seen.” Mel laughed when we entered Basil’s room.

“Incendio.” I said coolly, setting fire to the hem of his robe.

He screamed like a little girl and quickly stamped it out.

Tonks, who was perched on the lid of a chest in the corner almost choked with laughter. “Watch out for her -- she’s a pyromaniac.”

“Which could prove useful up on the roof.” said Remus dryly.

Thankfully, no more was said on the subject. I really hate that I let anyone see that old weakness. It makes me look incompetent and cowardly.

I don’t think Remus thinks that, though.

Something about him is nagging at me in the back of my mind tonight, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. It was sweet of him to offer to listen to my problems, but I wonder….would he still be friends with me if he knew?

It’s cold. I’m going to bed.

Author's Note : Please do keep the comments coming. I check for reviews more than any decent person would feel comfortable admitting and really do live off them.

Next Chapter : Kerri has a serious falling out with Gustav Goyle that could potentially cost her job.

Excerpt :

“Fine. You remember your choice --- you remember when I’ve made your life here sheer hell. You’ll wish you’d answered differently.”

I told him to go do something that had absolutely nothing to do with making cauldrons. Perhaps he went to do it because he went storming out of the office, slamming the door so hard that the windows shook.

Without him there, the room seemed very quiet, and I wondered what my mouth had just gotten me into.














Chapter 18: Chapter 18
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Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : November 16, 1991
Dear Hagrid,

Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you again. I hope things are quieter at Hogwarts since I last heard from you. I hope Ron and Harry are staying out of trouble.

I completely forgot to tell you that the baby dragon our class was hatching has hatched. It was a Common Welsh Green and I thought it was kind of cute -- and so delicate. It’s hard to believe it will grow into this huge, powerful, fire breathing beast. The wings were so fragile…you could see right through them and make out all the little veins pumping blood through it’s body. Just incredible. I wish you could have seen it.

We weren’t allowed to keep it more than a week. Really, we were lucky to get to work with it at all, but our teacher used to be a dragon researcher and he has connections. He knows that most of us will probably never encounter another dragon again but he loves them, and feels that we ought to at least see one first hand to learn to appreciate and respect them.

Well -- I’ll never forget it, I know. The dragon is going to be released in a dragon preserve in Wales. I’ll wonder about him now and then, and think about what he might be doing. I love the thought of having had some small hand in caring for such a magnificent animal.

…Listen to me getting sentimental over a dragon. I’m totally losing it. But I know you understand.

Love, Kerri


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : November 16, 1991
Dear Severus,

How are things at Hogwarts? Any more close calls or suspicious events? How are you?

I am sorry that you lost your match -- for your sake. Personally, I don’t care that much about Quidditch myself. There’s no sense worrying over one game anyway when you’re on the winning streak that you guys are on. That’s why all the other teams are out to get you -- and the other heads of house. That, and the house cup. Has Slytherin ever failed to get it in all the years you’ve been head of house?

Things are heating up here -- not literally, of course. I’m freezing to death in this weather. We live right on the ocean so we have the wind from it to contend with as well. But things are getting crazy with essays and assignments and things right now. I’ll be glad when it’s over and I can take a break. I’m sure you’re looking forward to time off too, unless you spend to plan the holiday grading essays.

Why aren’t you going home for Christmas? Don’t you usually go home? I assume that you aren’t this year since you have me meeting you at Hogwarts -- or are you leaving after that? I think you ought to get away from Hogwarts for a while. It would do you good.

I’m cooking up a plot to get back at Gustav Goyle for all his nastiness to me that I know you’d find amusing. Well…actually it’s pretty mean so I guess you and I have a warped sense of humor. (Hmmm, wonder where that comes from?) I won’t tell you about it now because I’m not sure I’ll even get the chance to do it. I’ll give you this much of a hint…it has to do with some flesh eating slugs that I just happen to have laying around.

Your sister, Kerri


Letter from Ginerva Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : November 14, 1991
Dear Kerri

What a great idea ! My brothers tease so much I love to get back at them. I took the hair out of my mums hairbrush and she didn’t see me. Let me know what happens, okay?

Love Ginny






I found out something about Augustus today -- he’s a father. I walked into work today to find him passing photos around the office. It’s getting close to the full moon so I’d decided to be nice and treat them to burgers again. Streak, who had been looking at the pictures, thrust them at me and dived into the bag like a maniac. “Meat!”

“One each.” I told him pointedly.

“Remus is asleep. What he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him.”

Remus, gray faced and exhausted looking, was sound asleep with his head on the table. The bread and butter he’d brought for lunch was laying nearby, half eaten. I didn’t have the heart to wake him, so I set his burger aside and guarded it from the others.

“Hey --- “ Streak complained. “I need my strength you know! It’s every man-eating werewolf for himself. Give me that burger or I’ll come after you on the full moon and bite your tasty looking ----”

“Who is this?” I cut in, holding up the pictures he’d handed me, which were of a plump, pretty baby girl.

“Felicia.” said Augustus around a mouthful of burger. “My daughter.”

“You have a daughter? How old is she?”

“Just turned a year. Pretty, isn’t she?”

“She looks like her mother.” said Basil facetiously.

“Do I know her mother?” I asked.

“No. She’s normal.” answered Augustus. “So is Felica, thank God. We didn’t exactly plan it to happen….a baby. Adana has custody. We decided that was best.”

“But you do go see her, right?”

“No. We decided that was best too. It was my idea.” he added quickly, seeing the disapproving look on my face. “It’s better if she never knows. Kids pick on other kids who have fathers that sprout fangs and claws once a month.”

“Have you ever seen her in person?” I asked, horrified.

“Once. When she was born. It’s best if she never knows who I am. She doesn’t even have my name and that’s how I want it.”

“I wish you wouldn’t tell her things like that.” came a voice, hoarse with sleep. Remus was awake. “It gets her worked up. You’ll have her picketing the Ministry for werewolf rights.”

“Someone should.” I told him. “Augustus, if she grows up thinking that you didn’t want her, she’ll end up hating you, even if she doesn’t know who you are.”

“Good point. Maybe I should tell Adara to tell her I died.” said Augustus thoughtfully.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“She could tell her that you died saving someone from a werewolf.” Basil suggested.

“The Minister of Magic.” said Streak. “You saved Fudge from a killer werewolf and tragically died.”

“No !” exclaimed Brand’ Here it is -- here it is. The ultimate hero story. You died saving Harry Potter from You-Know-Who!”

“That’s it. I’m going back to sleep.” said Remus wearily. “Kerri -- wake me up when they leave.”

The boys ignored him and continued to add to the story, each new suggestion more ridiculous than the rest. I can’t imagine how on earth Remus managed to fall asleep again with all the noise they were making, but he did. I wonder, when they get older will they be as exhausted as that? Hard to believe.

Tonight I finished up the voice changing potion Tonks and I made, and sent off the howler.

“I should be the one to do it.” she said in a businesslike tone. “I saw Charlie get a howler once so I know how to make it convincing.”

“What did he get a howler for?”

“He got caught stealing panties.”

“Not to wear, I hope.” I laughed.

“No. It was meant as a joke, but he got caught at it.”

“Do you know exactly what you’re going to say?” I asked, deciding that I didn't want to hear the sordid details.

“No, but I doubt Mrs. Weasley plans it out ahead of time either. I’ll just make it up as I go.”

I watched her drink the potion and grasp at her throat, looking uncomfortable. “Ooops. Did I put in rat spleen instead of frog spleen?" I asked. " That’s voice removing potion. And it’s permanent.”

Her eyes widened in horror before I added, “Kidding. See there -- I can keep up with you fun loving pranksters when I want to.”

“Cerridwyn Howard!” she exclaimed in Mrs. Weasley’s voice. “What on earth were you thinking? Did you even stop to think what it would do to your father and me? Do you even care? I didn’t send you to school to behave like that ! Don’t you let me ever catch you at such a trick again!”

“Okay, okay.” I laughed. “Now let’s record the howler.”

Tonks cleared her throat. “Give me a moment. I don’t want to laugh -- he was laughing in his. Okay …. Ready.” Holding the red envelope close to her lips, she shouted. “Charles Weasley ! How dare you try to hide things from your very own mother ? The person who fed you and cared for you and changed your diapers ! You’re acting like a twelve year old. Did you honestly think that I wouldn’t find out about all those injuries? Did you think I wouldn’t hear that you’ve been playing Quidditch with dragons flying nearby? Have you lost your mind? How could you be so reckless? Is that how I raised you? If I hear you’ve been playing any more risky games, I’m going to come over there and bring you right back home! Do you hear me, young man? I don’t care how old you are -- I’m still your mother!”

Tonks sealed the envelope quickly because she was shaking with suppressed laughter.

“That’s really mean, you know.” I told her.

“How long before the potion wears off?”

“Oh no -- I forgot to add bat butts --- it won’t wear off without the….”

“Oh knock it off.” she said, slapping me with a rolled up newspaper. “No potion in the world calls for bat butts. I’m going to go mail this.”

I took advantage of being alone by sitting down by the fire to write letters -- just not to Charlie. I think I’ve done enough to him for one night.




Well, when I first took this job, Remus told me that rule number one was to learn to placidly accept insults. I guess it just isn’t in me to be as cool and calm as he is under pressure. After what happened today, I’m wondering if I’ll have a job to go back to on Monday. It might almost be worth going to Azkaban to blast Goyle into kingdom come.

Remus, like every other werewolf in the place was out today for health reasons, and I was stuck with Gargantua all day long again. For the most part, the day went by without any problems. I half expected Gargantua to say something about the conversation we’d had last month when he’d offered to exchange ’favors’ for ’friendliness’. WHAT A JERK ! I just get mad all over again thinking about it.

Anyway….the day was fairly hectic, which was good, because it kept him from bothering me much. The man is completely incompetent, more interested in stuffing his fat face and leering at me than in getting any work done. And then when he did actually try to help out, I had to keep an eye on him to keep him from screwing things up. I must have caught him in at least half a dozen mistakes.

It was after four when things slowed down that he brought up the subject I’d been dreading. “Kerri, I haven’t seen much of you lately.”

Of course not. Basil and the boys always keep an eye out for him and run to warn me if they see him coming. I spend more time hiding in the restroom than any decent person should.

“It seems like I always miss you.” he added.

“Oh?” I asked, unable to think of a better reply.

“I was hoping….did you think about what we talked about last time?”

“I appreciate the offer, Mr. Goyle.” I said in a calm, businesslike tone that I knew Remus would applaud. “However, I’ve decided that I’m comfortable in the position I now hold, thank you very much.”

“Even after I sent you the chair?” he asked, sounding genuinely surprised that a gift of a chair would not be enough to 'be friendly to him' as he calls it. “I thought it would give you an idea of the sort of things I can do for you.”

A chair….I’m supposed to do unspeakable things with him because he gave me a chair? I wonder what sort of women he’s used to dealing with? It was annoying and funny at the same time. What a complete moron. “I’m very appreciative of the gesture, but I wasn’t aware that you expected anything in return.” I said as stoically as I could. I kept my eyes on what I was doing and tried not to look at him for fear what I was thinking would show on my face.

He was quiet for quite some time. I could feel him looking at me and I didn’t like it. After a long time went by and I refused to look up at him, he said, “You do like men, don’t you?”

Why is it that men who ask me out seem to think I prefer girls when I don’t give in to them? Why can they not wrap their tiny minds around the concept that I simply might not like them? It was the wrong thing for him to say because I’ve heard it before and it never fails to make me furious. Still, I thought of Remus and made a valiant effort to keep my temper. “I’m very fond of men.” I said coolly. “Most of my best friends are male.”

I glanced at the clock…there were twenty minutes to go. It was like looking at an oasis across a thousand miles of desert.

I decided to tidy up the room a bit because I was sick of sitting there across from Gargantua and having him stare at me. He was quiet and I could feel his eyes still following me. As I bent down to pick up a stray instruction, his hand suddenly found itself in a place it had no business being.

Lewd comments and glances I can deal with, but I knew that even Remus wouldn’t want me to tolerate being manhandled. I straightened quickly and wheeled around to face him, shaking with rage. “Don’t you ever touch me like that again.” I said in a clear, deadly voice that would have made Snape proud.

“No?” he asked, his friendly tone suddenly gone. A very ugly look crossed his puffy features. “Don’t forget that I am over you here. It’s not like back at Hogwarts when you were prefect and Head Girl and everyone ate out of your hand. Now I’m in charge and I can make you comfortable or I can make you miserable.”

“Take the chair then.” I said, not bothering to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. I had only just enough self control not to tell him exactly where he could stick that chair.

He stood up…and although I’m tall, Gargantua is one of very few men who dwarfs me. He wasn’t reaching for his wand, but the implied threat was hard to miss. I stood my ground, refusing to give him the satisfaction of making me retreat. It wasn’t easy. From the look on his face, I half expected him to hit me. “You are not going to bully me.” I told him coldly. “You think that because your father owns this place and because the people who work here are down and out, you can treat them all any way you want? Well that won’t work with me. I’m going to tell you as plainly and nicely as I can -- you need to get out of my face right now.”

“This isn’t Hogwarts and you aren‘t Head Girl.” he said flatly. Of that fact at least, he seemed to be sure. “I’m in charge. You want to get by here, you’d better try to stay on my good side.”

“Or what? You’ll sic Fenrir on me?”

“You’d enjoy that too much. I see you around with all those werewolves. You think I don’t know what’s going on?”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed in his face. “Please. Tell me Gargantua -- what do you think is going on?”

“Put it this way….” he snarled “You’ll do for them what you won’t do for me.”

“There are lots of things I do for them that I’d never do for you --- treat them with respect for one, because ‘those werewolves’ are more civilized than you are. And what I do and who I do it with is none of your business. If you’d go out and get a life of your own, maybe you’d be less concerned with the affairs of others.”

I knew I should check myself, but the Snapelike words just kept coming. He’d pushed my temper to the boiling point.

His face turned purple and he brought it close to mine. I didn’t flinch, but my hand went to my wand, ready to attack at the slightest provocation. “Let me make myself clear. I have a new task to add to your job description…..”

And I’d rather not be specific about the details of what he suggested, only that he was very detailed and creative and the thing that he suggested could not be preformed standing up. “Let me think about this….NO.” I told him, and waited to see how he would react to outright refusal.

“Fine. You remember your choice --- you remember when I’ve made your life here sheer hell. You’ll wish you’d answered differently.”

I told him to go do something that had absolutely nothing to do with making cauldrons. Perhaps he went to do it because he went storming out of the office, slamming the door so hard that the windows shook.

Without him there, the room seemed very quiet, and I wondered what my mouth had just gotten me into.


This afternoon I made two meatloaves, one for Tonks and I and one for Remus. I thought that making one for Remus and taking it over would be a good excuse to go over to see him and tell him what I’d done. I hadn’t told anyone yet, but I felt that I wanted him to know. I knew that if I told Tonks, she’d get furious and make me furious again too. My temper has gotten me into enough trouble already. I knew that if I talked to Remus, he’d be sympathetic without rousing my anger. Something about being around him is just calming to me.

It took him a little while to answer the door, gray faced and exhausted looking. “Did I get you up?” I asked him.

“No. I was awake.” he said huskily. He glanced apprehensively over his shoulder and added apologetically, “It’s a mess in here.”

“I had a fight with Gargantua.”

“Come in.”

The house was dim and had the feeling of a sick room. The quilt was rumpled up on the mattress into what was unmistakably a nest. I tried not to notice as he kicked a water bowl into an unobtrusive corner. “Sorry about the mess.” he said.

“It’s fine. We had extra hamburger so I made you a meatloaf.”

“You didn’t have to do that.” he told me, but his eyes were following the dish in my hand with great interest.

“I like to cook.” I answered, setting it down on the hearth. “It’s warm -- you might want to try it now.”

He was wheeling the chair close to the fire. “Have a seat --watch out for the staple. Would you like some tea?”

“If it isn’t any bother.”

“Not at all. I was about to make some for myself anyway.”

“Are you okay?” I couldn’t help asking. Every full moon seems to take a worse toll on him. I could have sworn he’d lost a few pounds in the two days since I’d last seen him.

“Are you?” he asked, evading the question.

“Well….I’ve been thinking about it. I got smart with him at one point and I asked him if he was going to sic Fenrir on me….”

“What----?” he asked, looking horrified.

“Maybe I’d better tell the whole story.”

“Please do.”

So I told him everything that had happened and all the horrible things Goyle and I had said to each other. “Well….I don’t think he’ll go to the extreme of sending Fenrir after you.” said Remus, looking slightly relieved. “If I know him, he’s hoping he can still pressure you into giving in. That’s probably why he didn’t fire you -- that and the fact that he thinks he can have fun making you miserable. You were a good assistant.”

“I told you -- he’s not forcing me out. When I go, I’ll go on my own terms. It’s a matter of principle now. I’ll probably just plan on quitting when I leave for Christmas. Something tells me he won’t be willing to give me time off..”

“You’re so stubborn.” he said, but he didn’t seem to mean it as a criticism.

“Thank you. “ I said, accepting the cup of tea he offered me. It was warm in my chilled hands and smelled good. I was feeling much better now that I had his assurance that I would not have Fenrir gnawing through my door. I guess it was worrying me more than I cared to admit, even to myself. “There’s something else I’ve been wanting to run past you.”

“Yes?”

“I have a relative who sends me money once a month. I don’t really spend it --- a little now and then, but mostly I save it for just in case. I was thinking of using it to buy wands.”

Remus smiled . “You’re really committed to this, aren’t you?”

“You know I am. And it’s going to take forever to save up, and we don’t have forever. The sooner they get to the level where they can do the patronus charm, the better. And it makes sense to teach them all together at the same time, rather than gradually as they get wands.”

“That’s a lot of money to invest.”

“I know.” I agreed. “I don’t have all of it yet, but I should in January. At the rate we’re going now, it’ll be a year before they all have wands.”

“Here’s a suggestion if you really want to do this. Buy the wands, but have them pay you back from that ten percent we’ve been setting aside.”

“That’s what you advise?”

“No. That’s what I suggest.” said Remus slowly. “There’s a subtle difference. What if you had an accident and had to go to St. Mungo’s and the money wasn’t there?”

“What if it wasn’t there in the first place? This relative and I were estranged most of my life. For a long time I couldn’t even stand him and now all of a sudden, he’s decided he wants to be part of my life. Sometimes I feel like I’m closer to you and Basil and the others than I am to him…I spend more time with you. I guess I don’t really see him as a solid fixture in my life yet…”

I knew I was rambling but he didn’t seem to mind. He was listening patiently, his face attentive and politely interested despite it’s weariness. Perhaps I was saying more than I should but it was the first time I’d ever articulated my insecurities about my relationship with Severus to anyone, even myself. Remus just has this aura of safety and trustworthiness about him that makes me want to confide in him. “Anyway…I sort of treat money that I get from him like found money. I don’t expect it or count on it. I live off what I make at work.”

“Your father’s side of the family, I take it?” he asked.

“Yes. A half brother.” I added reluctantly.

“I was an only child, myself. Well…actually I was a twin. My brother didn’t survive birth. Originally we were Remus and Romulus. You have no idea the kind of teasing you have to endure when you’re a werewolf named Remus.”

“I suppose you would.” I agreed. “You ought to eat some of that before it gets cold.” I changed the subject, gesturing toward the meatloaf.

“I’d rather keep it warm and have something nice to come home to after practice.”

“How is your drawing coming?” I asked, swiveling in my chair to find the makeshift easel covered with a sheet.

“Finished. I’m starting a new project now. Colored pencil this time -- a landscape. You can see it when it’s done.”

I coaxed him into showing me more of his drawings which were mostly portraits that had been lovingly stowed in his trunk. Many of the people I knew from work, the commune, or our concerts.

“That’s Vashti.” I said, unable to keep a note of disapproval out of my voice.

“Yes.” he agreed, his voice and face neutral.

“Maybe you could draw a promotional poster for our band.”

“I’ve thought of it, but my current project comes first. I want to finish before the middle of next month.”

By then it was time to go to practice and he was starting to yawn, gray eyes watering. “I’m sorry if I’ve been a bother.” I apologized.

“Of course you haven’t.” he said, stifling another yawn. “If you hadn’t come over, I might have fallen asleep and missed practice. And you brought food -- I never complain about anyone who brings food.”

“You and Goyle. Your favors are easily bought.”

“Except you managed to get a chair out of him, all you get from me is the pleasure of my presence.”

“Which I prefer --- believe me.” I said fervently.

“Speak for yourself. I need a chair -- I wonder if he’d give me one if I was friendly to him?” asked Remus facetiously.

“Trust me -- he’s not your type.” I laughed.

We went over to the commune and arrived just in time to witness Tonks knocking the stuffing out of Basil. They were playing around and when he came at her from behind, she elbowed his stomach, stomped on his foot, whipped around to thrust the heel of her palm against his nose, and kneed him in the groin. It was incredible how quickly and fluidly she did it -- like dancing. And with no mishaps.

Basil crumpled at her feet but I knew he was exaggerating. If she’d wanted to hurt him, we’d have been carting him off to St. Mungo’s.

“What did you do to deserve that?’ asked Remus, eyebrows raised.

“She’s showing us some of her training. Besides all the magical stuff, they make them learn that kind of stuff too.”

“In case we ever get into a situation where we’ve lost our wands.” Tonks explained.

“You know…”said Remus in a significant tone “That sort of thing might be useful for every single woman to know.”

“Absolutely.” Basil agreed. “Women who can put me at their mercy always turn me on. I think I’m in love.”

“I doubt that they turn Goyle on.” said Remus in the same pointed tone.

Basil sat up. “Something happen yesterday?” he asked sharply.

Having told Remus about it, I felt better about telling the others. All of them were furious and Mel had to be restrained to keep him from going out looking for Goyle right then and there.

“Remus is right.” said Tonks, her eyes, which were green that night, blazing with indignation. “I should teach you some of my defense training. You know the department of magical law enforcement doesn’t take what they call ‘Muggle dueling’ seriously. It’s the magical methods of retaliation that can get you arrested.”

“Not our Ministry.” gasped Brand in mock horror. “Surely they wouldn’t punish an innocent girl for jinxing some great big hippo for getting out of line with her?”

“I know.” said Tonks seriously. “I may be intending to work for them one day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know that they have double standards. I could work with you, Kerri. It might come in handy one day.”

I agreed with her, but declined Basil’s offer to pay us if we’d work out in bikinis and let him watch. Idiot. I have a very full plate these days now what with practices, teaching Basil and Brand, and being taught self defense by Tonks. Let’s not forget about finals week either. I really hope that my trip to Hogwarts doesn’t give me anything new to worry about.

Author's Note : Once again, I am very thankful to those of you who have been giving me such encouraging reviews. As requested, I am updating as fast as I can, but sometimes the validation process takes time.

Next Chapter : Kerri's argument with Gustav Goyle results in her being demoted. Unfortunately, Remus also meets the same fate.

Excerpt :
Remus had just emerged from the office looking more ruffled than I’d ever seen him and was headed our way. Augustus and Brand hurried over to see what was going on.

“You’re not kicked out, are you?” I asked.

“I tried to reason with him about demoting you, Kerri…it’s like reasoning with a troll.” said Remus with a touch of anger. “If he thinks he can run it on his own, then he’s welcome to try. I refuse to bail him out when he makes some spectacular mistake.”

“Well look at you there blowing off steam.” Basil teased. “Way to go Remus -- for you, those are fighting words.”

Gargantua was looking out the window, watching us with narrowed eyes. “Watch this,” said Streak. He hopped up onto the counter, turned away from the window, and I quickly dropped my gaze because I knew what he was about to do. There was a general roar of laughter as he mooned Gargantua who came tearing out of the office like a wounded hippo. “That’s a day’s pay you half-breed cur. And you two -- Loogan and Lupin --- get to work or you’re fired!”










Chapter 19: Chapter 19
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An….interesting day with plenty of ups and downs. On the down side, I’ve been demoted, but on the up side, I get to work with Basil and the boys, which is fun. I just feel really bad that I took Remus along with me.

I went to work today very much on my guard, not knowing what to expect, but afraid that I was walking into some sort of unpleasantness. Sure enough, Gargantua was waiting for me in the office. He saw me coming and met me at the door, arms crossed over his chest and a smug look on his face.

A glance past him through the window showed me that the room was mostly empty. Where usually Basil and the others would be there eating lunch, only Remus was there today. He was sitting at the table, doodling on a napkin, looking slightly bored. His eyes met mine briefly before focusing on Gargantua’s back, which was to him.

“You’ve been transferred to another department.” Gargantua told me, looking very pleased with himself.

“Have I?” I asked calmly.

“Packing department. You can work with your boyfriends that you like so much.”

“Sounds like fun -- I’ll go right away. Thank you Mr. Goyle. How are you today, Remus?” I asked pleasantly over Gargantua’s chubby shoulder.

“Just fine, Kerri.” he answered with a smile. “You?”

“Absolutely wonderful.” I told him. “I’ll see you at practice tonight.”

“See you then.”

With another pleasant smile at Gargantua that I hoped would annoy him, I left the office. I felt a bit stupid, because I wasn’t sure where I was going. I’d never spent much time out in the heat and chaos of the warehouse before.

“PSSST!” someone hissed. It was Basil, peeking at me from around a tower of boxes. “Come here, gorgeous.”

Smiling, I went to meet him.

“You’ve been a bad girl.” he said, shaking a finger at me.

“No I haven’t. I’ve been a good girl -- and that’s why I’m here.”

“Well, you’re in my department now, come on.”

I followed him through a maze of row after row of boxes stacked higher than my head. In the very back of the warehouse was a little nook made of more boxes, closed in on three sides and facing a wall on the fourth so that the interior was hidden from any passing high ranking authority. My other band mates were all there, either sprawled on the floor or sitting on stacks of flat boxes that hadn’t been built up yet. They catcalled like they’d never seen me before.

“Oh shut up.”

“I don’t think he wants you having lunch breaks anymore but I’m not cutting into mine to train you.” said Basil, seating himself. “Sit down.” He patted his lap encouragingly.

“You wish.”

“So does Goyle.”

“So what exactly am I going to be doing?” I asked.

“Since using wands isn’t permitted in here and most of the product is too heavy for you to be toting it back and forth in this heat, you ought to be quitting.” answered Basil, wiping sweat from his eyes. “Remus says you won’t though.”

“He’s right.”

“Lucky for you he didn’t send you over there where Fenrir is -- I’m in charge of the packing department so I’ll watch your back. There’s a half troll who’s in charge of the whole warehouse, but I’m pretty much allowed to run things here however I want. I’ll put you making up boxes and pasting shipping labels on them. I don’t want you doing any heavy lifting. There’s a reason why no women are in this department. But don’t worry about it.”

“I expect to pull my own weight.” I said slowly. “It sounds like you’re creating a job just for me because you think I can’t handle the real work.”

“Having boxes already made up and labeled will be a big help and save time. I’ve been trying to tell them that for years anyway. Don’t worry about it.”

“I know how to work with my hands.” I protested. “I’ve had summer jobs in the Muggle world and I’ve helped the gamekeeper at Hogwarts. Have you ever tried picking a ten foot tall pumpkin?”

“Don’t be so fired up to work.” said Streak lazily. “It isn’t worth the trouble. Whether you work hard or not, you still get paid the same. They don’t care so why should you?”

“Because I have a conscience? Because I don’t want to shove everything off on you guys?”

“Lose your conscience fast.” Brand advised. “It won’t do you any good in this place. No one cares. Whether you’re one of us or not, the Goyles think we’re all animals.”

The buzzer went off, signifying that lunch was over. It was a horrible, grating thing, worse than nails down a chalkboard.

“Come on, Sweetie.” said Basil, putting an arm around me.

“Don’t call me that -- Fenrir calls me that.”

“Oh gross. I am sorry.”

He led me to a long counter attached to some shelves laden with stacks of flat boxes of varying sizes, and showed me how to make them up and paste the labels. “For now, that’s all you have to do. Later I might let you work with some of the size one and two cauldrons if we get an order. I’ll just be back here doing supervisor things if you need me.”

“Which means he’ll be back there checking out your backside.” Mel clarified.

“Oh nice.” I said sarcastically.

“We think so.”

The packing department is at the opposite end of the warehouse from the smelter, but the heat is still overwhelming. It’s thick and heavy, you can almost feel it like a weight pressing down on you. The place is full of dust and dirt, grime and soot. The air is full of the shouts of men, the clang of metal, and the creaking of machines.

The counter where I work marks the end of Basil’s department which runs from there, to the far end of the warehouse. On the other side are ranks of low tables where people sit and assemble the moving parts for self stirring and collapsible cauldrons. Most were hags and displaced goblins. None were talking and they all sat very still with their heads down, only their hands moving as they worked.

In contrast, Basil’s department, which is comprised mostly of male werewolves, is a very lively place. There was a radio blaring at the far end of my counter and every now and then Streak would jump onto the table and dance, making faces at Goyle through the window. Most of the men in the department are a rowdy, but harmless lot, and there was a great deal of joking and showing off that appeared to be for my benefit.

All of them were shirtless and I couldn’t help notice that they were well built from all the heavy lifting they do every day. Many had visible scars from having been bitten, except for a few, like Basil who had been born with the disease.

This was the first time I’d ever gotten an up close look at Basil with his shirt off. He has a large tattoo across his back that I’d never seen before, a snowy wolf with electric blue eyes howling toward the sky. Large, old fashioned lettering emblazoned beneath the picture read “White Wolf”. I also noticed that he has some piercings that I’d never had the occasion to see before.

“Didn’t that hurt?” I asked when he stopped to check on me once.

“These?” he asked, looking down. “Nah. It was close to the full moon and I’d drunk so much pepperup potion that I was too hyper to feel anything. I did these too.” he said, gesturing to the multiple rings in his ears. A teasing smile twisted his lips. “Do you have anything pierced that I haven’t seen?”

“No.”

“If you decide you want to, let me know. I’ll do it for free. A buddy who hangs out over at the Hardluck did my tattoo for free since I did his piercings. I got the tattoo because I figured that it wasn’t quite right that most everyone else has a scar to show that they’re a werewolf. They went through excruciating pain when they were bit, and I was just born with it. Didn’t seem right, you know?”

“I’ve never heard you be so sentimental before.” I told him.

“Impressive, eh? I can be serious when I have to be.”

“Did you say that you did the piercing on yourself?” I asked, looking at them again with a wince.

“Sure. It was easy. I just took a….uh-oh. That can’t be good.” He focused on something behind me and I turned around to see what it was.

Remus had just emerged from the office looking more ruffled than I’d ever seen him and was headed our way. Augustus and Brand hurried over to see what was going on.

“Don’t tell me you refused to make out with him too, Remus.” said Basil. “He just has no luck.”

“You’re not kicked out, are you?” I asked.

“I tried to reason with him about demoting you, Kerri…it’s like reasoning with a troll.” said Remus angrily. “If he thinks he can run it on his own, then he’s welcome to try. I refuse to bail him out when he makes some spectacular mistake.”

“Well look at you there blowing off steam.” Basil teased. “Way to go Remus -- for you, those are fighting words.”

Gargantua was looking out the window, watching us with narrowed eyes. “Watch this,” said Streak. He hopped up onto the counter, turned away from the window, and I quickly dropped my gaze because I knew what he was about to do. There was a general roar of laughter as he mooned Gargantua who came tearing out of the office like a wounded hippo. “That’s a day’s pay you half-breed cur. And you two -- Loogan and Lupin --- get to work or you’re fired.”

“That was worth it.” said Streak in a satisfied tone as he got down from the counter. “You can look now, Kerri. Honestly -- I’m not shy.”

“Take the spot beside Kerri, Remus.” said Basil, snickering. “Pack up the size six pewters will you?”

“Of course. “

Basil slapped him on the back and walked off to give Streak a high five.

“I’m sorry Remus.” I said miserably, watching him pull some of the boxes I’d made over to his side of the counter.

“It isn’t your fault. I should have known better than to try reason with him.”

“You’ve done this job before?”

“I started here. I always knew that office job was too good to last.”

I started to answer but a teasing voice echoed across the department “You’re just a working stiff now, Remus.”

“Yeah.” called someone else. “Come on Lupin we all know your shoulder is mangled piece of meat ! Don’t die of the heat to spare our delicate feelings.”

“Nah.” said the other voice. “He’s being modest because of her -- doesn’t want her to get hot and bothered.”

“Grossed out, more like.”

“Oh come on, you two.” came Augustus’s voice. “We all know you want him to take his shirt off so you can get a peek.”

“No fair you guys can take off your shirts and I can’t.” I complained. Mine was already soaked through with sweat and sticking to my skin.

“Feel free.” said Augustus. “Really, we don’t mind.”

“I’m afraid you stepped into that one.” laughed Remus.

“I’ll just keep quiet from here on in.”

Despite having been demoted, it was really a fun day, joking around with my friends. The work I was doing was easy, mindless work that I didn’t have to concentrate on. My hands fell into a rhythm and I kept Remus well supplied with boxes.

Often, Remus and I would glance curiously toward the office to see how Gargantua was doing. He was looking slightly panicked and red faced, moving faster than I’d have ever given him credit for.

“Wonder what Fenrir will think?” I asked. “Maybe they’ll finish each other off.”

“Kerri.” said Remus in mild disapproval.

“Where does Fenrir work anyway?”

“Not here. The next warehouse over in shipping. If he worked over here I really would have to quit.”

About the time 3:30 rolled around, a question occurred to me. “Remus -- working in the office is the reason you had overtime. You’ve lost that, haven’t you?”

“I have the work that I take home to make up for it. And you reminded me….” I watched as he deliberately caught Basil’s eye and signaled him to come over.

“What?”

“Have you done anything to…prepare for the nightshift?”

“What?” asked Basil, not comprehending. Then his eyes fell on me and understanding dawned in them. “Oh…you’re right. I’ll see what I can do.”

“What was that about?” I asked as he hurried off.

“I don’t like the thought of you here alone with no one to keep an eye on you. I’d rather not see you turn up at practice later with tooth marks in your neck.”

“It isn’t that bad is it?”

“I’d just as soon not find out. “ said Remus grimly.

“I can take care of myself.” I complained.

“I think Dumbledore would want me to keep an eye on you. I’m sure he had his reasons for giving you my name.”

“Maybe he wanted me to look after you.”

“Maybe he did.” Remus agreed, though I thought I detected amusement in his eyes. “Let’s neither of us disappoint him.”

About that time Basil returned with a tall, slender young man. He had straight, shoulder length black hair and astonishingly blue eyes. He had a very handsome face with almost noble features.

“Kerri Howard, Lorcan Teague,. Lorcan, Kerri”. Basil introduced.

The hand Lorcan offered me was cold, and rather soft for a working class man.”Pleased to meet you.” he said serenely.

“Likewise.”

“I just want her making boxes and pasting labels.” Basil told him. “No one should be over here bothering her. Not Goyle, and certainly not Fenrir Grayback. I want her healthy and in one piece -- she sings in my band.”

“Well you have your priorities straight, don’t you?” I said.

Lorcan smiled and then looked at Basil. “Don’t worry about her.”

“That’s the night shift supervisor.” Remus explained as Basil and Lorcan walked off, talking about an impending order. “One of our resident vampires, and one that I know is safe.”

“When I leave for Christmas, I’ll quit.” I promised him. “You’re going to kill yourself worrying about me.”

“When are you leaving?”

“Friday after next. I’ll be away until at least the first of the year.”

“What will you do for a job when you get back?” he asked.

“Flip burgers probably.” I said in disgust.

“Anything is better than this, Kerri. Fenrir shows you more attention than necessary. I’d like to think that he does it just to annoy the rest of us, but with him, you never know. He’s becoming more insane by the year.”

“I had no idea you all cared that much.”

“Trust me, we do.” said Remus, smiling. “You heard Basil -- you’re his star.”

I started to answer but that obnoxious buzzer went off again, signaling the change of shift. “I’ll pick you up later for practice.” I told Remus.

“I’ll be ready.”

It was depressing watching them all walk out without me. After they left, the day slowed down to a crawl, for both myself and Gargantua who was sitting down eating a pizza and ignoring the work backing up around him.

At about five Fenrir went into the office and emerged looking annoyed. I quickly averted my eyes but he spotted me and came over. “What the hell?”

“We were demoted.” I answered, pasting a label on a box.

“What the hell for?”

“Does he need a reason?”

“He has everything screwed up in there -- I’ll never get this on time. Moron. One of these days…he’s useful now, that’s all.” the look on his face was suddenly one of pure evil and I found it very easy to imagine him mauling a frightened little boy. “Never bite the hand that feeds you. “ he continued. “Listen, I need copies of this. Could you---?”

“I’m not allowed to use my wand here anymore.”

Fenrir glanced over his shoulder and positioned his thick, square body between me and the office window. “He won’t see.”

“Why bother?” I asked, remembering Streak’s earlier words. “Look at him in there stuffing his face. He doesn’t care. Why should you?”

“You’re right. I think I’ll go hide somewhere for the next hour.” His eyes suddenly shifted to something behind me. “Oh let me guess. You’re the chaperone? Yes. Lupin wouldn’t forget a detail like that. Have a nice night, sweetie.”

“Barbarian.” came Lorcan’s soft voice. “He’s why the werewolves will never have the rights we have. That, and the fact that we naturally exude a certain sensuality that people find appealing.” he smiled at me. “You handled him well.”

“Thank you.” I said, returning to my labels. “Remus taught me to be cautiously polite and Streak taught me not to care too much about the job. Is there anything else I should know?”

Lorcan sat down on the edge of the counter. “Don’t let this place drive you mad. I see people come in here and watch them change; some sooner, some later. Those who don’t are the ones who stay focused, don’t worry about what their neighbor is doing, and don’t take things too seriously. People who can ignore the filth, heat, pain and unfairness are the ones who stay sane. Your friends Basil and Streak are too scatterbrained to notice much of anything I think. Lupin…he’s different. He’s had too much practice at not feeling and not noticing, and that’s bad too. He needs to get out of here before it gets to him. So…you’re in a band?”

“Hybrid.”

“How does the werewolf circuit pay?” he asked knowingly.

“About as good as this place does.”

“I’ll see if I can get you into the vampire circuit. We pay more. Who’s your manager?”

“Remus.”

“I’ll talk to him then. Right now I should get to work.”

Things slowed down to a crawl again after that. Gargantua was sleeping in Remus’s old spot using a pizza box for a pillow. I made up my mind to bring the slugs, and perhaps a little sleeping potion to work tomorrow. Now that Gargantua has moved into the office, he’s put himself into my reach. Very thoughtful of him.

I know exactly how to do it, too. During my last half hour, Gargantua had some of his things moved from his old office to the new one. A pair of half trolls brought in a better chair, a small couch, a food locker, and…a potted plant. The place is so cramped with all the extra furniture that the plant is jammed against the couch. If I put the slugs in the plant, and he falls asleep on the couch…..Cruel maybe, but not fatal. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer person.

Authors Note : Thank you to everyone who has been kind enough to review. I really appreciate it.

Next Chapter : As the time draws near for her resignation, Kerri makes more friends at work and gets her final revenge on Gustav Goyle. Before she leaves for Hogwarts and home, Kerri has Remus and the Weasleys over for dinner.

Excerpt :
“Apparently that potted plant he had in here became infested with flesh eating slugs after some compost was added to the pot the other day.” Remus answered. His face was perfectly straight and his voice expressionless, but I thought I caught a glint of amusement in his eye. “Anyway, Goyle fell asleep with his feet practically in the leaves…”

“And they crawled up his leg to his….” Basil began again.

“They were all over him from the waist down.” Remus interrupted.

“Poor thing.” I said sarcastically.










Chapter 20: Chapter 20
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Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : November 23, 1991
Dear Kerri,

Things have been quiet here, no new disasters or near disasters to report, for which I am most grateful. In the past week, no students have turned themselves green, blown themselves up, or poisoned themselves…alas. And no enchanted mops outside my door. As for myself, I am well enough and looking forward to your visit.

I am not a braggart, but yes -- Slytherin has won the house cup every year since I became head. I take great pride in that fact. Before I took over, we had been on a losing streak to Gyffindor….of course. Minerva is dying to unseat us this year. She thinks she has a chance at the Quidditch cup because of Potter. However, I am not about to let that happen. I will push my students harder….if we lose to Gryffindor I don’t think I’ll be able to take the shame.

I have chosen to stay at Hogwarts this year after little deliberation. Put plainly, I do not trust Quirrel here under the same roof with Potter during the holidays. Students are more free at this time of year and wander around too much. At least if the boy is in class, he’s keeping out of trouble.

There are, of course, other members of staff around to supervise, but they are yet unaware of the situation. Professor Dumbledore is here, but cannot be everywhere at once. I, on the other hand, as I’m sure you know, possess the singular ability of making my students feel I can do that very thing. (A necessary trait in a teacher). Not knowing exactly when evil Professor Snape might turn up keeps them on their toes. I would like to think that Quirrel has kept some of that old horror of me that he had as a student.

Besides, I prefer to do things myself to be sure they are done right. I entrust important tasks to no other hands but my own. Hence, a very miserable Christmas this year, trapped in this god-forsaken castle. The only bright spot in the weeks to come is your impending visit. I wish you could stay longer, but I know you want to see your mother, and no doubt she worries about you.

One word of caution in regard to your flesh eating slug project --- DO NOT GET CAUGHT ! I know it sounds obvious but penalties are much higher in the real world than they are here at Hogwarts. Be careful to whom you tell your plan. Things that have the potential to hurt you are best kept to yourself….but I daresay you’ve learned that already considering the identity of your father.

On the day of your arrival I shall await you in my chambers. I shall leave the door to my office unlocked -- my rooms are right through there -- so you can simply walk right in. Fortunately, most of the students are leaving for home and we shouldn’t be disturbed. I look forward to seeing you.

Your Brother, Severus


Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : November 25, 1991
Dear Kerri,

How are you? I am fine.

Sounds like you had fun with the dragon. Now you’ve done something I’ve never had the chance to do in all my time game keeping at Hogwarts. Youre really lucky to have a chance like that. I told you you’d have fun at Merlin when you were so nervous about going.

Harry and Ron are doing okay. They’ve been staying out of trouble mostly since that troll got in. I think it’s because they have a new friend. A girl who makes them walk the straight and narrow so to speak. She reminds me of you because she’s really smart.

Got your Christmas present here and I’m going to give it to you when you come here so you get it on time. What day are you getting here?

Love Hagrid




Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : November 21, 1991
Dear Kerri,

I’m very busy so this will be short. It isn’t all fun and games here, you know. I do have studying to do too -- just like you and Tonks going about your pitiful, boring lives there at Merlin.

I’d like to thank you two for sending that Howler. (I know Tonks was in on it). When it came, I completely panicked and wrote to Mum, thinking I was answering a howler she had sent. Imagine my surprise to learn that she had no idea what I was talking about.

Still, there was a silver lining to the situation. She and I have talked things out and come to an understanding. Now I’m really looking forward to my parents coming to visit. So thanks a lot -- and tell Tonks for me too.

(You’re not as smart as you thought, are you?)

Things are okay here, but freezing cold. Because of the snow, we’ve had to abandon our camp in favor of he local inn here in town. I’m using the time to rewrite my field notes and flirt with girls. The life of a dragon researcher is so difficult….sitting by a fire, playing chess, talking Quidditch, flirting, eating, playing music, flirting….it’s just hell on earth here.

So as you can see, I’m pretty busy. Have a Merry Christmas.

Charlie. 



I still feel that it’s all my fault Remus lost the office job, but I’m enjoying being out in the warehouse with the others. Basil is getting to where he’s trusting me with actual work over the last two days. It’s more out of necessity than anything because with Goyle in the office, copies of orders, packing lists, and labels are slow coming, which is putting us behind.

I’m allowed to box up the smaller, size one and two cauldrons. It isn’t so bad once you fall into a rhythm, and then the work goes quickly. Basil has Mel removing the finished ones from my work area and stacking them on pallets for me so I don’t have to do too much lifting. I’ve done harder work in Hagrid’s garden than what I’m doing now -- Basil is spoiling me rotten.

Remus is in the spot beside me, handling the larger products. Outwardly, he’ s his usual, cheerful self, but I know he isn’t happy. I’m wondering, and I think he is too, how he’s going to manage when the full moon draws near. Lycanthropy is a wasting disease and he’d older than Basil and the others and hasn’t had the benefit of the wolfsbane potion for as long as they have. Consequently, full moons take a harder toll on him. He keeps telling me that I don’t belong in that place but if he keeps this up for another year, he’s going to kill himself.

I never knew what went into making cauldrons before. I never thought about it through all of those potions lessons I’ve taken. I never realized the kind of places that produce them, and the blood, sweat, and dignity that the workers sacrifice just to scrape a bare living. I’ve learned a lot during my time here and have no regrets.

My presence in the warehouse seems to be earning me some respect among the werewolves that work in our department. I know many of them by sight from around the commune and at concerts, but now I’m getting to know their names and talk to them a bit. At first, they seemed suspicious of me, but lately they’re lightening up.

It’s been since one of them offered me a drink out of his water bottle the other day. I swear you could have heard a pin drop. People were looking at me to see my reaction while trying not to look as though they were. They were all wondering if I’d rebuff him, afraid of drinking after him and catching his disease. Well, that’s not how you catch lycanthropy, and I knew it. I don’t like to drink after people as a rule, but I didn’t want to turn him down and have people think it was because he was a werewolf. So I accepted the drink and since then, I’ve been accepted in return.

Also, I think I’m the first and only woman to ever work alongside them, and a ‘normal’ one at that. The fact that I’m willing to get in with them and work alongside seems to have won some respect. Such a simple thing too -- just doing my job.

I’m getting to know some of the vampires on the second shift too. The one who takes Remus’s spot at night is a very androgynous looking female whose gender I was unsure of until the first time we spoke to each other.

“You two together.” grunted Goyle, passing us on the way to the restroom after a snack that consisted of several burgers. “Figures. Knew you liked girls, Kerri.”

“Do you?” asked the girl next to me after he’d gone.

“Not like that.”

“Pity. My name is Ryann.” she said, offering me her hand.

“Kerri.”

“I know.”

If I did like girls, I would be attracted to Ryann because there’s something very striking about her looks. She looks like either a very masculine girl or a very feminine boy, I can never quite decide which. She has short, black hair that curls around her ears, fair skin, and black eyes. She’s very petite, much much shorter than I am, and flat chested. I wish I was flat chested like that -- it would make shooting a crossbow easier.

She’s very open about being a vampire, which makes her very interesting to talk to. You don’t meet too many vampires walking around Hogwarts, after all.

“I grew up getting my blood supply from the specialty stores.” she told me frankly. “As all responsible vampires do, of course. I’m not one of those freaks that goes around grabbing people on the streets and sucking the life out of them. No, the days of running about, feasting on fair maidens are now over, alas.” She looked at me with amused eyes, as though daring me to comment. “Not that it doesn’t go on still now and then.” she added darkly, casting a slightly suspicious look around the room. “But these days some of my blood supply comes from my girlfriend.” She reached under the counter for her bag and came up with a photo. “Jillian.” she said happily.

Like Ryann, she was quite attractive. Her hair was also short, but blonde. She had blue eyes set like sapphires in a cute, pixyish face. “Doesn’t it hurt….being your donor?” I asked.

“I don’t know…I’ve never been on the receiving end.”

“But if you bite her, won’t she become a vampire?”

“She would if I went overboard.” said Ryann, putting the photo away and kicking her bag back under the counter. “I’m very careful not to take too much. It’s not like lycanthropy that just takes one little nip and you have it.. Jill says it’s actually a pleasant experience for her…romantic…intimate.”

“I suppose it might be. I’d never thought about it like that.”

“You ought to try going out with a vampire sometime. We make wonderful lovers.”

“So I’ve heard.” I told her.

“I know a few single guys…girls too for that matter. Me, I can go either way. I just have way too much to offer to restrict myself to one or the other. I’m very serious about Jill, though.”

“No thanks. I stay way too busy to date.”

“Pity. You should make time. But what about you and that werewolf? The one who works here during the day?”

“Remus?” I asked, amused at the implication. “We’re just friends.”

“Really?” she asked, sounding surprised. “There’s something in the way you interact with each other…the way you look at each other.”

“There’s a twelve year age difference.” I laughed.

“Twelve years is nothing. I once went with a vampire who was two hundred ears old.”

“And how old are you?”

“Twenty two. He was incredible to talk to.” said Ryann reminiscently. “And talented in other respects too, if you know what I mean.”

“I suppose you would learn a lot over the space of two hundred years.”

“I expect to live at least that long unless some crazy vampire hunter gets me. “

“What about Jillian?” I asked.

“We’ve talked about that. I could make her a vampire too, I guess….but she doesn’t seem keen on the idea. People always tell me that I shouldn’t have gotten involved with someone outside my race, but you can’t control who you fall in love with. She tells me ‘I’ll get old and you’ll be changing my diapers’. The thought doesn’t make me happy, but living without her sounds much worse. I guess I’ll just have to take things as they come. It’s all anyone can do.”

Who knew you could have such deep conversations in a workhouse of all places?

I’ve been taking the flesh eating slugs to work every day lately. They’re still transfigured into bracelets, so I just put them on and wear them. I’m waiting for a good chance to go into the office and put them in the plant next to Goyle’s couch. He takes a nap there every day after four and I’m sure that he’s close enough to the plant that the slugs would get on him, sensing his blood. I have to do it soon, because I’m running out of time.

Is it wrong of me to be planning this? It really is a dirty trick, if not quite up to Voldemort standards. Sometimes I wonder if I don’t just worry about it too much. If I keep trying to find Voldemort inside myself, one of these days I might.

Why shouldn’t I get back at Goyle for the way he treated me…and Remus…and everyone? Sometimes there’s a big gap between what’s legal and what’s right and fair. It isn’t right that he can abuse his employees that way, even if the law does say there’s nothing wrong with it. 




I’m sitting here in  bed at 10:30 on a Monday morning -- what a wonderful feeling. I have absolutely nothing to do and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. Apparently Tonks is too because she’s asleep in the bed beside me.

I left the workhouse for the last time on Friday night, promising Ryann I’d keep in touch and come meet Gillian when I get home from Christmas break. I’m going to miss the boys, but I’ll still see them at practices, and I have a feeling they may show up here at the house from time to time.

My sojourn at the workhouse was short, but educational, and I made some good friends. And….I helped Remus get back into the office temporarily. He’ll be thrown back out into the warehouse once Gargantua gets out of the hospital, but every little bit helps.

It was Wednesday when I finally got my revenge. I was almost time for the day shift to go home and I was running low on labels for the boxes Basil had me making up again.

“You’re leaving Friday -- just take it easy.” he told me when I protested this. “No sense in killing yourself with real work.”

Poor Remus working beside me was red faced and sweaty, doggedly pushing mammoth size eight cauldrons into huge packing crates. He was walking very stiffly, as if his back and shoulders were hurting, although he refused to complain. I’d been trying to help him by stuffing packing paper down into the corners of the crates until Basil spotted me and decided to give me something less physical to do.

When I started getting low on labels I knew that going to the office to order more would give me the chance I’ve been waiting for. I waited until Goyle left on a trip to the bathroom and then hurried to make my move, trying to do it quickly and without attracting attention.

Walking into the office felt like walking into a freezer after the heat outside. I’d forgotten just now nice that climate control spell is. Crouching down behind the table, I slipped the bracelets off my arms and set them amongst the foliage of the potted plant. Some quick wandwork and they were transfigured back into fat, green flesh eating slugs. I pushed the plant a bit closer to the couch so that the tips of the leaves brushed the arm. Then I moved on to the next….and more diabolical part of the plan.

Goyle always keeps a large thermos on the table that he drinks from all day. I noticed the habit from those times when I was stuck in the office with him. It struck me that it might be easy to put in a drop or two of sleeping potion to ensure that he didn’t wake up too soon if…well…it really was an evil thing to do, but I did it anyway. He deserved it!

I am NOT like my father, because I have a conscience at least !

After I put the potion in his drink, I scribbled down the order for my labels and then beat a hasty retreat.

“Would you look at that?” asked Remus a half hour later, straightening up with difficulty from the crate he’d been bent over. Goyle was asleep on the couch, his feet resting on the same arm that the leaves of the plant were touching.

“He’s early today.” I said casually. “Usually he waits until the night shift comes in at least.”

“You know in all the time I worked in there, I never once slept on the job.” said Remus in an equally casual tone.

“And you had more reason to.”

He stretched wearily and I heard joints pop. He winced, shaking his head ruefully, and shoved another cauldron into a crate.

It was very hard for me not to keep sneaking peeks in Goyle’s direction, but I knew I needed to exercise self control or risk looking suspicious. After four when the boys went home, it got even harder, but luckily Ryann was there to distract me.

At twenty past five Fenrir went into the office and I couldn’t help but watch. I saw him approach the table and write down an order, then look over at Goyle, who was still asleep. He looked at him for quite some time before going around the table and bending over him, leaning very close. The thought of Fenrir leaning over me like that was quite disturbing, but again, Goyle deserved it.

I saw Fenrir straighten up rather quickly, and then back toward the door. Then he emerged, looking very happy and excited about something, before making a very hasty retreat back to his department.

After that, no one else entered the office. I felt mildly concerned that perhaps I might have gone too far, but not enough to care. Why should I feel guilty about getting revenge on some creep who hit on me, kicked Remus out of the office, and treats people like dirt because he can? He deserved what he got.

At any rate, next day when I came to work I found Basil waiting for me at the door, practically jumping up and down with excitement. “Goyle’s in the hospital -- he got into flesh eating slugs. They climbed under his robes and up his legs to his….”

“Okay…I don’t think I need that much detail.” I interrupted.

Basil grinned. “Anyway, you and Remus are back in the office because no one else can run it.”

Sure enough, Remus was there and so were the guys, three of them squeezed together on the sofa, and Streak sitting on the table. Remus wasn’t eating, he was working on instructions.

“I hope you’re getting overtime.” I told him.

“I am. Things got so far behind yesterday that they offered it to me.”

“What exactly happened here?”

“Apparently that potted plant he had in here became infested with flesh eating slugs after some compost was added to the pot the other day.” Remus answered. His face was perfectly straight and his voice expressionless, but I thought I caught a glint of amusement in his eye. “Anyway, Goyle fell asleep with his feet practically in the leaves…”

“And they crawled up his leg to his….” Basil began again.

“They were all over him from the waist down.” Remus interrupted.

“Poor thing.” I said sarcastically.

“Well, I’m not going to say that I feel that sorry for him.” Remus admitted a bit shamefully. “He’s not exactly the most pleasant person I’ve ever known.”

“He’s in the hospital.” laughed Mel. “I feel sorry for the healers.”

“I hope they don’t turn their backs on him.” I said, and told them how Goyle had grabbed me that time, a detail that I had withheld even from Remus.

Remus made a disgusted sound deep in his throat, and after that, seemed a little less inclined to feel sorry for Goyle, although he didn’t say it directly. Nevertheless, I don’t ever want him to know that I’m responsible for putting the slugs in that plant in the first place. He’d think I was evil…and maybe I am…and I want Remus to think well of me.

I can’t wait to tell Severus though, and I still say he got what he deserved.



Well, tomorrow I’m headed home to Hogwarts for a three day visit. This week has been a fun one with no obligations whatsoever. I’m confident that my grades are good and I’m looking forward to time away from here.

On Tuesday night I went to a party with Tonks. Just a small group of girls getting together to hang out, really. I knew many of them from Hogwarts and some of them were even old Ravenclaws.

One of them was Alexandra, a senior here who was engaged to Aedennan Quirrel for a while. It seems that they broke up after he returned from abroad because ‘his goals and values’ have changed. I couldn’t get her to elaborate on what she meant by that. She seemed uncomfortable talking about it so I didn’t press the matter.

I’m becoming very keen to get to Hogwarts and see what’s going on with him firsthand. Severus says Aedennan is out to get Harry Potter….It’s just so hard to imagine. Maybe they’ve both inhaled too much floo powder or something.

I had the Weasleys over for dinner yesterday night, but no Ginny. Mr. and Mrs. Weasely found someone to stay with her and turned the outing into a date night. That’s so sweet for a couple that’s been married as long as they have. Sometimes I think they have a very nice, enviable life. They don’t have much money, but they do have each other.

On the down side, they also have Fred and George, but no one can have a perfect life, I guess.

Mr. Weasley took me aside to tell me that he’s added an invisibility booster to the car. “I just watched how you took the dash apart last time, so I knew how to do it myself.” he beamed.

“And you didn’t think you were mechanical -- way to go Mr. Weasley.” I whispered so that Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t hear.

It was the first time that I’ve cooked a dinner and had guests over, just like mistress of my own house and everything. I made chops with seasoned potatoes and a huge squash that Hagrid sent me from his garden. Remus, who seemed to want to do something to help, brought wine and dessert. I was glad he brought the wine, because not being a drinker myself, it had totally slipped my mind. I guess Remus sort of saved me from being a bad hostess. Thanks to him, everything went off without a hitch.

Remus stayed behind after they left to help clear up. I’ve never seen another man that good at household spells. It’s a pity that he’s sworn off of women because he’d be a wonderful catch for some lady.

I gave him his Christmas present and told him not to unwrap it until Christmas, but he knew what it was right away. “A very squashy package.” he commented, squeezing it. “I’ll put it on my chair and use it as a cushion until I can open it. I really wish someone would get me a cushion for Christmas.”

“Maybe they will if you’re lucky.”

I also loaded him down with tins of shortbread cookies for the boys.

Before he left, Tonks returned from practice, looking furious. “Dementors in the commune! You’re right Kerri -- something has to be done.”

“Was anyone hurt?” Remus asked.

“No. But it took me forever to get rid of them. Have you ever been there…the only person with a wand…when they attacked?”

Remus nodded his head knowingly. “Yes. They spread throughout the rings, forcing you to run from floor to floor to find them. That’s why I don’t live there anymore.”

“I’m going to talk to some professors at school when I get back. There has to be something. There has to be.”

Remus was looking at her in a kindly way, as if he would feel bad if he argued with her and burst her bubble.

“You think we’re naïve.” I said.

“I think you’re young. And I think I need to go home and sleep so I can get up in the morning.” he smiled cheerfully. “Merry Christmas to the both of you. Safe trip back home, Kerri.

Tonks was still furious so we cleared away the furniture from the middle of the room and I let her beat me up…I mean, teach me self defense for a while. It’s amazing how light and quick she is when she’s in combat mode. I think her clumsiness is mostly in her head. When she concentrates on the movement of her body, she does just fine. I told her so and it seemed to cheer her up. We sat by the fire and ate a box of chocolate truffles and then went to bed. Except for the part with the dementors, it was a pleasant start to the holiday.

Author's Note : Thanks to everyone who has reviewed,. I love you all dearly.

Next Chapter : Kerri arrives at Hogwarts for a three day visit. She spends time with Snape and Hagrid, meets Harry Potter for the first time, and encounters a certain three headed dog named Fluffy.

Excerpt :

“I’m going to assume that the Cerberus is there to keep people out. So it’s guarding something?”

Snape shrugged his shoulders.

“You can’t tell me.”

“If I were you, I’d go see Hagrid. It’s his dog.”

“What makes you think he’ll tell me?” I asked. “He isn’t supposed to any more than you are, is he?”

An evil smile crossed his features. “Try taking a bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey with you. The great persuader -- especially where Hagrid is concerned.”

“I am not going to get Hagrid drunk!”

“Use whatever means of trickery are at your disposal then. Keep in mind that the imperius curse is illegal, although I won’t turn you in.”

I suspected he was teasing but he kept such a straight face that I couldn’t be sure



Chapter 21: Chapter 21
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December 6, 1991
Sometimes I envy Dumbledore that pensieve of his. Like right now when I feel like I’m drowning in my own thoughts….or that they’re chasing each other through my head like rabid squirrels. Hey --- I’m tired, okay? Was it only just this morning that I arrived here?

Hogwarts --- home --- the grounds were glittering under a sheet of snow as smooth as silk where it remained untouched, piled high in drifts against walls and outbuildings. Someone, probably Hagrid, had cleared the main walkway up to the school, and some students had built snow forts on either side. They were embroiled in a tempestuous snowball fight as I approached.

Long, full skirts are no good for leaving cleared pathways and walking through deep snow to avoid being snowballed to death. I’d have worn trousers if I’d known what I was walking into. My apprehension doubled when I caught a flash of red hair behind the right hand snow fort. I knew then what I was dealing with and my odds did not look good. Weasleys -- sugared up, hyperactive, out-for-the-holidays, red-haired, card carrying Weasleys. I think I’d rather face Fenrir on a full moon night.

“Hello there you Weasleys!” I called. The snowballs quit flying, but no one moved from the safety of their forts. There was no answer, but I knew they were listening. “I’d like to request safe passage through the war zone as I’m not dressed for combat.”

Still no answer. The silence was ominous but I had no choice but to go through. Facing Fred and George is like facing a mean dog -- never show fear. Cautiously, poised for an attack, I approached the forts. Immediately, two snowballs zoomed at me from the right hand one. I only ducked them just in time, diving behind the left hand fort as the barrage began again.

I found myself laying on my stomach next to Ron Weasely who was grinning. Beside him, looking at me with a kind of puzzled curiosity, was another boy who could only have been Harry Potter. I could see his scar shining livid on his forehead beneath a shock of messy black hair. He wears glasses, and has the most startlingly beautiful green eyes I’ve ever seen in my life. In a few years he’ll have to beat the girls off with a stick.

A few more snowballs zoomed over our heads.

“Come on Kerri -- let’s see what you’ve got!” called one of the twins.

“What’s wrong? Scared to take on a couple underage wizards?” taunted the other.

“May I?” I asked, gesturing to a snowball clutched in Ron’s hand.

“Yeah.”

“Let’s call this my first class here at Hogwarts, okay? Slide over a bit and watch closely. Exponentia ! “ A quick wave of my wand, and I had fifty snowballs. “You have to envision how many copies you want when you say the word. That’s very important. Now this is a basic enlargement charm. Engorgio!” Now I had fifty very large snowballs. “Now this is where you can help me. You know how to levitate things, right?”

“Wingardium Leviosa.” said Ron promptly.

“Great. You know what to do -- on three.”

On my signal we began the counterattack, the snowballs being so large and flying so fast that Fred and George were no match for us and soon buried. Ron and Harry followed at my heels to check that there was no permanent damage. “Oh they can get out of that easily.” I said. “But let’s face it -- they can get out of anything.”

“Yeah -- let’s get out of here before they do.” said Ron fervently. “Come on Harry, let’s get her bags.”

“Thank you.” I said, watching them retrieve them.

“This is my friend Harry.” said Ron, as we started up the walk.

“Hello Harry. I’m Kerri Howard.” I said as casually as I could. There he was, Voldemort’s downfall and his last victim…I hope. The top of his head was about level with my shoulder.

“Hi. That was cool how you handled Fred and George.”

“Thanks.”

“Kerri is going to teach here when she gets out of university.” Ron explained. “Care of Magical Creatures. Kettleburn is about ready to chuck it in.”

“Well, I heard that he lost another finger last year.” I said. “You can’t really blame him.”

“Wish you’d take over potions.” said Ron darkly.

Harry nodded.

“Snape still his usual, cheerful self?” I asked.

“He’s an evil git.” said Ron, exchanging significant looks with Harry.

“If it makes you feel any better, he was horrible to me too.” I told them.

“And she was a perfect student too!” Ron told Harry. “Perfect grades. She was a prefect, and head girl -- won lots of awards. Goes to show you that nothing is good enough for Snape. She was as bad as Percy.”

“Ron!” I gasped in mock anger.

Both boys laughed. “No one could be that bad.” said Harry.

“I didn’t mean it that way.” said Ron “Kerri’s alright. But her grades were perfect and it still didn’t keep Snape from being horrible to her. My brother Charlie told me. You just can’t win with Snape.”

“Unless you’re Slytherin.” said Harry darkly.

“Unless you’re Slytherin.” I agreed.

We had reached the entrance courtyard which was deserted because of the cold. “I have business in the opposite direction.” I told them, gesturing vaguely. The last thing I wanted was for them to see where I was going. “Could you just leave my bags in the entrance hall?”

“Sure.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“See you later, Kerri.”

“Bye.”

I watched them heave my bags up the stairs and through the oak front doors. Once they were safely out of sight I set off in the opposite direction, across the viaduct and into the viaduct entrance. No one was around as I started down the narrow, winding stair to the dungeons.

My footsteps echoed hollowly off the stone, each step nearer increasing the old feeling of foreboding that I’ve always felt when going down there. All too well I remembered the dread of going to potions class, knowing that Snape was waiting there, just looking for a reason to make me miserable. The two years and many letters that had passed between us since did nothing to alleviate that old fear.

The corridor was deserted and tomblike, the silence pressing in on me from all sides. I had the ridiculous urge to scream just for the sake of breaking it. I couldn’t hold back a laugh at the sight of a lone mop, busily mopping away right in the entrance of Snape’s office door. I couldn’t step around it without it swiping across my shoes.

It was so cold in Snape’s office that I could see my breath and there was ice shining on the walls. The silence was broken by muffled piano music that seemed to be coming from the other side of the door into his living quarters. I didn’t know the piece, but it was sad, and eerily beautiful. It put me in mind of winter and ice storms, weariness and struggle, all at once.

I timidly knocked on the door and the music abruptly stopped. A moment later the door opened and Snape stood there, a dark figure against the firelight blazing from within.

“Kerri, come inside.” he put a hand on my arm and practically pulled me in. “You’re soaked through. What happened?”

“I got caught in the middle of a snowball fight.”

“Juvenile delinquents.” Snape spat as he locked the door behind me and shoved a rolled up towel against the crack in at the bottom to keep the warm air from escaping. “Sit down by the fire.”

The room was small and glowed warmly from the roaring fire blazing away in the fireplace. Everything was green and silver -- the two plush chairs before the fire, the carpets, the hangings, even the ceiling which was glass, behind which rippled the green depths of the lake, reposing beneath it’s sheet of ice.

There were bookshelves laden with richly dyed leather volumes, a color coded cubby for filing student’s essays, an ornate, claw footed table and chairs, and an upright piano tucked in a corner. The sconces on the walls were entwined with silver snakes whose emerald eyes winked weirdly in the firelight. The room was neat, cozy, and unmistakably masculine.

“There’s a mop outside your door.” I said as he sat down in the chair opposite mine.

“Good. That narrows it down. Most of the brats have gone home.”

“Your apartment is beautiful. I love the ceiling. If it was me, I think I’d lay around looking at it all night.”

His black eyes flicked upwards as though seeing it for the first time. “I suppose I’m used to it after all these years.”

“Where does the chimney go?”

“It comes out above the kitchens -- it’s been enchanted.”

We were quiet for a moment. It was awkward meeting Snape at Hogwarts. Too much unpleasantness has passed between us here.

“How were your grades?” he asked.

“They’re due in today. I should get an owl.”

He seemed to be trying to think of something to say. “So…welcome back. I daresay you’re pleased to he here?”

“Apprehensive actually, under the circumstances.”

“Does anyone know you’re here?”

“The Weasleys.” I answered ruefully, wondering if Fred and George had caught up to Ron and Harry yet. “And Harry Potter.”

“Oh so you’ve met our little celebrity, have you?” asked Snape avidly.

“He seemed like a nice boy.”

“Don’t let that act fool you. He has everyone else around this place eating out of his sainted hands.”

“Assuming that you’re right about Aedennnan, why do you care if he kills Harry then?” I asked in annoyance.

He gave me a long, withering, slightly aggrieved look. “I care.” he said flatly.

“What is it that you want to tell me?”

“It’s what I’m not going to tell you -- Quirrel’s motive. I’m going to give you what you need to figure it out for yourself.”

“Professor Dumbledore always knows everything that goes on around here -- he probably knows I’m here right now. Do you really think he won’t figure out what you’re up to?”

Snape didn’t flinch. His black eyes glittered steadily at me in the firelight. “If he objects, the blame is mine. I’ve made up my mind to do this. First, I need your cooperation --- stay away from Quirrel until you have all the facts.”

“All right.” I said grudgingly, hoping he didn’t expect me to hide out in the dungeons for three days.

“Tonight, once everyone is asleep, I want you to go to the third floor corridor on the right hand side. You will find the door there locked. Use whatever method you prefer to gain entrance, just don’t be seen. Be cautious, because what is behind the door is very dangerous. Heed this warning.”

Standing up, Snape raised the hem of his robe, showing me a very badly healed animal bite on one of his legs.

“May I?” I asked, leaning forward.

“If you wish.”

I studied the injury with the eyes of someone familiar with gamekeeping, walking my fingers over the bite radius. “I know what this looks like, but…the size! I know the animals that live in and around Hogwarts and we had nothing like this while I was here.”

“The thing that did it is not what you need to see.” said Snape grimly as he let his robe drop. “You need to see what it’s standing on.”

“And I assume I’m not supposed to harm the…it’s a dog of some sort, isn’t it? A canine definitely -- a huge one.”

“Correct on both counts.”

“Madam Pomfrey usually does a better healing job than that.” I said, still unnerved by his mangled flesh.

“I didn’t take it to her. It would have roused suspicions. No one is supposed to be in there.”

“What were you doing there then?”

“I suspected Quirrel of tampering….it was Halloween night.” said Snape darkly. “The night the troll mysteriously got in. I wanted to be sure he hadn’t gotten past.”

“You’re going to be scarred for life, you know.”

“Fortunately I am not accustomed to going about in short skirts.”

“Anything else I should know?” I asked.

“Not until you’ve been to the third floor corridor.”

By this time, my clothes were nearly dry and I was warm. “This place isn’t so bad.” I told him. “It’s kind of cozy.”

“Originally there was no fireplace.”

“Way down here? It would be unbearable in winter.”

Snape smiled. “Slytherin built these apartments for his own private study. He felt that cold fostered alertness, which is naturally conducive to scholarly pursuits.”

“And frostbite.”

“He was a very dedicated, self disciplined man. Have you ever read any of his writings?”

“No.” I admitted.

“You of all people should.” said Snape reproachfully. Rising, he prowled over to the bookcase beside the piano.

I followed, seating myself on the piano bench. There was a piece of sheet music propped up on the stand, and a half finished glass of wine setting on the top.

“Would you like a glass?” he asked, his eyes suspiciously amused.

“No thanks.”

“Just a little? It won’t kill you, you know.”

I just shot him an annoyed look in response.

“I don’t drink often…but looking at the prospect of being here all holiday…” his voice trailed off hopelessly as his eyes scanned the shelf. “It’s enough to drive anyone to drink..”

“You play the piano?”

Snape rolled his eyes. “My mother forced me to learn. I hated it with a passion but when I grew older and found myself facing long nights here with nothing better to do, I picked it up again. The piano belonged to my mother.”

So he had a sentimental streak…incredible. Ron and Harry would never believe it if I told them. Which I wouldn’t. I knew that this side of Snape was one that he’d rather die than show to the world. He let his guard down around me, and I was flattered by his trust. I wouldn’t betray him for anything…even if he does get on my nerves.

“You know that I can play guitar and sing, don’t you?” I asked.

“I’ve heard you. Granted, your style of music is not to my taste…if you can call it music. But I slipped in once to hear your band perform while you were here. Ah -- here it is.” He slipped a book with a handsome green and sliver cover off the shelf. “It will give you something to read on the trip.”

“You know I should go get my bags, get settled in. My things are sitting in the entrance hall.”

“About that -- I would prefer that you stay here. Or, I could put you up in Hogsmeade. I do not want you running into Quirrel until you have all the facts.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that.” I said, trying not to sound too annoyed. “You want me to stay holed up here for three days?”

“No. Just until you have all the facts. Tomorrow at least. You can have my bedroom -- it’s quite comfortable. Much nicer than back at Spinner’s End.”

“Where will you sleep?” I asked dubiously.

“I’ll make a place for myself in here. It really isn’t much of a bother -- humor me -- it’s very important.”

“All right.” I relented.

“Good. Stay here and keep warm. I’ll go down and have the house elves send up your bags and dinner. They’ll be here before I am.”

He seemed very pleased to have company, which surprised me a bit. Maybe the Terror of Potions is human after all.

“Hagrid is expecting me to be here today --- I’m going down to visit him later whether you want me to or not.” I warned him.

“If you go down later in the evening, I see no harm. Sit down by the fire and make yourself at home. I’ll be back soon.”

He strode from the room in a billow of black robes. “Incendio!” I heard him say as he passed the mop, and I knew it had gone up in flames.

About fifteen minutes later my bags materialized, sent down by some hard working house elf. Fifteen minutes after that, Snape returned clutching an envelope in his hand. “This had arrived for you from Merlin.”

“That would be my grades.” I said, snatching it from him and slitting it open. My eyes scanned the page and I felt a shiver of cold shock shoot through me.

“What?” asked Snape, watching my expression.

Wordlessly, I handed him the letter and watched his expression as he heard it. “Top of the entire school.” he said, looking up at me. I hadn’t seen him so excited since Charlie had accidentally blown up a cauldron full of stewed salamanders in one of the dungeons. Granted, this was an entirely different type of excitement. “Two years from now, you will graduate valedictorian. I know it.” he said firmly.

“…just because I aced one term…the work will get harder.”

“You are going to be great one day, Kerri. Whatever happens in the future, remember that your brother told you that. I wish I had half of your talent. They always talk of the greatness of Albus Dumbledore…he is nothing to what you have the potential to become.”

“Now you’re being ridiculous.” I said dismissively, as I sat down in the nearest chair.

“Why do you find it hard to accept that you are gifted?”

“I make good grades. That doesn’t make me a genius.”

“No. You’re a genius, and that’s why you get good grades --- above average good grades.” said Snape, still looking at the letter. “Your problem is that you know who you inherited it from and you don’t want to accept it. If you throw away all this talent that you have…so help me…I’d kill just to have an ounce of it. What you have is special.”

“Throw it away?” I queried.

“Marry some idiot who isn’t good enough for you, or do nothing but teach thankless juvenile delinquents all your life. Don’t you listen to me? Find a passion in life -- a question to answer --- a problem to solve that is seemingly unsolvable, and solve it. Don’t throw it all away.” He was very vehement on this point, almost angry.


I thought of my project of teaching Basil and the boys to do magic. It wasn’t quite a passion but it was a task that some might consider undoable, and I was committed to it. Still, I had a feeling that the mere mention of the word ‘werewolf’ would send him into fits of rage. Snape is not the most open minded person I know.

I was saved by dinner materializing on the table, amid a dozen or so student essays that had been laying there waiting to be graded. They were bound with blue ribbon, indicating that they belonged to Ravenclaw students. Snape stowed them in their cubby and then we sat down across from each other to eat.

After dinner I went down to visit Hagrid. It was sunset by then and the snow was flushed rosy pink as I crossed the covered bridge and headed down to the cabin. I paused atop the hill and looked down at what made for a very charming scene. Curls of smoke drifted from the chimney of Hagrid’s cabin, nestled against a solid wall of pines, while a solitary owl winged it’s way across the garden, eyes bright in the dusky light.

Shivering, I drew my cloak more tightly around myself and began making my way down a path, formed no doubt by Hagrid’s large frame plowing through the snow on trips to and from the castle. I knocked on the door and was greeted by Fang’s deep barks.

“Back Fang !” I could hear Fang’s claws scrabbling on the floor as he was pulled away from the door. The door opened, and as always, I was swept up into a hug that half squeezed the life out of me.

"Kerri, how are yeh?"

“Fine thanks. You?”

“Can’t complain. I was startin to worry about yeh. Thought ye’d be here sooner.”

“I had some places to stop before I got here.” I said, sitting down at the table. It was covered with magical seed catalogs -- pages and pages of colorful fruits and veggies that just oozed spring. “Is it this time already?”

“Never too early to start plannin'. Takes the edge off the cold on a winter’s night. Want to help?”

“Sure.”

This occupied a couple hours time so it was pitch black when I headed back toward the castle. As I started across the grounds, an idea occurred to me. Instead of crossing the bridge, I set off toward the Quidditch pitch, a place I seldom frequented as a student unless Charlie wheedled me into attending one of his matches. No one was around as I slinked my way to the broom shed and magicked open the lock. Not being one of those people obsessed with brooms, I picked one at random and headed outside.

Mounting the broom, I kicked off from the ground, cold air burning my face and blowing up my skirt. Guided only by the frosty moon, I set out to find the window to the corridor that Snape wanted me to visit. It had occurred to me that it might be easier than actually going inside and risking a limb.

I glided over vanilla frosted lawns, counting third floor windows until I felt I was close to where the corridor must be. To get my bearings, I pulled up level with a darkened window and peered inside -- the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. I was on the opposite side from the window I needed then….but….assuming that Aedennan’s quarters were set up like Snape’s, his living area must be close by.

Curious, I pulled up to the next window, which I knew should be his office. The drapes were pulled shut, but light was spilling from the next window over. Cautiously, I approached it, and chanced a glimpse inside. It was his room alright, and he was in there. I didn’t have time to notice more than that he was nervously pacing back and forth, before he stopped suddenly and wheeled around.

I just had time to duck out of sight, dipping the broom beneath a decorative outcrop under the window. I heard the window open, and flattened myself more firmly to the wall, hoping that a sudden gust of wind wouldn’t flap my skirts and get his attention. I definitely knew I didn’t want to get caught.

There was a long pause during which I could sense him listening. I was struck by an unmistakable sense of dread such as I’d had that night at The Lair when Fenrir and his buddies had been lurking in the crowd. It was something I’d never experienced at Hogwarts before, a primal, instinctive feeling of imminent danger.

I thought I heard a muffled whisper from above, but couldn’t make out the words. Finally, I heard the window close and the light faded as the drapes were securely drawn. Only then did I let out the breath I’d been holding. Hagrid taught me long ago in our forays into the woods to always pay attention to instinct. My instincts were thrumming, telling me that I wanted no part of whatever was in that room.

Shivering in a way that had nothing whatsoever to do with the cold, I hastened away from the window, more curious than ever to find out what was in the third floor corridor.

Counting windows again, I pulled up outside what I was sure was the correct one this time. The glass was opaque with darkness and frost, and I had to break it to see inside. I paused, listening for signs of detection, but the only thing I heard was an ominous, low rumble that made my hair stand on end. “Illuminatus Temporal.”

Blinding white sparks shot from my wand and through the window opening, converging into a glowing ball that hovered six feet off the floor. It gave enough light that I could see the interior of the room quite clearly.

The sight that met me made me catch my breath. This could only be Hagrid’s three headed dog that he’d written to me about last year. What had he said when I’d asked him about it? Dumbledore needed it for something? For what? Why here of all places -- in the school with children around?

All six eyes were blinking sleepily up at the ball of light that had invaded it’s rest. I watched it stretch and get up to investigate, three noses quivering as it snuffed the air. It had been laying on the trap door to the passage below…was that what Snape had wanted me to see? As far as I knew, that passage was abandoned and used only on occasion for storage. Why such high security now?

The dog was becoming more alert by the moment. It turned in my direction, apparently picking up my scent. The window was too narrow for even one of it’s massive heads to fit through, but I still backed away with great respect as it bounded toward me with a snarl. About then my ball of light evaporated and the room was shrouded in darkness once more. Quickly, I did a repairing spell on the window and got myself out of the vicinity as discreetly as I could.

Feeling very uneasy, I returned the broom and walked back up to the school. Snape was grading essays when I walked in, having just given a Hufflepuff fifth year a zero with a dramatic flourish of his quill. “What took you so long? You didn’t go up there already did you? It’s still early.”

“It’s dark enough for the way I did it. I took a broom and looked in through the window.” I said, ignoring the severity of his tone. “Cerberus Canis -- that’s what that dog is called. The species anyway. Hagrid calls it Fluffy.”

“Fluffy?” Snape repeated, his voice full of contempt. “Good god -- the man really is daft.”

“He is not!” I snapped, not in the mood for his unpleasantness.

He laid aside the raven feather quill in his hand and rolled up the essay he’d been grading, securing it with it’s yellow Hufflepuff ribbon. “Well -- tell me what you saw.”

I told him the whole story, beginning with those tense moments outside Aedennan’s window.

“That was stupid thing to do. I told you to keep away from him.” said Snape, frowning. Then, his brow smoothed out and he added. “But it sounds as though he’s a bit jumpy. Good. He should be.”

I didn’t feel like contradicting him this time. I could not deny what I’d sensed beneath that window…something was wrong. “Isn’t that a storage area beneath that trap door?”

“Sometimes. It’s a very old section of the castle that used to be quite grand until the far end caved in. “

“I’m going to assume that the Cerberus is there to keep people out. So it’s guarding something?”

Snape shrugged his shoulders.

“You can’t tell me.”

“If I were you, I’d go see Hagrid. It’s his dog.”

“What makes you think he’ll tell me?” I asked. “He isn’t supposed to any more than you are, is he?”

An evil smile crossed his features. “Try taking a bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey with you. The great persuader -- especially where Hagrid is concerned.”

“I am not going to get Hagrid drunk!”

“Use whatever means of trickery are at your disposal then. Keep in mind that the imperius curse is illegal, although I won’t turn you in.”

I suspected he was teasing but he kept such a straight face that I couldn’t be sure. “I don’t want to trick him.” I said uncomfortably.

“I wouldn’t ask it of you if it wasn’t imperative.”

“All of this sneaking around leads to motive?”

“Yes.”

“You honestly think Aedennan Quirrel is working for Voldemort?” I tried to put incredulity into my tone, but after what I’d felt earlier beneath his window, I wasn’t quite so sure.

Snape flinched. “Don’t start that again.”

“What? Voldemort?”

This time I’d gone too far. He stood up quickly and was suddenly the Terror of Potions once more. He looked so furious that I actually retreated a few steps. “I have told you before to have respect for that name. There was a time when people were slaughtered for using it ---- I know --- I did some of the slaughtering. Afterwards….when I turned on him… I survived because I knew how to control my words and actions. If it happens again, I can teach you to survive too -- if you don’t get yourself killed first. You have a passionate nature, Cerridwyn. Passionate people usually do rash, stupid things and die young.”

“You honestly think he’s going to make a comeback?” I asked, impatiently waving away the majority of this little speech.

“I believe he’ll try. I believe he is trying now. “

“And you think Aedennan is helping him?”

“Yes I do.” said Snape firmly. “And so does the headmaster. Quirrel returned home from Albania which is where the Dark Lord was last known to be.”

“According to Dumbledore?”

“According to Dumbledore.”

“And he’s here and not in Albania because ---?” I prompted.

“Take Hagrid a bottle of Ogden’s.” said Snape shortly, sitting back down and unfurling another essay.

“I’m going to bed.” I said flatly.

“Right through there.” he said, pointing. “Your bags are already there.”

“Fine.”

“Kerri? Good night.” His voice had suddenly gone from sharp to soft.

“Good night.”

So now I’m wondering….wondering lots of things. What on earth is going on around this place? Do I want to get involved? I really don’t want to trick Hagrid into telling me something he’s promised not to. I’ll feel horrible, and so will he. On the other hand, we’ll all feel a lot worse if something happens to that bright eyed boy I met on my way in this morning. That, if nothing else, has stiffened my resolve.

Author's Notes : Thanks to everyone who has been reviewing and sticking with this for so long. I really appreciate you.

Next Chapter :
Assistance in figuring out the mystery of what Fluffy is guarding inadvertently comes from an unexpected source --- Harry and Ron. Kerri goes to visit Quirrel.

Excerpt : “Can we ask you something?” asked Ron, exchanging a guilty glance with Harry.

“Sure.” I answered, knowing what was coming.

“Who’s Nicholas Flamel?”

“Why do you ask?”

“For a class.”

“You’re on holiday.” I pointed out. “Keep it up Ron, and you’ll be just like Percy.”

“Oh shut up. No way could I ever be that bad.”

“What class is it for?”

“Charms.” said Harry, at the same time Ron blurted, “Potions.”

They glared at each other in frustration.

“Both really.” said Ron vaguely.









Chapter 22: Chapter 22
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December 7, 1991

What a visit this is turning out to be. What a depressing day. I’m tired, but I can’t bring myself to sleep. I keeping going over everything in my mind.

I slept in late and ate breakfast alone in Severus’s chambers. He was nowhere to be seen, probably having breakfast in the Great Hall or prowling around looking for some Christmas spirit to dampen. The house elves had sent up a hearty breakfast that I finished quickly before I bundled up and went down to Hagrid’s cabin -- without taking along a bottle of whiskey.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to resort to trickery. I’m so glad, because I’d hate to do that to Hagrid. Things just sort of fell together, almost too wonderfully to be coincidence, but I’ll take whatever I can get. Maybe I’m just meant to have a hand in this.

Pausing at the top of the hill and looking down at Hagrid’s cabin, I found that he wasn’t alone. He was taking a bundle of wood inside with two boys trailing along after him, one with red hair, the other with black. Even at that distance, I recognized Ron and Harry. This annoyed me at first, but actually proved to be positively fortuitous.

I headed down the slope toward them and their voices carried back to me in the clear morning air. “Oh come on Hagrid -- you don’t have to tell us what the three headed dog is guarding.” Roy was saying.

I halted in my tracks, and moved behind a convenient tree to listen. What were the odds?

“Yeah.” Harry piped up. “We just want to know who Nicholas Flamel is. I know I’ve read about him somewhere so you may as well tell us. We’re going to find out anyway.”

“I’m say’in nothing’.” said Hagrid gruffly, sounding more than a little peeved.

Perhaps the boys heard the danger in his tone because they stopped walking and let him get ahead. I saw their shoulders hunch with disappointment before they put their heads together in private conference.

Surely…surely…questions were chasing themselves through my head again as I walked back to the bridge where I knew I could cut the boys off without looking as though I was trying. How did they know about Fluffy? Had Hagrid told them? Why were they so curious about Nicholas Flamel? It sounded like they thought there was a connection between Flamel and whatever the dog was guarding. It was pretty clear that they’d been doing detective work too, and I wondered how much they knew.

I leaned over the rail of the covered bridge and stared unseeingly at the gray water below. The boys were right that the dog was guarding something…were they right about a connection to Nicholas Flamel? I’d once written an essay comparing alchemy and potions in which I had heavily quoted Mr. Flamel. Hence, I knew what Ron and Harry apparently didn’t -- that he’s famous for making and owning the only known Philosopher’s Stone in existence. The thought gave me chills. I could see where a philosopher’s stone would be of great interest to Voldemort…or someone trying to restore him.

I was thoughtfully staring over the railing of the bridge when I felt two presences on either side of me.

“What are you looking at?” asked Ron, peering over the edge.

“The view. You guys have no idea how lucky you are just to be able to wake up at Hogwarts every day.” I told them. Ron shrugged, but there was a look in Harry’s eyes that told me that he understood exactly what I meant.

“Can we ask you something?” asked Ron, exchanging a guilty glance with Harry.

“Sure.” I answered, knowing what was coming.

“Who’s Nicholas Flamel?”

“Why do you ask?”

“For a class.”

“You’re on holiday.” I pointed out. “Keep it up Ron, and you’ll be just like Percy.”

“Oh shut up. No way could I ever be that bad.”

“What class is it for?”

“Charms.” said Harry, at the same time Ron blurted, “Potions.”

They glared at each other in frustration.

“Both really.” said Ron vaguely.

“Have you tried the library?”

“Have you seen all the books in there?” asked Ron.

“Yes. As a matter of fact, I have. That’s the point of a library, Ron. Have you tried opening any of those books?”

Harry laughed. “She sounds like Hermione.”

“Oh come on.” said Ron. “That library is huge. At least give us a hint where to look.”

“Do I look like Madam Pince?” I asked.

“No. But knowing you, you’ve probably memorized every book in there.”

“Why don’t you ask Madame Pince?”

Ron and Harry exchanged dark looks. Ron glanced swiftly up at me and I sensed that he was almost on the verge of telling me something. Then he seemed to think better of it. “It’s sort of a…secret project.”

“Well if it’s for potions, why don’t you ask Professor Snape?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“Don’t be thick!” said Ron in exasperation. “Snape is ….”

I saw Harry give his head the slightest of shakes and Ron didn’t finish the sentence. “We’ll just go to the library.” he said dully. “See you.”

“Bye.” said Harry.

And the two of them slouched off toward the castle, looking like a pair of whipped puppies.

Feeling very disturbed, I headed down to Hagrid’s cabin. I had a feeling that Ron and Harry had managed to get more information out of him than they ought to have, and I felt guilty about doing the same, but I wanted to get some sort of idea about how on much track they really were.

“Hey there Kerri.” said Hagrid cheerfully as he opened the door. “Want to go for a walk in the woods? Look for the foal?”

“Maybe tomorrow. I’m not dressed for it.”

“What do you think?” he asked, pulling a partially completed flute from his pocket. “For Harry’s Christmas.”

“It’s nice. I just saw Harry and Ron. They looked up to something -- asking odd questions. They asked me who Nicholas Flamel is.”

“They didn’ “ he exclaimed, looking highly annoyed and slightly embarrassed. “I wish they’d leave off. What…what did you tell them?”

“To look it up. What are they up to?”

Hagrid shook his shaggy head as he turned to the stove.”Sorry Kerri. Can’t tell yeh that. Part of a promise I made Dumbledore.”

I decided to push a bit further. “They were asking about three headed dogs too. That’s what really made me think they were up to something.”

Hagrid’s body language gave away more than anything. His hands shook dangerously as he poured water from the kettle. “Fluffy?”

“I thought Fluffy wasn’t around anymore…or is she?”

“Fluffy is a he.” said Hagrid shiftily, avoiding the question.

“I’d love to see him.”

“Well I’d like to show him to you, but I can’t. It’s private see, what he’s doin.’ Promised Dumbledore not to tell.”

I sat there blankly for a few moments, dread roiling in my stomach. “How did Ron and Harry find out about Fluffy?”

“Well now…I don’t know that they do know, exactly.” said Hagrid uncomfortably, and not meeting my eyes.

I wanted to press some more about Nicholas Flamel and find out if the boys were right about a connection, but decided it would be cruel. I could probably get that information from Severus. So I had pity on Hagrid and asked some random questions about Fluffy, as though I was just mildly interested in him from the viewpoint of an animal lover. That seemed to relax him and when I finally left, he was in a good mood again.

I broke into a run as soon as I was out of sight of his cabin, with my skirts held high as I slid slightly in a patch of ice in the courtyard. Miraculously, I made it to the dungeons without breaking my neck.

Severus was back and he looked up with mild disapproval as I burst in the door. “The Ogden’s worked, I take it?”

“The thing hidden under the trap door…don’t tell me it’s a philosopher’s stone.” I said, praying that it wasn’t.

A closed expression came ove his face. “All right. I won’t.”

“But you’re not denying it?”

Severus shrugged his shoulders. He watched me with interest as I nervously paced the room. The more I thought about it, the more panicked I began to feel. “Tell me your theory.” he said calmly, as though he was teaching a class. “Assuming that your speculation is correct.” he added hastily.

“If the thing down there is a philosopher’s stone, I can see where Vol --- We-All-Know-Who would find it useful. If you’re right, and Aedennan has somehow gotten mixed up in a plot to bring him back, that stone would be a motive. A valuable one.”

“But?” he asked, noting the disbelief in my tone.

“Where is the proof that he’s after it?”

“Besides the fact that I am certain that he let the troll in that night to have a look at the security measures…” said Severus, handing me a newspaper clipping that he seemed to have had nearby in case I asked this question.

“The Gringott’s break in? What does that have to do with it?”

“ According to the headmaster, Quirrel was there the day it happened. Of course he got the information from Hagrid, who met Quirrel in the Leaky Cauldron….”

Again that annoying sarcasm. I chose to ignore the insinuation. “So?”

“Use your head.” said Snape irritably. “Would you keep something as valuable as what we’re discussing underneath your mattress? “

“You’re saying that Aedennan tried to steal the stone from Gringotts?”

“I said nothing of the sort.”

“I take it that you can’t because you promised that you wouldn’t. That still doesn’t prove anything. I don’t like making decisions based on speculation.”

“Educated guesses.” Severus corrected. “I wouldn’t let you steer off course. If I were you, I’d go upstairs and pay a visit to Quirrel. Judge for yourself if he seems capable of it. You’ll find that he’s changed a great deal.”

“Shall I take a bottle of Ogden’s with me?” I asked sarcastically.

“I think one shot would knock him out cold. He doesn’t look the type who can hold his liquor, or I’d have tried that already.”

“You could try poison.” I suggested, only half kidding. I wasn’t sure I’d put it past him.

“The headmaster would have my head. A pity, because it would save a great deal of trouble.”

There was a glitter in his eyes that suggested that he was also teasing. I hoped.

“I guess I should go.” I said reluctantly.

“Not yet. Let me advise you how to speak to him. First…control your temper. Do not placidly agree to everything he says, but leave open the possibility that you might be swayed to his way of thinking. Try to give the impression that you are interested in listening to more of the philosophies he voiced in that letter.”

“He knows me better than that. He’d never fall for it.”

“People change over time.” said Severus dismissively. “You’re not the same person you were when you were students here any more than he is. And if you have an ounce of the Dark Lord’s talent in you….and you do….you can be very convincing when you choose. It is a matter of cunning and delicacy. Do not fall into the trap of lying to him outright. Use truths to bolster the untruths so that they blend together.”

“This is experience talking, isn’t it?”

“It is how I survived while informing on the Dark Lord’s activities.”

“I’m not promising anything. I’m not helping you unless I’m sure something is going on.” I warned him flatly.

“Then go see him. You’ll see that I’m right.”

Hoping he was wrong, but fearing that he wasn’t, I left the dungeons and headed for Quirrel’s office. The weather being as cold as it was, most of the students were indoors, meaning that I was interrupted multiple times by people stopping me to talk. Brimming over with impatience, I finally reached my goal.

Nervously, I knocked, but received no answer. Great. I was dreading the interview, but anxious for it to be over. I didn’t want to have it hanging over my head all day long. It hadn’t occurred to me that it might be hard to track Aedennan down. He wasn’t likely to be found studying in the library or playing exploding snap in the corridors like in the good old days.

What do teachers to in their free time besides grade essays? Go to Hogsmeade maybe, or the staff lounge, which was closer. I set off in that direction and was pulled up short by a high pitched voice calling out “Cerridwyn Howard!”

“Professor Flitwick.” I acknowledged, trying to keep impatience from my voice.

He closed the distance between us and took both my hands in his, simply glowing with delight to see me. “How have you been? Taking Merlin by storm, I’m sure.”

“Let’s just say that I passed all my classes.”

“Top of the whole school I’m willing to wager.” he said, smiling knowingly up at me. He turned to two small girls who had been trailing behind him. “Elsa and Susan…this is Cerridwyn…Miss Howard. The finest student I ever had. I really thought we would win the house cup in her final year….if only you’d played Quidditch.”

Professor Flitwick is a mild mannered soul but he wants to end Slytherin’s winning streak as badly as McGonagall.

“Trust me, I’m not as good at Quidditch as I am at taking tests.” I told him. “And I’ve never thought it was fair that Quidditch counts toward the house cup…it ought to be limited to the Quidditch cup. Only the students who are on the teams can contribute those points, which I don’t think is fair.”

Professor Flitwick shook his head. “I’m rooting for Gryffindor this year, I’m afraid. They have a very good team. I really thought we were going to win it during your last year, Kerri.” he repeated wistfully.

“Sorry.”

“Oh no, it isn’t your fault. You did more than your share. Some time you girls should go down to the trophy room and see the medals Kerri has down there.” he told the two girls who were looking at me curiously. “She was the pride of Ravenclaw in her day.”

“Don’t believe a word of it.” I told them, embarrassed and flattered by his exuberant praise. “He’s exaggerating.”

“I wish you’d go and have a chat with some of my fifth years.” said Flitwick hopefully. “OWL year, you know. The NEWT students have more experience and handle it better, but my fifth years are starting to panic. Some of them have all but moved into the library. You always knew how to balance work with everything else. You made it look easy. I’m sure they would benefit from your advice.”

“If you think it will help, but not right now. I’m looking for Aedennan. Have you seen him?”

A peculiar expression crossed Flitwick’s features at the mention of Aedennan’s name. “Elsa, Susan, why don’t you two go ahead? I’ll meet you there in a bit.”

Once they were gone, he lowered his voice so that I had to bend down to hear him. “I’m concerned about Aedennan. He’s completely lost his nerve…afraid of his own subject. None of the students take his class seriously, none of them even take him seriously. "Severus’s students in particular just walk all over him.”

“That’s really nothing new.”

“Well, you’re right, but he’s a teacher now. He should have some control over his pupils. He doesn’t seem to try, he doesn’t seem to care. He keeps to himself working on some research project that he won’t share with anyone. It seems to consume all his time and energy. He liked you -- maybe you can get through to him. Have you tried his office?”

“No answer.”

“Let’s go see if we can find him.”

“Hagrid seems to think he has a drinking problem.” I said hopefully as we set off together.

“Aedennan? No. He was always too steady for that, too responsible. A lot like you actually. I think he got into trouble while he was abroad and is still traumatized.”

“I heard a rumor about a vampire?”

“So did I, but he won’t discuss it.”

We had left the building and were crossing the transfiguration courtyard when we spotted him. He was walking quickly across the courtyard, while trying at the same time not to slip in ice. Fred and George Weasley were in hot pursuit, directing a pair of enchanted snowballs to bounce off the back of his head, which was encased in a large purple turban. They were laughing riotously, swinging their wands like conductor’s batons as they guided the snowballs.

Seldom have I seen Professor Flitwick look so furious. Without a backwards glance at me, he herded them off. His dangerously shrill shouts rang across the courtyard and I clearly heard the words, “Shameful“ “Disgraceful“ “Horrible“ and “McGonagall.”

Aedennan gave no indication that he’d heard any of it. He continued on, eyes turned inward as if to some absorbing problem, when suddenly he noticed me. “K-k-k-Kerri?”

“Hello Aedennan.”

He looked horrible. He looked as bad as Remus Lupin after a full moon. “What happened to you?”

“D-Don’t know w-w-w-what you m-mean.”

“I’m sorry. You just look ill.”

“I’m f-fine. I had a t-t-t-touch of f-f-flu. Madame Pom-Pom-Pomfrey cleared it up.”

“Well, I was on my way home for Christams and thought I’d stop by and see everyone.” I told him, trying to conceal my shock at his appearance.

“I haven’t h-h-heard from you for a w-w-w-while. I thought you might be a-angry.” he said shrewdly.

“Honestly, after that letter you sent me, I was. But I’ve done some thinking since then…is there somewhere we can talk alone? If you don’t mind company, of course.”

There was a long pause during which he looked at me thoughtfully. His eyes almost bored through me in their intensity. “A-a-always time for an old f-friend. Come to my o-o-office.” he said at last.

“You know you’re a teacher now.” I said as we headed inside. “You don’t have to take that kind of crap anymore.”

“What?”

“The Weasley twins.”

“Oh. Th-th-that.” he waved his hand impatiently. “N-Not worth the t-t-t-trouble.”

“So what’s it like teaching?”

“It’s a j-j-j-job.” he shrugged. “My r-r-research his p-precedence over everything else.”

“What research is that?”

“T-t-top secret. How is M-Merlin?”

“Okay. I’m top of my class…top of the whole school actually.” I added reluctantly.

“Really?” he asked, that shrewd look coming into his eyes again.

I followed him into his darkened office and sat down in the chair he pointed me to while he opened the drapes. He blinked against the onslaught of light and secured the cracked door to his living quarters with a snap. Again I felt that sense of forboding from the night before.

He sat down across from me with a half puzzled, half curious expression. “Why are you h-h-here?”

The question surprised me. “What happened to us? We used to be friends.”

“P-people change.”

“I agree.” I looked down at my hands, clenched nervously in my lap and folded them more naturally. Recalling what Severus had said, I chose my words carefully. “I’m at the poverty level, Aedennan. Did you know that?”

He looked at me in silence.

“Here I am, Merlin’s top student, and I can’t make ends meet. I just had to quit my job…this disgusting, menial job, because my boss couldn’t keep his hands off me. Now what am I supposed to do?” I let the uncertainty of the situation wash over me. It was there, so I might as well use it. As Severus had said, it was best to mix the untruths in among the truths to avoid tripping up. “Meanwhile, I have a roommate who is there partly on a scholarship because she’s going to be an Auror and the Ministry is actively recruiting. She doesn’t have to work. She parties all night. She’s not half the student I am but I have to work twice as hard just to get by. Maybe I’m getting jealous….she’s a mud blood…there, I said it. I’ve never said that word in my life. But if less money was spent going into programs and scholarships for people like her, then maybe I could get some help. God…I’m really losing it.”

“You see things more clearly when you get out in the real world.” said Aedennan darkly.

“I thought you might be sympathetic after that letter. I’ve been thinking about some of the things you said lately, but it makes me feel so guilty.”

“Don’t. You’re right -- mudbloods run everything these days and the world bends over backwards to suit them. Why pretend it isn’t so?”

His eyes were on fire with a manic passion and I noticed something odd -- his stutter, which he’d had as long as I’d known him, was gone. Ignoring it, I said “I admit I was angry when you sent that letter, but lately I’m just fed up. It isn’t fair, you know? And it’s such a relief to say it to someone. But it still makes me feel bad.”

“It sounds to me as if you’re starting to wake up.”

“Is that what happened to you? You were always so…”

“Naively, ridiculously, idealistic.” he coldly supplied. “Travel broadens one’s horizons immensely. You meet new people, hear new ideas…it opens your mind. The world is a much bigger place than this narrow little castle.”

“Things are different when you get out of here.” I agreed. “The world isn’t the fair, neatly managed place that Hogwarts is.”

A slow, sly smirk crossed Aedennan’s features. It was not at all flattering. “Dumbledore has all the students swallowing his weak minded philosophies as surely as if he had them all under the imperius curse. He stuffs their heads full of them and sends them into the world to be fruitful and multiply. It’s like a cult. The students are not taught to think for themselves, though it sounds as if you’re starting to.”

“Maybe.”

“Well. You know I’m here if you want to talk. Write now and then.”

His tone was dismissive and I took the hint. “I should be going.”

“S-s-s-see you around K-Kerri.”

“Goodbye.” I said, and I wondered if he heard the finality that I felt. The door shut between us and I knew our friendship was over forever.

The interview left me feeling disturbed and depressed and I wasn’t in the mood to have Snape say “I told you so”, so I went down to the village to take my mind off things. Hogsmeade was beautiful beneath it’s white mantle, and even the hulking wreck of the Shrieking Shack looked less ominous.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the distraction that I’d hoped for. I kept replaying my talk with Aedennan over and over in my mind. Sometimes it had been like talking to an oddly familiar stranger. And that manic, burning look to his eyes was creepy. Something was wrong, nagging at me in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Somehow I wondered if whatever was going on, was more serious than even Severus knew.

Half in a daze, I picked up a few small Christmas gifts and dejectedly headed back to the school. Still not being in the mood to hear “I told you so”, I wandered across the grounds in the gathering twilight with no set destination in mind. My feet automatically found themselves on the narrow path to the boathouse, a remote corner of the property that had been a favorite hiding place when I was student.

The icy slope was treacherous in the dark, and I picked my way down carefully. The moon gave enough light that I got there without incident and I went inside to get out of the wind that was coming in off the lake. All was still and slightly spooky. The boats were covered by securely lashed tarps, giving the ghostly impression of shrouded bodies. I climbed the ladder to the upper tier and settled down in a dark corner, legs dangling over the edge. And I remembered….


I was thirteen years old and had been through an especially trying potions class. It might have happened to anyone…while checking the consistency of my potion I had burned my hand on steam from the cauldron. I dropped the ladle like a hot potato and it clattered to the floor. The solution quickly spread, eating through one of my desk legs, and two of the legs of the desk next to mine.

Unfortunately, Snape had been prowling down the aisle just then. When the second desk toppled over, it rammed into his leg, pushing him sideways into the puddle on the floor which promptly ate through his boot. It took a while for him to set things right, during which I had several minutes of exquisite torture in which to dread what was coming.

Slow footsteps advanced on me, and the class hushed, everyone watching to see what would happen. I watched as his boots came toe to toe with my patent leathers. “How could you be so abysmally stupid?” came a voice above me. I kept looking at the floor and didn’t answer. “Well?”

I raised my head and focused instead on the top button of his robe. “The steam burned my hand, sir.” I said, showing him the blister.

“Thirteen is old enough to know that steam burns. You ought to have brains enough to be able to stir a potion without injury by now. Most first years can do it. Potion making is an exact and potentially dangerous art. The most minute mistake can spell disaster. Nothing less than absolute perfection is acceptable. If you can’t toe the line, then I suggest you leave my class. I have no patience with idiots who cannot focus on their work.”

I had stormed out of the room without a backward glance, leaving all my things behind as I fought back tears of humiliation and fury. Why did he always single me out? Why did he expect more of me than anyone else? Back then I didn’t know the answer, but I was sure that he hated me.

Two hours later I was hiding in the boathouse when a slender, pleasant faced young man appeared. Brown eyes swiftly searched the room, spotted me, and filled with sympathy. I heard his footsteps beneath the platform and then his head poked over the edge.

“Are you okay?” asked Aedennan. “I h-h-h-heard what h-happened.”

He was sixteen then, and was sort of a big brother figure to the younger students of our house. Being of a naturally compassionate nature, he was quick to soothe hurt feelings and make peace between quarreling friends. Maybe it came from being teased so much for his stutter, but Aedennan Quirrel was just the sort of person who liked everyone to get along. He was also very aware of my problem with Professor Snape.

“I hate him.” I said fiercely as he sat down beside me.

He pulled a piece of candy out of his pocket. “Chocolate?”

“No thanks…oh, okay. Maybe.”

It was a bit awkward for me sitting alone with him like that. He was many things to me, older brother figure, band mate, study helper, and my first crush. Not that he knew that of course. At least, I don’t think he did.

“D-d-diana took your things b-back to your dor-dor-dormitory.” he told me.

“I hate him.” I repeated savagely. “I hate Snape.”

“Who d-doesn’t?” he asked with a lopsided grin.

“I hate him.” I said again, and a shower of red sparks flew from my wand.

“W-w-w-well d-don’t worry about it. He can’t f-fail you or an-an-anything. Your grades in that class are t-t-t-t-too g-good. He’s just being an ass-ass-ass----”

“Asshole?” I asked.

“Ex-exactly.” he laughed. “If it gets out of hand, j-j-just go to P-p-p-professor Flitwick.”

Looking out the door to the lake I could see the giant squid cutting smoothly through the water. “I’d like to hold him down and let the squid eat him.” I said as another shower of red sparks erupted from my wand.

“Kerri!” he exclaimed in disapproval. “D-d-don’t start acting like him. Feel s-s-s-sorry that his l-l-life is s-so bad that he acts that way. Something has to be wr-wr-wrong for him to be like that.”

“There’s something wrong alright -- with his head.”

“Maybe.” Aedennan agreed. “But come on K-Kerri. It’s almost time for pr-pr-practice. Let’s go back.”

He smiled at me with a warmth that radiated from his eyes and I felt my stomach clench. “Okay.”

“You might sm-sm-sm-smile a little. If n-nothing else, you could laugh at m-m-m-m-m-my st-st-st-st-st-st-st-st-stutter.” He suggested, deliberately exaggerating it.

“I still hate him.” I said, not cracking a smile.

Aedennan sighed in a frustrated sort of way. “Fine. W-w-w-watch this.” Turning to the wall behind us, which was dark with shadow, he began burning letters into the wood with the tip of his wand. Professor Snape wears pink panties !!!

This time I did laugh.

“That-that-that’s better.” he said, ruffling my hair in a brotherly way. “Let’s go.”




How could things have gone so wrong?

“Lumos.” Sure enough, the words were still there. Some other student had added their opinion that Professor Snape also had questionable sexual tastes. Amused, I startled at the approach of footsteps, and quickly extinguished my wand.

I recognized the heavy boots and the dark, glowering figure that paused in the door. “I’m here.” I said.

He came inside and I heard the ladder creak. A pale face appeared over the edge of the platform and Severus climbed up and sat down beside me.

“How did you find me?” I asked.

“I made it a point to know all your hiding places.”

“You really do have eyes in the back of your head.”

He made an amused sound deep in his throat.

“You were right.” I told him.

“I know you were friends. I’m sorry.”

“He’s so full of venom…I’ve never heard him talk like that. So…dark. He didn’t come out and say that he was working for Everyone-Knows-Who, but I don’t doubt that he’s capable of it. It was creepy.”

“You don’t have to tell me about it now, if you don’t want to.”

I appreciated the sentiment but I was ready to talk. I told him the whole story in detail.

“He’s going to court you.” he told me.

“What?”

“The Dark Lord always chose the best and brightest for his followers -- those of his inner circle at least. Not that he did any of the actual recruiting himself. He had people who did that for him. Most of the recruits never met the Dark Lord until…” Severus gripped one of his forearms spasmodically, and though I couldn’t see his face clearly, his expression seemed troubled. “Recruiters would look for bright young people full of angst and dissatisfied with the system. Well, with Fudge in charge these days, who isn’t dissatisfied with the system? It sounds as though you pushed all the right buttons. You sounded like just the sort of person who would be susceptible to recruitment. You must play along, but play hard to get. Keep him suspended in a position of perpetual belief that you are on the cusp of accepting his suit.”

“You make it sound like a relationship.” I said wryly.

“Oh it is. Once you commit to the Dark Lord that relationship transcends all others -- parents, siblings, children, lovers.”

“Is that why you never settled down?”

“Partly.”

We were quiet for a long time, listening to the wind whistling. After my disturbing talk with Aedennan, it was comforting to be sitting there shoulder to shoulder with my older brother, though the words on the wall behind him made me feel a little guilty.”I don’t hate you.” I said, more to myself than him.

He sounded amused by the statement. “You have greatly put my mind at ease. Nor do I hate you. I had your things moved to the room you stayed in when you were here last. I thought it best now that your presence is more widely known. He must not get wind of an alliance between us.”

I nodded and followed him down the ladder. It was dark as we walked back to the castle in companionable silence and said good night at the door to the dungeons. For a moment I had the impression that he almost hugged me but thought better of it.

So….I have very mixed feelings tonight. On one hand I’m losing an old and dear friend, but on the other, the situation is bringing Severus and I closer together than we ever were before.

Author's Note : Thanks so much to my loyal and patient readers who have stuck with this story for so long....I'm amazed that I stuck with it so long myself.

Next Chapter : A fairly short chapter in which Kerri wraps up the last day of her visit and prepares to leave for home.

Excerpt :

Fred and George Weasely were very interested in the crossbow and apparently not much put off by the scolding they’d had the day before. They did not look very subdued or repentant when they came up to the staff table to have a look at my gift.

“Can I hold it?” asked Fred.

“When hell freezes over.”

“Accio crossbow.” said George, waving his wand. Fortunately I had a good grip on it and it couldn’t get free.

“Nice try.”

“Do you honestly think we’d shoot it in here?” asked George with a sly look in Severus’s general direction.











Chapter 23: Chapter 23
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December 8, 1991
Yesterday was another busy day, but not so depressing. I had breakfast in the Great Hall, up at the staff table between Professor Kettleburn and Hagrid. It was a very strange feeling sitting up there at the staff table like that -- especially with the faces Fred and George were making at me.

Aedennan and Severus, the two youngest members of staff, were seated side by side. Aedennan smiled at me when he walked in, but the smile was quickly squelched when Severus shot him a glare of pure malice. I have a sneaking suspicion that it wasn’t just because Aedennan smiled at me. I’m willing to bet that Severus goes out of his way to make his life miserable every chance he gets. I myself can testify from my years as his student, that Severus is a master in the art of misery.

Professor Flitwick asked me again to meet with his fifth years in the library, which I agreed to do. After breakfast he went to round them up while Dumbledore asked me to speak with him.

I felt a bit guilty as I walked out of the Great Hall with him. Did he know what Severus and I have been up to for the last two days?

“Have you had a good visit with your brother?” he asked. He had not seemed remotely surprised to see me show up for breakfast that morning, and I had the feeling that he’d known exactly when I’d first arrived and where I’d stayed the first night.

“Yes.”

“He told me about your grades. Well done, just what I expected of you.”

“Thank you.”

“Severus is very proud of you, you know.” he told me.

I didn’t have a response to that.

“I thought you might like to know…” he said in a conspiratorial tone, “That his birthday is right around the corner. January ninth.”

“I didn’t know that. Thanks for telling me.” I said, making a mental note of it. “I have no idea what to get him, though.”

“He’s very fond of lemon pound cake, I believe.”

“I’ll have to make him one then.”

“Did you have a good visit with Professor Quirrel?” asked Dumbledore in a casual tone. There was a very intense look in his eyes that told me he knew exactly what Severus and I were doing.

“It was…educational.”

“Well. Education is only as valuable as the application of the knowledge.”

Now what is that supposed to mean? ‘Now that you know Professor Quirrel is a real stinker, how about you and your brother get together and force feed him some poison?’ The evil thought struck me as funny and I had to fight not to laugh.

“Professor Flitwick is looking for you, I believe.”

“Oh…yes. I should be going.”

“Have a good day, Kerri.”

“You too Professor Dumbledore.”

I was glad to get away from that knowing stare. I wondered if I ought to go find Severus and warn him, but decided he’s old enough to take care of himself. Besides, Dumbledore hadn’t seemed upset by it. If anything, I think it pleases him to see Severus and I working together.

Halfway to the library I ran into Peeves, floating upside down in the middle of the hallway, an open ink bottle in each hand and a characteristically evil grin on his face.

“Don’t you even think about it.” I told him darkly, giving him a glare that would have curled even my brother’s hair. Peeves has never really messed with me much. I don't really know why and I don't think I want to. I'm just glad that he doesn't.

Whatever the reason, he got out of my way, sullenly zooming off down the corridor. I made it to the library safely and spent the next few hours there with a bunch of hyperventilating fifth years. Then I went down to Hagrid’s cabin for lunch.

“Got summat for yeh.” he said, pulling a large box from beneath his bed.

“It’s not Christmas yet.”

“No. But I wanted ter be sure yeh got it on time. Go ahead and open it.” His beetle black eyes were shining with excitement.

He set the package down on the table, and I began opening it, which wasn’t easy because the string tying it shut had about two dozen knots in it. I gasped with delight when I finally lifted the flaps and saw what was inside. “Oh Hagrid ! You carved the monogram and the leaves yourself, didn’t you? It’s beautiful!”
I got up and threw my arms around his neck before reverently lifting the crossbow from its box. It was decorated with carved leaves and my initials and came with several bolts.

“Yeh like it?” asked Hagrid, looking pleased with himself.

“You know I do.”

“Well yeh said when yeh come to work here you want to help with me game keeping duties, so I figured it’d come in handy. Reckon yeh remember how to shoot?”

“You’d better believe I do. Let’s go outside and I’ll show you.” I suggested.

That occupied most of the rest of the afternoon. I enchanted a target to swiftly zoom back and forth for greater difficulty, and I hit it almost every time I took aim. I think it gratified Hagrid, who taught me how to shoot in the first place when I was about twelve.

When the shadows began to lengthen we went up to the castle for dinner, me with the crossbow still in hand. Severus shot me a slightly disapproving look, but I was in too good a mood to care. Being around Hagrid usually does have that effect on me somehow.

Fred and George Weasely were very interested in the crossbow and apparently not much put off by the scolding they’d had the day before. The did not look very subdued or repentant when they came up to the staff table to have a look at my gift.

“Can I hold it?” asked Fred.

“When hell freezes over.”

“Accio crossbow.” said George, waving his wand. Fortunately I had a good grip on it and it couldn’t get free.

“Nice try.”

“Do you honestly think we’d shoot it in here?” asked George with a sly look in Severus’s general direction.

“Do you really want me to answer that?”

Laughing, the twins headed out of the hall with Ron, Percy, and Harry, who had also finished eating. Not too long after that Severus also made his exit, shooting me a significant look that I took to mean that I was to meet him in his chambers later.

After I stowed my crossbow in my room, I headed down to the dungeons. I felt a touch of regret as I passed through his office, wishing I’d taken time to explore it. Hundreds of bottles set neatly on the shelves, all in Severus’s heavy, severe handwriting. All of them were full of rare and valuable potions ingredients from the most unique and remote corners of the magical world. I could root through them for hours and never get bored, but not tonight because it was just too cold.

“You don’t have to knock.” he said when he opened the door. “You’re always welcome.”

“Dumbledore knows.” I told him “He didn’t say so, but I could tell.”

“Let me worry about that. Come sit down -- I have something for you.”

“You too? It isn’t Christmas yet.”

“I know, but this is too valuable to send by owl post overseas.” He opened his hand to reveal a beaded box that was small enough to fit in his palm.

I opened it and was greeted by a glint of gold as the bronze firelight fell on the contents. It was an old fashioned watch mounted on a broach, gold, with a diamond where the number twelve would be.

“It’s genuine.” he said in answer to my unspoken question. “I daresay you didn’t get one for your coming of age. It belonged to my mother -- given to her when she turned seventeen. I had it cleaned and polished for you.”

“Severus, you can’t give me something that belonged to your mother. This is an heirloom.”

“And you are my sister…my only blood.” His eyes glittered suspiciously, full of some strong emotion. “So. Our last night together. We should do something fun but I’m not the party type.”

“Neither am I.”

“How about a game of chess?”

“I never learned to play.” I admitted.

“What?” Severus looked horrified. “It’s high time that you learned. The game of kings -- I’ll teach you.”

I followed him over to the table where he began setting up the board. “Life is a lot like chess, you know. This dangerous game we’re playing with Quirrel for example.” He poured two glasses of wine and set one in front of me. “And learn to be a social drinker. You’d be surprised how much useful information you can get that way.”

“You’re going to corrupt me.”

“I? No, I’m teaching you. We’ve just moved beyond potions now, that’s all.”

“What’s the subject?”

“Survival. There is more to it than just being good with a wand. Any fool can point and say ‘avada kedavra’. Cunning and strategy are something else. I survived by tricking the Dark Lord, not cursing him. Learn to use your eyes and ears, and most of all your mind. If the worst happens, and I have no doubt that one day it will, I want you to be prepared.”

“By playing chess?” I asked.

“It’s a start. It teaches you a certain type of thinking…how to use the tools you have to accomplish an end, how to anticipate your enemy’s move several paces ahead…it’s not just a game.”

“That’s what they say about Quidditch.” I said sarcastically.

We sat up well past midnight, playing and talking. I knew I’d be miserable when I had to get up early in the morning to catch my flight, but I didn’t care.

“I’m glad you’re here.” he told me at one point.

“I’m glad I came.”

“No.” he said, not taking his eyes off the board. “I’m glad that you’re here in general. Remember that the next time you start to feel that your existence is a mistake. You matter to me and have a great purpose in the world. I see it if you don’t.”

What a complete turnaround from the old schooldays. Years ago I’d have never believed we’d be getting along like this. For the first time in my life, I’m actually warming up to him. For the first time in my life, I feel like a younger sister.

Author's Note : Once more thank you so much to all my kind reviewers.

Next Chapter : Kerri arrives home to spend the holidays with her mother. Away from her friends she becomes aware of something missing in her life and arrives at a startling conclusion.

Excerpt :

I’ve identified the thing that I’ve been missing so much since I came home. It just came to me suddenly out of the blue. It was early morning and I was watching the sun come up over the marsh. The water was as still as the surface of a mirror except for a slight tremble where a Great White Heron was stalking minnow in the shallows. Spanish moss hung like beards from gnarled old oak trees, squatting over the water like dwarves, perfectly still in the breathless dawn.

Near the horizon, the sky was tinged pink and gold, tapering away into cooler shades of violet, cobalt and gray. The gray stirred something in my memory, and it was like a curtain lifted to let me see into that dark corner of my mind that I’ve perhaps subconsciously been avoiding. The velvet gray of dawn…in some moods, Remus ‘s eyes are just that shade. A shiver went down my spine at the realization struck --- I have a crush on Remus Lupin






Chapter 24: Chapter 24
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December 9, 1991
I arrived home yesterday to balmy 75 degree weather, quite a shock after all the snow and ice overseas. The air was thick with humidity, pine, and magnolia, and a man in a stetson called me Ma’am and opened a door for me. Christmas shoppers in tank tops and shorts bustled down crowded sidewalks past hopeful Salvation Army volunteers ringing their bells outside busy storefronts. I’m a long long way from Hogwarts now, and it always takes me a day or two to adjust to the culture shock.

I unlocked the front door and disarmed the alarm that we’d installed shortly before I left for university when our house had been robbed. My mother had arrived home from work to find the place trashed and the refrigerator cleaned out. The contents of our drawers had been dumped into our own pillowcases and whisked away in broad daylight. The neighbors knew nothing….they never do. That’s how it is in our neighborhood. It’s very frustrating to walk down your street and wonder in which house your things are hidden.

My mother wasn’t home from work yet. I put my bags in my room and went to the kitchen to star dinner. I noted in passing that the hole in the wall from the leak in the bathroom plumbing had gotten worse. I was itching to fix it but knew my mother would have hysterics --- no magic in the house has always been the rule.

I made an old fashioned dinner of fried chicken, fried potatoes, and fried okra. Ah yes….you have to love the Deep Fried South. I had it almost ready when my mother walked in the door, face flushed, her sweat dampened shirt sticking to her skin. “Kerri!”

“Hi Mom.”

I set down my spatula and put my arms around her. My mother has been a full head shorter than me ever since my fifth year at Hogwarts and has had to reach up to kiss my cheek ever since. I look absolutely nothing like her.

“I expected you home sooner.” she chided.

“I stopped for a few days to visit my brother.”

“Half brother.” she corrected stiffly. “As far as I’m concerned, you don’t have a brother. I wish you’d stay away from him.”

My mother has never met Severus and has no desire to. She knows who his father is and that’s all it takes for her to despise him and disapprove with my having a relationship with him. We’d had a battle royal over my leaving early in August to spend time with him at Spinner’s End. “Let’s not start that again.” I said flatly, turning back to the stove. Neither reason nor argument is of any use. Nothing I can say will convince her that my brother is not the psychotic that our father was. Sometimes I wonder if she even has her concerns about me. Does she sleep with her door locked when I’m in the house?

“How did you do this term?” she asked.

“I passed.”

“Good. I’m going to shower. Don’t answer the phone if it rings --- it’s the collection agency about that doctor’s bill.”

While she was gone, I finished dinner and put it on the table. “Are you okay?” I asked, watching her sit down stiffly. My mother is really not all that much older than Remus is, but like him, she’s aging well before her time.

“My back is killing me.”

“Are you still letting those creeps at work make you sit in that crappy chair with no back on it?” I asked in frustration.

“I’m not going to argue with them and get fired.”

“You have to quit taking crap from those people.”

“At least I have a job -- I can’t afford to lose mine.” said my mother pointedly.

Oh here we go. My mother and I have had this same conversation a dozen times, and the fact that I’ve recently quit my job adds a new wrinkle. I knew it was going to come up sooner or later…I’d just been hoping for later. “I’d rather starve to death than have some creep running his hands all over me. Is that what you want?”

It was a nasty thing to say and a haunted, hurt look came into her eyes. “You know I don’t want something like that happening to you.”

“Jobs flipping burgers are a dime a dozen. Something will come up.”

“If you plan to flip burgers, you could have done that here.”

“Can we please not start that again, either?” I asked in annoyance.

My magical education and future career in the wizarding world has always been a sore spot between us. I think that if my mother hadn’t snapped her own wand in half after leaving home pregnant with me, she’d have blasted Dumbledore into next week when he showed up on our doorstep to invite me to Hogwarts that day. “I’m in debt to Hogwarts.” I reminded her.

“You should never have gone over there in the first place. I told you that.”

We finished dinner in silence, although she did break down and help me clean up the kitchen afterwards. “Can we get a Christmas tree?” I ventured.

“There isn’t room.”

“We can make room. We can stick one of the chairs in my room.”

“Where?” she asked dubiously. “There’s no room in there either.”

“I don’t mind climbing over it.”

“I’d better not catch you shrinking it or something. No magic.”

“No magic.” I agreed.

“There won’t be any Christmas in this house anyway. I can’t afford it and I know you can’t either.”

Again, same old same old. Sometimes I think we should tape these conversations and replay them every year to save our breath. “I don’t care.” I answered, just as I always do. “If I can have a tree, and lights, and bake cookies and stuff, I’ll be perfectly happy.”

In the end she gave in just as she always does. I love my mother very much but we don’t agree on many things. We live in two totally different worlds and neither of us really understands the other.

So I politely listened while she filled me in on everything that’s gone on in my absence, none of which was good. The pit-bull next door dug under the fence last week and tore laundry off the line. The car leaks when it rains, the interior door handle fell off, and the ‘check engine’ light comes on if the car is driven more than five miles at a stretch. The house has termites which swarmed in the back yard and the wiring has gotten so bad that we can't run the air and washing machine at the same time without risking a short. On top of it, they’re laying people off down at the shop…of course. Why not? It’s the only element lacking to make life truly perfect.

(Oh, I’m going to be just as sour as Severus when I’m his age, aren’t I?)

What really drives me nuts is that many of the things she’s told me about have magical solutions…patches at the very least. Around here I’ve learned to accept that you can’t achieve perfection so you have to settle for improvement. But will she let me try to do anything to fix things up? Of course not. Not unless it involves abandoning my magical education and staying home to work three jobs in the Muggle world. Or maybe she wants me to catch some rich man to take care of us all. I’m just supposed to forget all the obligations to Hogwarts and the headmaster….Dumbledore is a soft touch…he’ll get over it. Sometimes I think the old assault turned my mother’s mind.

Welcome home Kerri --- Merry Christmas.

But I did do a naughty thing today. I was in the back yard doing some yard work when that pit-bull next door charged the fence. It’s an ugly thing anyway, and even uglier when it’s trying to chew through chain link. The thing wouldn’t leave me alone, running along the fence, trying to jump over, barking at me like I was a trespasser in my own yard. So I did what any reasonable person would do --- I turned it into a Chihuahua.

It didn’t hurt it…and it didn’t seem to phase it. It kept barking at me and jumping at the fence, just with a lot less force. At least if it gets into the yard again, the worst thing it can do is nip my mother in the ankle.

I wonder what the neighbors will think? That someone stole their dog and replaced it? I don’t really care what they think as long as that thing can't menace my mother anymore. That dog was a monster and now it’s kind of cute.

Other than that, the day was uneventful. I’ve been in a thoughtful mood today --- Charlie says I think too much -- but being home alone here all day means that I don’t have much else to do. I’m evaluating some of the things I said to Aedennan, trying to decide for sure where the truth left off and the lies began. I really do feel horrible for using the word ‘mud blood’, especially about someone I like as much as Tonks. On the other hand, I think I am just a touch jealous that she doesn’t have to work and I do. It seems like things come so much easier for her.

Well, I need to quit paying attention to other people’s lives and focus on mine. What is it that Severus likes to say about people like us? We have to fight for everything so that makes us stronger. Hopefully it won’t also make me as miserable and bitter as he is.

I’ve been reading the book he gave me -- “The Writings of Salazar Slytherin”. Now there’s a title that I don’t want my mother to see. She really would go ballistic. The most interesting point that I’ve taken from the book is that Slytherin felt he was protecting Hogwarts by keeping Muggleborns out.

It was during the time when wizardkind was going through some of the worst persecution in history. It reminds me of accounts I’ve heard of Voldemort’s heyday when you couldn’t trust your own neighbors for fear of them turning you in to the enemy. Slytherin feared Muggleborns for that reason, that their intentions might not be genuine and they might actually turn people in to the inquisition.

Another thing that I get from his writings is a sense of how much he loved the school, just as I do. He put his heart and soul into the building of it and into teaching his students. Hogwarts was his life. It must have killed him to leave it.

What amazes me is that here I am, his descendent so many generations removed, and we share the same passion. That’s probably the point Severus wanted to make by giving me the book, that, and that Slytherin has been misunderstood by people who don’t bother to take the trouble to actually read his version of the story in his own words. Some of the worst wars in history have been the result of misunderstandings.

I wish I could get out of the house, but I don’t have anywhere to go. It isn’t as if I have friends here after all. Sitting around here brooding is just going to depress me. Lately I begin to see similarities between myself and that brother of mine. We seem to be prey to the same fits of melancholy. If he was better looking and had noble blood he’d be the poster boy of the Byronic hero.

I’d like to get out because something is bothering me….but I can’t put my finger on what it is. I feel like I’m missing something, but what it is, I don’t know. I’ve tried going through my luggage to see if I forgot to bring anything home, but it all seems to be here. It’s driving me nuts. I need a distraction of some sort.


December 11, 1991
I spent today putting up Christmas decorations. When I was up in the crawlspace I found where some termites had been having quite a feast. Since my mother wasn’t home I got out my wand and repaired the damage. It isn’t as if she’d likely to climb up there and notice it, and what am I supposed to do? Ignore it and let the house fall down?

I kept busy putting up the tree and everything. No fake tree for me --- real Scotch pine. It’s shorter than I am, but very full, and it makes the house smell so nice and woodsy.

Most of the ornaments are in sad shape because they’re so old. Lots of people would throw them out and buy new, but I couldn’t do anything so horrible. Every one of those ratty little ornaments has a special place in my heart. Take the Raggedy Ann and Andy ones with the missing eyes. I picked them out when I was five years old. I remember the day, the store, and everything my mother and I had been doing on that particular shopping trip. It all comes rushing back whenever I take them out of their packing and put them on the tree. I could never get rid of them.

I guess I’m still in that melancholy funk, despite my best efforts to get rid of it. Putting up the decorations has made me feel wistful about the future. It would be nice to have my own house one day and children to share my decorations with. I was sixteen when I swore to myself that I’d never put the burden of Voldemort’s blood on another living soul. Slytherin’s line needs to end with this generation.

I’m still adamant about that, but at this time of year, a time when you think about family, it gets especially depressing. They always say that Christmas is the most depressing time of the year, and I agree completely. It makes me think about things I don’t have and never will. I wonder how Severus is doing?

I need to snap out of it and quit feeling sorry for myself. I’ve just been so unhappy since I came home. I’m tired because I can’t sleep. I lay awake and want…something. I have this horrible, empty feeling like I’m missing something very important, but I don‘t know what it is.. Maybe I’m cracking up.

I really need to get out of this house for a while.


December 18, 1991
I spent today hiking in the nearby national forest. Nothing like getting out in the woods to clean the cobwebs from your mind and help you organize your thoughts more clearly…although I’m rather appalled about the discovery I made about myself today. It’s odd the things that can be tucked away in the corner of your mind, waiting like the contents of Pandora’s box for you to drop your denial and open the lid.

I’ve identified the mystery object that I’ve been missing since I came home. The thing that I’ve been craving so badly that it’s interrupted my sleep. It just came to me suddenly out of the blue. It was early morning and I was watching the sun come up over the marsh. The water was as still as the surface of a mirror except for a slight tremble where a Great White Heron was stalking minnow in the shallows. Spanish moss hung like beards from gnarled old oak trees, squatting over the water like dwarves, perfectly still in the breathless dawn.

Near the horizon, the sky was tinged pink and gold, tapering away into cooler shades of violet, cobalt and gray. The gray stirred something in my memory, and it was like a curtain lifted to let me see into that dark corner of my mind that I’ve perhaps subconsciously been avoiding. The velvet gray of dawn…in some moods, Remus‘s eyes are just that shade. A shiver went down my spine as the realization struck --- I have a crush on Remus Lupin.

My face probably turned the same shade as the rising sun, just peeping up over the edge of the marsh. The thing I’ve been missing….the thing I’ve been wanting so much that it’s kept me awake night after night…even now I don’t like to finish the thought.

How stupid. The man is not remotely interested in me in that way. He, like myself, has more or less sworn to avoid relationships with the opposite sex. How could I have let this happen? I’ve always been so careful to avoid developing pointless attachments like this.

What scares me is that this one is different. Sure, I’ve had silly little crushes, big deal. I admired both Aedennan and Charlie back in school, but I kept a handle on it. I knew, rather than felt, that I was attracted to them. But this thing for Remus….it’s like fire in my veins. It was there and driving me crazy before I even knew what it was. And Remus isn’t some skinny schoolboy either, but a full grown man. Feelings like this have greater consequences now than they did back at Hogwarts. Things get so complicated once you come of age and I haven’t gotten used to it yet. How old do you have to be before you really feel that you’ve arrived?

One thing is perfectly clear. The question is not what to do about it, but how to stamp it out. Nothing can ever happen between Remus and I for a variety of reasons that would take far too long to list. I’ll just have to go on as though nothing has changed, but how am I going to look him in the eye when just the thought of him makes my heart speed up.

Remus.

I’m turning into a melodramatic romantic. Why can’t I be sensible like my brother? He doesn’t have problems like this.

But if….and I am getting tired of all the ‘ifs’ in my life….there could have been anyone for me, I would have wanted it to be Remus. He puts himself down so much because of his illness, but he handles it with such strength and grace that the very thing he hates about himself makes me admire him more. He has this high minded, chivalric nature that Basil teases him about, but I find fatally appealing.

Listen to me going on like a lovesick idiot, which I guess I am. I have to get this out of my system before I go back to England and have to face him. I don’t want this to mess up our friendship.

How could I have let this happen? I could just kick myself for being so stupid.

Other than the fact that I’ve gone stark raving mad, it was a good day. I took lots of pictures to send Hagrid because I don’t suppose he’s ever seen an ecosystem like this one.

The trail dips away from the swamp, across a narrow creek, and into a tangle of palmetto and scrub oak. The ground is hilly so I got a good workout. Sometimes I would be high enough to see above the tops of the stubby little trees and other times I was beneath thick snarls of branches so dense that I couldn’t see the sky.

I spotted some deer tracks and also saw a lot of little brown marsh bunnies. Tiny songbirds flitted back and forth in the thicket, and great big pelicans flew in formation enroute to the sea. I wonder if Hagrid has ever seen pelicans? They aren’t exactly common around Hogwarts.

I’m hoping that the hike wore me out enough that I’ll be able to sleep tonight without that awful longing setting in.

Oh -- and to close on a humorous note -- The neighbor next door came over tonight to ask if we’d seen anything suspicious around her house. “Someone stole Sweetiie and left a Chihuahua in her place.” she explained, taking a long drag on her cigarette.

“No. I haven’t seen anything.” my mother answered, but I thought she shot me a slightly suspicious glance.

“Neither have I.” I said with the most innocent face I could manage.

“I hate that stupid little shit.” said the neighbor, in reference to the Chihuahua. “It’s made itself right at home and the kids have fallen in love with it so I can’t get rid of the thing. Well, try to keep an eye out in case someone comes ‘round again.”

We promised that we would and she left. As she crossed her own yard, the pint sized Sweetie charged after her, nipping at her ankles. “Get away from me, you little shit !”

“Kerri…” my mother began in a slightly accusatory tone.

“I took pictures from my hike. Want to see?”

She still looked suspicious but didn’t say anything, so it looks like I’ve gotten away with it. Sweetie is happy, the neighborhood is happy that he isn’t a menace anymore, and the kids next door just love him to death. Alls well that ends well.

Now if I can just sleep….

December 21
Today my mother and I went to the town Christmas parade. Thankfully there are still some free entertainments in the world -- I even snagged a few Hershey’s kisses that were thrown from a float. The parade is another of those traditions that my mother and I have observed year after year, even the time it rained so hard that the floats were literally floating. It was a nice day.

I love marching bands. I wish I played drums instead of guitar. You can feel the vibrations in the pavement thrumming right into your body and through your veins. (Much like that annoying feeling I’ve been having for a certain werewolf lately). No wonder percussion has always been coupled with the concept of sensuality.

After the parade we had lunch at an Italian place run by a Greek guy who looks like he belongs in the Mafia. Great lasagna and the owner’s son is cute.

Tonight we went looking at Christmas lights. We took the cab over to Leisure Village, a housing development where all the neighbors try to outdo each other with their light displays. It’s so well known police have to get out there to direct traffic and parking. It’s best to go on foot so you can appreciate the fine detail -- talk about a winter wonderland.

We had a lovely stroll down looping cul-de-sacs past glittering yards and homes. Some of those houses…wow. They’re huge. But the yards are usually so small that the houses are built cheek by jowl. Honestly, if I had that much money I’d rather have a small house with a big parcel of land instead of the other way around.

The Christmas lights were spectacular as always. I wish we could do that at our house, but with the wiring being what it is, the whole house shorts out if I try. I don’t want much in life…just enough money to be comfortable and a house that isn’t ready to go down in flames. Is that too much to ask?

I’m planning a big Christmas dinner. Ham, potatoes, broccoli casserole, biscuits, a chocolate mocha cake, and fudge. My mother is having a conniption, but I’m doing the shopping with some of the money Severus has given me. I’m not going to tell her where it came from though, or she might refuse to eat. Christmas comes once a year and I am not going to settle for grilled cheese sandwiches and canned tomato soup. It isn’t a waste of money because we’ll eat the leftovers all week.

It was a very good day. It’s nice when my mother has a day off from work and we actually get to spend time together. There was a time when I used to try to get her to move back to England so she’d be closer to me, but if there is a plot to reinstate Voldemort, then it’s just as well that she always refuses. It’s very frustrating to be torn between my mother and my life over there. And now there’s this thing with Remus too --- but that doesn’t matter because I’m going to get over it just like a bad cold.


Author's Note : Once again, thank you for the kind and encouraging reviews.

Next Chapter : Christmas presents arrive from Tonks, the Weasleys and Remus. Kerri goes for a walk in the nearby woods and runs into an interesting couple.

Excerpt :
Ah yes, nature. I was greeted by a vicious rattle as I rounded the curve. The female snake was coiled up on a rock, sunning herself. She looked more wary of the male lurking on the ground below than she was of me. He was looking combative, prepared to impress his potential mate by scaring away the great big human.

“Watch this.” he said importantly. “All I have to do is rattle and it will run away.”

“I don’t suppose I could convince you to let me pass.” I said cheerfully in parseltongue.

“You know how to talk.” said the male, sounding surprised.

“Yes.”

“You must be a female. All females ever want to do is talk.”

“All I want to do is sleep.” said the female irritably.

“All I want to do is walk by.” I said hopefully.



Chapter 25: Chapter 25
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Letter from Remus Lupin to Cerridwyn Howard : December 10, 1991
Dear Kerri,

I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday and that your gift arrived on time. I’m afraid that I cut completion of it very short.

When you come home I think you’ll be very pleased with the growth of our little wand fund while you were away. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more concerts we’ve been invited to do. Lorcan has arranged a standing invitation at a vampire club, but Basil wants to wait until you come home before accepting. Their tastes are different and he wants your opinion before he picks out songs and plans the format.

Tonks is fitting in just fine, so don’t worry about that. She always stays behind for the after concert parties so she’s completely won over Basil and the others. She’s also contributing to the wand fund, although as a substitute it isn’t required. The audiences react very favorably to her. She has a genius for holding their attention and getting them out of their seats. Fortunately, Fenrir doesn’t pay her much attention, which makes me very happy.

By the time you receive this I should be out of town. I’m going to visit my parents for the first time in six years. They are getting up there in age and I feel slightly guilty for staying away from them for so long, although I did do it to protect them. Nevertheless, I’m going to visit and take time off from work to do it, which is probably against my better judgment. I’ll have to do a lot of extra work to make up for it, but it’s going to feel very good to get away from here for a while.

So I’m looking forward to Christmas this year. It’s been years since I’ve had my mother’s cooking. Home cooking is one of those simple things in life that you take for granted until you get out on your own. I also understand that my parents are keeping a few horses again, and if the weather permits, I plan to go riding. I haven’t been on a horse in over a decade but riding is one of those things that you never forget once you’ve learned.

Anyhow, I’ll close this off by saying that we all miss you and look forward to your return. Have a happy holiday and enjoy spending time with your mother. Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

In friendship, Remus Lupin

Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : December 12, 1991
My dear Kerri,

I hope that you are having a good holiday at least.

I couldn’t resist the urge to buy you another gift, as you can see. I went out and bought it the day after you left, despite the appalling weather. I thought we might play via correspondence. Once you return home we can set up our boards and post moves to each other via owl. Be warned that your chessmen will receive a grizzly beating, because I will show no mercy. How else are you to learn?

Things are quiet here. This place isn’t so bad when there aren’t many students around. I’ve been stalking Quirrel in my spare time, making a point to appear at his elbow at least once every few hours. I know the students find it unnerving and I hope that he does too. Although I’m not doing it out of sheer spite, I find the activity entertaining nevertheless.

Other than those excursions upstairs I mostly stay in my chambers. Very few of my students have remained behind so if I keep to the dungeons I need not converse with anyone under the age of thirty. Personally, I do not think anyone is worth getting to know until they are at least thirty. Present company excepted of course.

I am somewhat anticipating Christmas dinner, although I suppose I’ll be stuck sitting between Quirrel and Trelawney…provided her royal grace condescends to eat with the rest of us. After last year’s fiasco, I hope she stays away. She got completely inebriated and passed out with her head on my lap right there at the table. Well, you can imagine the rumors that arose from that. Damn Gryffindors.

I’ll close this letter before I really turn vicious. Merry Christmas.

--Severus


Letter from N. Tonks to Cerridwyn Howard : December 12, 1991
Dear Kerri,

Merry Christmas. Hope you’re having fun.

I’ve been having so much fun with the band, more at practices and just hanging out than at the actual concerts. I let Basil double pierce my ears the other night. I was slightly tipsy but mostly sober and he was mostly tipsy and not at all sober. Still, they came out beautifully -- wait till you wee. I’m seriously thinking of letting him do my navel.

Have you seen that tattoo on his back? Awesome, isn’t it? I love tattoos and always wanted one, but I don’t know what to get. Not my initials --- a plain letter “T” would be ridiculous and I refuse to have any reference to my first name permanently tattooed on my skin.

The werewolf commune is very interesting. You do know that it’s full of con artists, don’t you? There’s one who pretends he’s blind and another who pretends he’s lame so they can beg on the streets. A few others are running fixed card games to swindle tourists. They’re not bad people exactly, just a bit desperate. A very colorful group.

We’ve done several concerts. Streak got naked at the last one and danced on the bar. Really, if I was him…well let’s just say that I took a good, long look and it isn’t worth showing. I do admire his self confidence though.

Remus Lupin is the only sane one in the group and he seems a bit down lately. The holidays do that to some people I guess. This began around the full moon though, so maybe that’s part of it. If I was a werewolf, the full moon would depress me too. But he’s going to see his parents so maybe that will cheer him up.

I’m spending the holidays with my mum and dad and I’m staying until the week school starts. Don’t worry about the bills because they’re all paid up. I’ll stop in to see you when you get back and we can go shopping or something. And I want you to stay with me some weekend.

Hopefully I’ll see you soon, and hopefully you can read my writing.

Love, Tonks


I had a good Christmas despite the fact that it began with my mother hammering on my bedroom door in hysterics. “Cerridwyn Howard ! You get in here and do something right now!”

I woke with a jolt, wondering if the wall with the leak between the bathroom and kitchen had finally caved in. “What?” I asked, emerging from my room in nightgown and slippers.

“In there.” she said, pointing.

Sure enough, it was the kitchen she was pointing to, but the window rather than the wall. Outside the glass was a flurry of gray, brown and white feathers as several post owls struggled to find a way inside.

“I guess it’s for me.” I said blankly, wincing at the sound of a feathered missile ricocheting off the window pane.

“Take care of it!” my mother snapped, stalking off into her room and slamming the door.

Climbing up onto the edge of the sink, I slid the window up and popped out the screen. I had to duck and cover my face as I was bumped and buffeted by wings and packages. They dropped the boxes in the living room floor with disgruntled hoots, and I only just had time to get out of the way before they flew out again. I was interested in opening the packages, but I knew I’d better replace the screen and close the window if I wanted to live to see another Christmas.

I heard my mother’s door creak open. “Are they gone?”

“Yes.”

Slippers shuffled on the bare floor and my mother’s short, nightgown clad figure paused in the doorway, looking at the packages in disapproval.

“I can at least open them, can’t I?” I asked.

“Go ahead.”

I sat down happily on the floor beside the Christmas tree and pulled the nearest box into my lap. There were five of them in all, all of varying shapes and sizes. I was especially interested in a narrow tube, about three feet in length.

The one in my lap was not very large and I recognized the handwriting on the address as my brother's. I tore open the package to find a box of polished cherry. Opening it, I found that it unfolded into a chessboard, complete with wizard’s chessmen. It was clearly brand new and of a good quality.

Despite my mother’s aversion to anything remotely magical, my mother had edged into the room just near enough to see. “Who sent you that?”

“My brother, Severus.”

“Half brother.” she corrected icily.

Ignoring her, I read the accompanying card. “After your visit I couldn’t resist the temptation to get this for you. Well, perhaps it is high time that your brother began to spoil you a bit. Merry Christmas, Severus.”

I smiled. It sounded like he’d been in a good mood while wrapping the present at least. I set aside the enclosed letter to look to look at later when I had privacy.

The next one was a bit lumpy, as though the contents were too large for the box and were straining the seams. It was bound up with Spellotape that had been wrapped around and around the circumference to keep it from popping open.

I didn’t need to read the card to know that it was from the Weasleys. I knew that the cost of sending it all the way overseas had to have been a sacrifice. “Dear Kerri, Have a merry Christmas. Love, Arthur, Molly, Ginny.” A small piece of pink stationary fell out of the card and I snatched it up. “Kerri -- great joke on my brother. Ginny.”

Laughing, I pulled from the box a knitted hat and scarf of a rich brown shade.

“That will match your eyes.” my mother said.

“That’s probably what she was thinking when she chose the yarn. Mrs. Weasely.” I added by way of explanation.

The next package was much smaller, and I recognized Charlie’s handwriting on the address. Inside was a change purse of dragon hide. The card simply read, “Merry Christmas from Charlie.”

“Dragon hide.” my mother said astutely. “No.’ she added, recoiling as I held it out for her to see. “Who is it from?”

“My friend Charlie. Mrs. Weasley’s son.”

The next package was graced with bold, loopy, slightly illegible handwriting that I knew belonged to Tonks. The card read. “This is for the next blue day that comes along. Just hide the candy and don’t tell me where it is, or the temptation might be too much. Tonks.”

It was a gift basket that she’d put together herself. It had bubble bath, chocolate truffles, and two romance novels with racy covers that I turned away from my mother so she couldn’t see. “My roommate.” I said before she could ask. There was also a letter enclosed which I set aside with Severus’s for later.

That left the tube shaped package that I was so curious about. The handwriting was only vaguely familiar, neat, upright, and masculine. I knew instantly who it belonged to by the way the sight of it made my heart throb.

Annoyingly, my fingers trembled as I opened one end and pulled out a card and letter. I set the letter with the others and read the card. “Kerri, I hope you’re having a merry Christmas. Remus Lupin.”

Something of what I was feeling must have showed on my face. “What?” asked my mother.

“Nothing.” I said, setting the card aside and feeling inside the tube again.

I pulled out a piece of poster sized paper. Even my mother gasped and edged closer for a better look as it was unfurled. It was a drawing of the Hogwarts grounds in vivid, living color. The scene was looking down from the hill above Hagrid’s cabin and it was enchanted so that the seasons changed every ten seconds from spring to summer to fall to winter.

Chickens pecked corn in the yard while foxes slyly slinked around the exterior. Trees swayed gently in the breeze, flowers bloomed and faded, rained poured and the sun rose. The winter scene featured a unicorn running up the slope, forcefully putting me in mind of Remus’s patronus, muscles straining, mane flowing, steam pouring from it’s nostrils as though from an engine. In the summer scene, two hippogriffs sparred over a mate.

The amount of detail was mind-blowing. I knew he had spent hours upon hours getting it just right. Each setting had to be drawn separately and then charms had to be applied to control the movement of the animals, weather, and the changing of the seasons. It was very accurate, and I knew much had been done from memory of Remus’s own days at Hogwarts, though some had clearly come from the pictures I’d showed him from my album. Had he been planning it even then?

“That was done by hand.” my mother observed. “Who did you say it was from?”

“Remus Lupin. I met him at work.”

“That workhouse?” she asked sharply.

“He was mauled by a werewolf when he was a little boy. He graduated from Hogwarts with honors.” I answered with equal sharpness.

“Well, he can certainly draw. That’s the gamekeeper’s hut, isn’t it?”

“Hagrid. Yes.”

I still had the picture unfurled, gazing at it with reverence. The more you looked at it, the more details popped out at you.

In the spring scene a light shower was taking place as a large black dog bounded across the freshly turned soil of the vegetable patch. Clots of mud flew behind him as he ran for the sheer joy of running. Squirrels chased one another from branch to branch and tiny sparrows hopped along the ground.

The summer scene had buds swelling to ripeness and bees lazily drifting in and out of the blooms. Butterflies flitted from flower to flower and a fat little mouse was scurrying in and out of sight among the dinner plate sized pumpkin vine leaves.

In the fall scene the garden was ready for harvest, ripe fruit just begging to be picked as geese flew in formation across a mellow autumn sky. Brilliant orange and crimson leaves carpeted the ground and a big buck was just visible as it emerged from the darker shadow of the forest, rubbing its antlers on a tree, perhaps to impress a doe standing nearby.

I thought that the winter scene was especially inspired because in addition to the unicorn there was a silver and white wolf bounding across the field of snow. His amber eyes were the brightest color among all the cool whites, blues, and grays.

This had taken hours upon hours just to plan out, recreating the same scene in a unique way for each of the four seasons. He had to have worked on it night after night with me in mind….it was incredible. And flattering. Of course I knew that he hadn’t meant anything by it but still… It was the best present of all.

“Lupin.” said my mother thoughtfully, evidently trying to place the name as she peered at the ornate signature in the bottom right corner. “How old is he?”

“Mom!” I gasped in annoyance, rolling the picture back up and stowing it inside the tube.

“Usually you complain that I’m not involved enough in your life.”

“I don’t like what that question suggested.”

She exhaled in annoyance but let the subject drop. “I have something for you. Wait here.”

She shuffled off to her room and back again, returning with two packages, one large and one small. The small one contained a glass bottle embellished with a blue tassel on the cap. “I thought a it would be a nice perfume for balls and things.” my mother said as I opened it.

“Magnolia?”

“It’s something different.”

“Thanks Mom.” I said, not bothering to tell her that I never attend balls.

The second box contained a large plush throw with cats on it. “To keep you warm when you go back over there.”

“I have stuff for you too.” I said, going to retrieve it.

After the presents I started the ham and then got dressed. We spent most of the day watching Christmas parades and holiday specials on tv. We ate early and then went for a long walk down by the river.

It was a lovely, breezy day of 70 degree weather. We paused by a palm tree wrapped with Christmas lights to watch an inept water skier trying to stay upright. My mind drifted back to England, to Severus skulking around Hogwarts trying to catch Aedennan in the act; and to Remus, visiting his parents for the first time in years because he felt his mere presence was a burden on them. I felt a strong surge of longing for them both.

“You wish you were back there, don’t you?” asked my mother, reaching up to tuck a stray strand of hair behind my ear. Her tone was slightly jealous. “When are you going back?”

“When do you want me to?”

“Never -- but know there’s no holding you here. At least stay until after the first.”

“I told the band I’d be back home by then, but school doesn’t start until later in the month. I would prefer to be back in plenty of time.”

“I see you a few weeks a year.”

“You could move back again.”

“Oh look. He’s down again.” she said, pointing to the hapless water skier and ending the conversation.

It was a good day, and hopefully I’ll be able to sleep tonight. If I can’t, I’ll get up and answer letters.

What a beautiful gift Remus sent me. I keep taking it out to look at over and over . I really need to find out when his birthday is so I can do something really nice for him --- the absolute WORST thought I could possibly have before going to bed, considering the warm feelings I’ve had for him lately.



I had a couple ideas today. The first was a gift idea for Severus. Since he’s so interested in filling out the family tree and since he’s fully accepted me as part of it, I thought he might like it if I compiled an album for him. He knows almost nothing about my life before Hogwarts and maybe he’d be interested to have those gaps filled in.

Today while my mother was at work I went through old albums and things. I had to do it when she wasn’t around so I could use magic to make copies. I selected some pictures and awards and things I won in elementary school. When I go home, I might go through my old Hogwarts things to see if anything there would interest him too.

I’ve also been looking for lemon pound cake recipes. I absolutely have to be back before the ninth -- I’d like to have him over for dinner if possible.

My other idea was for a job, which hit me when I heard the newspaper carrier drop ours off this morning. I could get a job delivering Muggle newspapers. The hours are horrible, but short, and I’d have my days free to study. The pay would be better than anything else I could do for so few hours of work, and three times more than the workhouse paid me.

I’m seriously thinking of asking Remus to be my partner. Even splitting the pay in half, we’d both make more than we were before. I wouldn’t mind the help and I still feel guilty for losing him his office job. The fact that I’m fond with him has nothing to do with it.

True, I doubt he’s ever worked in the Muggle world, but this isn’t an ordinary job. It might even be a good ‘starter job’, a way to learn how to fit into and work in the Muggle world. If he can’t make decent money working for wizards, why not work for Muggles? The really great part of the plan? What a great job for a werewolf. You’re pretty much your own boss and as long as you have someone to fill in on full moons, you don’t have to worry. Worth thinking about at least.




I went for another hike today and had an interesting encounter. I was approaching a curve in the trail when I heard voices ahead, one male and one female.

“Go away.” came the female voice, sounding slightly bored but deadly serious.

“No.” came the male.

“I am not in the mood.”

“I am.”

“Why do I care about your feelings? Come any closer and I’ll hurt you.” hissed the female coldly.

“I can wait you out . You’ll come down eventually.”

“GO AWAY !”

Ah yes, nature. I was greeted by a vicious rattle as I rounded the curve. The female snake was coiled up on a rock, sunning herself. She looked more wary of the male lurking on the ground below than she was of me. He was looking combative, prepared to impress his potential mate by scaring away the great big human.

“Watch this.” he said importantly. “All I have to do is rattle and it will run away.”

“I don’t suppose I could convince you to let me pass.” I said cheerfully in parseltongue.

“You know how to talk.” said the male, sounding surprised.

“Yes.”

“You must be a female. All females ever want to do is talk.”

“All I want to do is sleep.” said the female irritably.

“All I want to do is walk by.” I said hopefully.

“Fine.” said the male. “Go away -- I’m trying to get some action here.”

“Are your men like that?” the female asked me.

“Some of them. All of the ones who show interest in me at least.”

“I hear you, sister.”

I gave the male a wide berth as I passed him because he was glaring daggers at me. “But why not?” I hared him whine at the female.

It was only a little further down the path that I ran into another snake, this one busily pushing its way through leaf litter. It gave me a warning rattle, it’s heart didn’t seem to be in it. It was another male, and it was larger than the first.

“Just passing through.” I told him.

“You can talk.” he observed. “I’ve never seen a human that could talk before. Interesting, but I’m in a hurry right now. I won’t bother you if you don’t bother me.”

“I won’t.” I assured him. I started to go on my way when he asked me to stop. “Yes?”

“You’re taller than I am. Can you see a female anywhere around?” his tongue flicked out, tasting the air. “I know one is nearby. I can taste her scent.”

“Back there on a rock.” I said, pointing. “There’s another male bothering her.”

“Really?”

“She’s not in a receptive mood.”

“This other male, how big is he?”he asked thoughtfully.

“Not as big as you.”

“Good. In some things in life, size matters. If I make him clear off, she might take a liking to me. Thanks.”

“No problem.”

Some people argue that animals are worth protecting because they aren’t like humans. They don’t make bombs, cheat each other, or kill for fun. I’ve been around animals a lot, and my argument is to the contrary. Animals are exactly like us. They have the same desires and emotions --- and THAT is why they should be protected.

I enjoyed the encounter. I make it a point to speak parseltongue whenever I get the chance, just to be sure I still know how. No matter how much I hate my father, I’ve always liked being able to talk to snakes…not that I advertise it, of course.

Author's Note : As always, thank you for such kind and encouraging reviews.

Next Chapter : Kerri returns to England in time to celebrate Snape's birthday. She invites him over for dinner and they talk about serious matters and some not so serious ones.

Excerpt :

“Perhaps its his nerves.” Severus smirked. “It would save me a great deal of trouble if he’d just pack up and leave. But then what would I do for amusement? String up Potter and Weasely from their toes in the dungeons?”

“Ha-ha. Why do you have it in for that Potter kid so bad?”

“I don’t ‘have it in for him’. I simple recognize him for what he is.”

“People I’ve talked to seem to like him.” I ventured.

“I can guess who that is. Someone who drinks Ogden’s for dinner and washes it down with dog biscuits that he shares with…”

“Severus!”

He laughed. “That was a joke. Can you not tell when I’m kidding?”

“You have a mean sense of humor.”

“I know. It exasperates the headmaster to no end.”


Chapter 26: Chapter 26
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Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : Jan 1, 1992
Dear Kerri,

Happy new year. Hope you had a merry Christmas.

It was good to see you and I hope you can come visit again soon. We never did get to go look for the unicorn foal. Probably wouldn’t have found it in all the snow anyway. The mother will have it hidden somewhere safe and warm.

Harry and Ron came down to see me Christmas day. Ron’s twin brothers were laying for them when they left, and threw snowballs at them all the way up the hill. At least with the snow so high, they won’t go poking in the woods so I had some rest for a while.

Christmas dinner was great. Everything you could ever imagine to eat was there and I ate till I was almost fit to burst, and that’s saying something. Dumbledore led us in Christmas carols, but I don’t remember much on account of the eggnog.

I took Fang back some ham and he curled up on my bed to eat it, looking so happy. He loves Christmas as much as the kids do.

Hope to see you again sometime soon.

Love, Hagrid


Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : January 3, 1992
Dear Kerri,

Happy new year. Thanks for the gift -- I forgive you for sending that howler for real this time.

I’m actually enjoying my parents being here. My mother brought enough food to feed an army, which automatically makes her okay in my book. Ah yes…good, old fashioned, Brittish food -- the food of the gods. This Romanian food is really getting old.

My father really loved the batteries you sent him. I’ve never seen a grown man get so happy over a load of rubbish. The rest of us all reckon he’s out of his mind, but at least he’s consistent. He’s been collecting that junk for as long as I can remember.

The snow let up enough that I could take my parents out to see the dragons. It was great timing because with the weather like it was, they’d taken advantage of it and come out to hunt. After that we went to a popular street in town where every shop sells goods made of dragon leather. I sent Bill a very nice pair of boots. This is the place to buy dragon hide because so much is processed right here, making it cheap.

I admire the way the Romanians manage their resources. They don’t hunt dragons to extinction, but they don’t let the population get out of control either. The dragons keep a healthy fear of humans and there hasn’t been an attack here in decades.

I wish you could come visit -- you’d love this place. Ardis, Matthias and Athena are talking about coming in April. Meg may too if she gets time. I guess you’ll probably be gearing up for finals about then, though. If you decide to drop out, you know you’re welcome -- Tonks too.

Later, Charlie





Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : January 5, 1992
Dear Severus,

I’m back in the country and I’d like to have you over for dinner some time before school starts back. Maybe around January ninth? Let me know.

Kerri



Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : January 6, 1992

Dear Kerri,

Welcome back.

Something suspicious happened here on Christmas night. Someone was wandering the castle, sneaking around the restricted section of the library. I wasn’t below, I was out looking for Quirrel, when Filch came to tell me about it. Sure enough, there was an abandoned lantern and a book that had obviously been disturbed. We searched but did not find a trace of the culprit.

I have removed the book in question for further examination. It may give some clue as to what the prowler had in mind. It is a book on curses, which surprised me as I expected it to be a book that might contain a method for getting past a large cerberus. The curses in the book are tortures, cruciatus and the like. Perhaps Quirell is thinking of trying some of them on me. I do hope he tries.

Naturally I am certain that Quirell is the culprit. No student, no matter how knowledgeable about the secret passages of Hogwarts, could have vanished that quickly. Advanced magic had to have been involved. I have made discreet inquiries among the rest of the staff, and all have assured me that they know nothing about the incident. None have reason to lie, so that leaves only Quirrel. And Hagrid, of course, but I doubt he knows how to read, so why would he have been in the library?

I have a question for you. Do you know how to get past the Cerberus? Give me a yes or no answer -- do not tell me how to do it. I do not want to know. The fewer people who do know, the better.

Now, I would love to have dinner with you, but I am not at all sure it would be prudent. Firstly, I do not feel comfortable leaving the castle with Quirrel on the loose, especially not a Quirrel who sneaks around at night to research curses. Second, it is best that we not be seen together very often. I do not want people deducing that there is a connection between us.

Now that you’re home, set up your chessboard and make a move. You play white -- white is not my color -- and prepare to be slaughtered. All in good fun, of course.

Your brother, Severus



Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : January 6, 1992
Dear Severus,

Be at my house at 6pm on Jan. 9th. It isn’t a request. I’m going to have dinner waiting and I won’t answer any of the questions you asked in your last letter unless I see you in person.

Don’t worry about being seen -- my roommate is away still. I think you can trust Dumbledore to hold down the fort without you for a couple hours.

See you soon, Kerri



Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : January 7, 1992
Dear Kerri,

Dumbledore is such an insufferable meddler. He told you when my birthday is, didn’t he? If you’re so determined, I shall meet you at the appointed time.

Severus






It occurred to me that Severus might not show up. He’s always saying that he doesn’t like people pulling things over on him. He’s stubborn and proud, and in hindsight, I wondered if being forceful had been the right tactic. I always think of things like that just as the owl carrying my letter gets out of crossbow range. Just kidding --- I wouldn’t do that.

However, Severus does seem to have a soft spot where I’m concerned, and I think it pleased him that someone took the trouble to recognize his birthday. I really am starting to see a side of him that I’d never have thought existed. I guess no one can be a total creep all the time. You have to let your guard down a bit to someone.

I opened the front door to find Severus there, fine white snowflakes dusting his black cloak as it swirled around him in an icy wind coming in off the ocean. “Happy birthday.” I said as he came inside and peeled off his damp cloak. The robes underneath were green -- I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear anything other than black before.

“Thank you.”

“So…how old are you?” I asked teasingly.

He shot me a wry look. “I am not one of those people who are ashamed of their years and experience and hope I never will be. I am thirty two. Something smells good.”

“I baked a chicken. And I’ll have you know that I made everything by hand since that’s how my mother taught me to cook.”

“Working with one’s hands….what a concept.” came the dry reply. “I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Some idiotic second year Gryffindor blew up a cauldron full of glow in the dark solution in my class this morning.”

“What happened?” I asked, trying not to laugh.

“Ten glow in the dark Gryffindors and an equal number of glow in the dark Slytherins.”

“What about you?”

“It splashed me too.” he admitted, not looking at all amused. “I sorted everyone out but the culprit. I let her glow in the dark until she’d scrubbed down the dungeon. Idiot. She was at it all day and I had to supervise so that’s why I’m half starved to death.”

“You did give the kid the antidote, didn’t you?”

“Of course. How cruel do you think I am?”

I laughed and so did he. “At least I didn’t force feed her poison.” he added. “I seriously considered it once or twice. This is a fairly decent little place.”

“Thanks.” I said, glancing around the room. “I like it. Sit down and I’ll get dinner on the table.”

“You’ve had a letter from Quirrel.” he said as he pulled out a chair. It wasn’t a question.

“Actually, I have. It came this morning. He hasn’t asked how to get past the Cerberus though.”

“He will. Do you know how to get past that blasted animal?”

“Yes. Hagrid told me in a letter way back when he first adopted Fluffy.” I said as I set the platter of chicken on the table. “Could you do the carving while I get the rest?”

“Certainly.” he said, reaching for the utensils I handed him. “Does anyone other than yourself and Hagrid know?”

“Not….not that I know of.” I answered. I wondered if I ought to tell him what Ron and Harry are up to. I decided to wait until I was sure he was in a good mood and then make him swear not to do them bodily harm. As I watched the precise, methodical ay he took the chicken apart joint by joint, I felt a bit sorry for Aedennan. “I’ll show you Aedennan’s letter later. More of the same ranting but with a calmer, more persuasive feel. He kept citing famous wizards and scholars to prove his point. I’m pretty sure he’s read ‘The Writings of Salazar Slytherin’ too.”

“Done.” said Severus, as he finished the chicken. He pulled out a chair for me and asked, “Did you read the book?”

“On the flight and over the holiday. I did learn a few things.” We had a long literary discussion then which seemed to put him in a very good mood. I decided that the time to tell him about Ron and Harry was then or never.

“Severus? If I tell you something, will you promise not to get angry at the people involved and harass them?”

A half curious, half wary expression came into his eyes. “I don’t like making blind promises.”

“It’s something about some students that I think you should know for their own safety. I don’t want you to make their lives miserable.”

He seemed to relax a bit. “As long as you aren’t going to ask me not to make Quirrel’s life miserable.”

“No, we were friends, but that’s beyond repair. If he is trying to reinstate…Him…then he deserves to be miserable. He makes me sick. This is related though.”

“I promise not to poison any students.” said Severus wryly.

I decided it would have to do. “It’s about Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.”

“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. They’re meddlesome little brats, the pair of them. But how are they involved?”

“They know about Fluffy. And they know about Flamel.” I explained the whole thing to him, watching with apprehension as his dark eyes went blacker and his pale face went whiter. I knew that for all of his recent skulking around, this had taken him by surprise.

“Well that’s just what I don’t need. Probably they’re deluding themselves that they’ve stumbled onto some grand adventure. Like his father, who was an insufferable showoff and always sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, young Master Potter seems to be equally determined to cause trouble. I should have the pair of them expelled.”

“Don’t you dare!” I exclaimed. “You promised.”

“I promised not to poison them, I said nothing at all about having them expelled.”

Something in his eyes suggested that he might possibly be teasing. I hoped so. “I thought you ought to know.”

“I appreciate it. How did they find out about that dog? Clearly they have some Ogden’s stashed away in the Gryffindor dormitory. How else would they have gotten Hagrid to talk?”

“Severus Snape! Will you stop that? If you want to make fun of someone for drinking then make fun of Trelawney.”

“She didn’t come down to dinner this year --- thank God.” he said, and this time he was actually smiling.

I relaxed a bit. “Don’t you go harassing those kids.”

“I won’t harass them any more than usual.”

“And don’t harass Hagrid either. You know how he is. It was probably a slip of the tongue or something. If you do, I’ll never speak to you again.”

“And then who would celebrate birthdays with me?” he asked sarcastically.

“And save room for dessert. I have lemon pound cake.”

“Good God. Did Dumbledore tell you my entire life’s history?”

“You’re thirty two, Severus. He didn’t have that much time.” I teased.

“I refuse to dignify that with a response.”

I decided to steer the conversation to safer topics so I told him about Gargantua and the flesh eating slugs. He laughed harder than I’ve ever seen him laugh in my life -- and it wasn’t that bitter, evil sounding one either.

“But I do feel slightly guilty.” I told him.

“Why should you? He deserved it. The law wouldn’t have done anything to protect you from harassment. Were you supposed to just lie down and take it? Just because a thing is legal, that does not mean it is right. Conversely, just because a thing is illegal, it doesn’t mean it isn’t right…or just. Circumstances change sometimes. The world needs people like you and I who can keep things in balance. Who aren’t afraid to even the score now and then. Don’t worry about it -- you aren’t revealing latent, violent tendencies. That’s what you’re afraid of, isn’t it?”

“Maybe.”

“When the Dark Lord was your age he had already taken several lives. Flesh eating slugs are child’s play. Trust me.”

I wondered for a moment what sort of things Severus had done at my age, but decided I didn’t want to know. After dinner we sat down on the sofa and I brought him the scrapbook I’d put together for him. I felt like it was a very cheap present but he didn’t seem to mind.

“So that is your mother? I’ve never seen her before. I don’t even know her name. I was only twelve when you were born and had no knowledge of your existence until adulthood. No one knew of it anyway. You were born overseas?”

“Yes.”

“I take it that you’re still an American citizen?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” he said firmly. “Whatever you do, don’t become an English citizen. If your parentage ever becomes commonly known, I wouldn’t put it above the Ministry to have you arrested for it. Fudge likes to give the impression that he’s actually doing something useful If you’re still an American citizen, you might receive help from the embassy.”

“I’d never thought of that.”

His finger pointed to a picture of me that was taken at a county fair. I was nine years old and posing in a booth decorated with fake palm trees with a python around my neck. “I’ve never thought to ask this before…are you a parselmouth?”

“Actually, I am.”

He gave a sharp intake of breath but his expression was triumphant. “Good. I didn’t inherit it and it would be a shame for it to die out altogether. Hopefully you will pass it on to your own children one day.”

Which brought another recent concern to my mind. “About that….I’ve been thinking lately…there’s this guy…”

“Whoever he is, he isn’t good enough for you.” said Severus flatly.

“Well actually, I think it’s the other way around. That’s what’s been bothering me. Don’t you really think that the line ought to end with us? I mean…okay….even if you exclude Slytherin himself, just look at the state of the family. Violent, inbred freaks. You never got married.”

“No…but that isn’t the reason why.” said Severus, looking faintly disapproving. “I was looking to you to carry on the line. You don’t have a disease you know.”

“Well it feels like it sometimes.”

“You think about it too much. Just live your life as normally as possible and don’t worry about it. However, I would advise caution before you get involved with anyone. Even marriage doesn’t necessarily guarantee loyalty. Being abandoned by some faithless Romeo aware of your secret would be very dangerous.

First, let me remind you that you have time on your side. There is no need to rush into any romantic relationship. Men will try to push you into things; try to impart you with a sense of urgency. Do not believe it. You have time. My second piece of advice is do not give your heart easily.” He said this last sentence with a particularly bitter edge to his voice.

“What was her name?”

He hesitated for a moment and then said, “Lily.”

There was a horrible torture in his eyes that was hard to look at. I dropped my gaze.

“I do not want you to end up like myself.” he said, his voice carefully emotionless. “I do not want you to live your life miserable and alone.”

“You’re not old. There’s plenty of time.”

“No. It’s too late.”

“How long were you together?” I asked.

Severus laughed bitterly. “Never. We were never together. We were friends as children. I admired her. She married someone else, got on the Dark Lord’s bad side, and ended up dead. It’s too late.”

“Did she know you were fond of her?”

“I was stupid. It wouldn’t have worked anyway.” came the cryptic answer. “Don’t let the Dark Lord run your life, even from a distance. If you find someone who makes you happy, don’t deny yourself happiness out of some misguided, noble belief that you are protecting him from the disgrace of being associated with the family. This man…does he know you’re fond of him?”

“No. I’m not sure I want him to. I’m not miserable in my life as it is right now. I’m happy enough….maybe just not completely content.”

“Which is good. If you were fully content there would be nothing left to strive for. Has this man shown interest in you?”

He seemed more interested in the subject than I was completely comfortable with. “You aren’t going to be one of those overprotective brothers, are you?”

“If he makes unwanted advances, point your wand between his legs, say ‘sectumsempra’ and the problem will be cut off at the source.”

“I’ll remember that for the next time I see Lockhart.” I laughed.

“In that case, aim for his wrists. If he can’t hold a quill then he can’t write any more books.” said Severus with that evil smile that I know all too well. “Now…before I forget, I have something to tell you.”

“Yes?”

“I put a blood seal on my office door and the door to my chambers. If you ever need to see me in a hurry and don’t have the password, just prick your finger enough to draw a drop of blood and touch the door. It will recognize you and unlock. It will only work for descendents of Slytherin…you and I.”

“What about….” I let my voice trail off significantly.

“The headmaster believes he has no body, and therefore has no blood. I plan to secure the door to my home as well so you can get in if you ever need to. I learned long ago that it is not wise to have too many keys in circulation. Never trust a fidelius charm either. Blood may tell, but it does not lie or betray.”

“I wish I could have your pride in it.”

“That’s one thing I hope to teach you. And by the way…the chess game…I can beat you in four moves.”

“That many?” I laughed. “I’m surprised it isn’t less. Let me go get Aedennan’s letter to show you.”

I retrieved the letter and sat quietly while he perused it. “Could I keep this?” he asked.

“Sure. I don’t want it. There’s something else about it that bothers me -- the handwriting. It seems sort of mixed up. Look at how it falls on the page. I know his handwriting. This looks familiar, but different somehow.”

“Perhaps its his nerves.” Severus smirked. “It would save me a great deal of trouble if he’d just pack up and leave. But then what would I do for amusement? String up Potter and Weasely from their toes in the dungeons?”

“Ha-ha. Why do you have it in for that Potter kid so bad?”

“I don’t ‘have it in for him’. I simple recognize him for what he is.”

“People I’ve talked to seem to like him.” I ventured.

“I can guess who that is. Someone who drinks Ogden’s for dinner and washes it down with dog biscuits that he shares with…”

“Severus!”

He laughed. “That was a joke. Can you not tell when I’m kidding?”

“You have a mean sense of humor.”

“I know. It exasperates the headmaster to no end.”

“But I met Harry. He seemed like a nice little boy.” I insisted.

“Not you too. That’s how he operates. He charms people until they’re willing to bend over backwards for him. Minerva McGonagall bought him a Nimbus 2000 so he could be on the team.”

“McGonagall did that? You mentioned something in a letter once, but I didn’t think you were serious. She must be really desperate to get that Quidditch cup.”

“Oh she is.” said Severus in a highly satisfied tone.

“How is your team doing?”

“Quite well since that initial defeat. I’m not worried.”

“She actually brought him a broom?” I simply couldn’t believe that strict Professor McGonagall had gone that far to give her team an edge.

“Blatant favoritism.” Severus confirmed. “Typical. His father was just like that. He was able to charm his way into getting anything he wanted. I couldn’t stand him.”

His words were especially vehement which I thought was slightly indelicate under the circumstances. “If Voldemort was against him then he couldn’t have been that bad.” I gently scolded. “I take it that you weren’t overly unhappy to hear the news.”

“I’m not going to profess emotion that I never felt. No. I’m not sorry that he was killed. He was gone…the Dark Lord was gone…life would have been perfect if not for certain extenuating circumstances.” He clutched the letter in his hand a bit tighter and looked at it intensely as though willing it to yield more than it did. “He must not be allowed to rise again.”

“And if he does?”

“I want you to leave the country. He will get close to you over my dead body…which is a highly likely scenario if he comes back and finds me this close to Dumbledore. Still…I fooled him once. I do have a gift with cunning words when necessary. At any rate…I should be getting back. Thank you for the dinner and the scrapbook. I shall put it with the others. I’ll be sure to save room for a new one from your time at Merlin as well. A few more letters about you being at the top of the school would be a nice addition, so do study hard.”

“I will.”

“Professor Quirrel will be wondering where his spare shadow has gone.” said Severus, standing up.

I followed him to the door. He paused, and for a moment there I thought he might be about to give me a hug good bye. If so, he must have decided that such a show of affection was beneath his dignity. “Good night.” he said, nodding to me.

“’Night.”

His dark form melted into the swirling white snow and was gone. I shut the door quickly, but far from being chilled, I felt overheated. Sometimes talking to my brother is like walking over hidden landmines. Like the Hogwarts school motto says. “Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus.” Never tickle a sleeping dragon.


Author's Note : You all know I appreciate reviews, but I'll tell you again anyway. I appreciate the reviews.

Next Chapter : Kerri suggests Remus become her partner at a new job and announces her intention to buy wands for the boys despite their recent bad behavior....

Excerpt :

“Yestin Plunkett is on the warpath again.”

“What now?”

Royal’s chest heaved with silent laughter. “ Brand, Mel and Streak put a sack full of droppings outside his door, set it on fire, yelled ‘fire’ and well…you know. Brand set the fire by magic, by the way.”

“I’m glad to see that our teaching has been put to such good use.’ said Remus dryly, but he looked amused. “Thanks for the warning, Royal.”












Chapter 27: Chapter 27
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January 10, 1992

Tonight before practice I went to see Remus. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since becoming aware of these inappropriate feelings for him, and I thought long and hard about it before I actually went over there. I had hoped that these feelings would have gone away by now, but they stubbornly persist. If anything, now that I’m back here, it’s gotten worse because I know he’s within reach. Still, it’s no reason to avoid him. All I have to do is ignore it and just like the common cold it ought to go away on it’s own.

I didn’t go over there on some silly romantic notion. I had that fixed firmly in my mind before I went. I had a business proposition for him….that was all.

I lifted my hand to knock on the door but it opened before I even touched it. “I saw you coming.” said Remus with a smile that made my stomach clench. “Welcome back.”

“Thanks. That drawing of yours is beautiful. I framed it.”

“Did you? You’re lucky it arrived on time. I only finished it on the night before it was posted. I was up all night working on it. Sit down.” He motioned me to the chair with its new cushion. “I have a nice, comfy seat now as you can see.”

“Imagine that.” The chair was by the window and he’d begun another drawing. It was in it’s most rudimentary stage but was obviously a horse. “Did you get to go riding?”

“I did…in the snow.” he pulled a wry face. “Not the brightest thing to do. I’ve only just gotten over the cold and now the full moon is coming up. Not the best timing, I’m afraid.”

Come to think of it, he did look more run down than usual, although he seemed to be in good spirits. “Is Gargantua back?” I asked.

Remus grimaced. “He came back last week. Again, poor timing. Right on top of everything else. He could have had the decency to wait until after the full moon to spring himself on us.”

“I have a business proposal for you”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I’m thinking of getting a job delivering Muggle newspapers and I might want a partner. It’s pretty simple but requires some fairly heavy lifting. The hours are bad…early in the morning before dawn…but it doesn’t take more than a couple of hours and you have the rest of the day free. You also have the cold and rain to deal with, but it isn’t like a normal nine to five job. That makes it the perfect situation for someone with your problem. On full moon nights I can do it alone…and when I leave for the summer, you can pay someone to substitute for you. It would just be a couple of hours of work at night and then you could sleep all day.”

“Sleep? Exactly how old do you think I am?” asked Remus in mock offense.

I knew that he was Severus’s age so I said, “Thirty two?”

“Not yet I’m not. Not for three more months, thank you. It’s bad enough that I’m already going gray, but do you have to make me thirty two three months early?”

“What day is your birthday on?” I asked, sidetracked.

“Oh no…Basil is always trying to find that out. If people buy you a birthday present then you’re entitled to buy one for them when their turn comes round. I can barely pay rent. Forget it, I don’t have birthdays any more.”

“I can always ask Dumbledore. If he doesn’t know off the top of his head, I’ll bet it’s on the old rolls.”

“Muggle newspapers?” Remus prompted, changing the subject.

“What do you think?”

”If you’re capable of doing the job on your own during full moons, then why do you need me in the first place? I’m not a charity case quite yet, you know.”

“I didn’t say you were!” I gasped, feeling stung.

“I’m sorry Kerri.” said Remus wearily. “It’s the wolfsbane talking. But it’s a fair question. If you don’t need a partner, why have one?”

“I don’t exactly need help. I’m used to managing on my own, but it would be nice to have help. The papers will be heavy and shifting them around in all weather on my own without magic will be a real pain. I also don’t want to be at it all morning either. I’ll warn you now, that the pay isn’t good, but even if we divide it in half it will still be more than what either of us were making in that hell hole.”

“I won’t deny that I’m interested. The wolfsbane potion alone takes half of what I earn each month.”

“You buy it?” I asked, distracted again.

A vaguely embarrassed expression crossed his features. “My potions grades were always horrendous. The wolfbane potion is ridiculously complex. The herbs have to be picked at the correct stage of the moon, they have to be cut to a specific, uniform size, the potion has to be brought to a boil a certain number of times in a specific way…”

“Stirred thirty six times, changing direction every six stirs, beginning in a counter clockwise direction. It has to be done four times a day at regular intervals.” I recited. “I know. I learned that one last term.”

“Did you? They teach that at university?”

“Because it’s so complex they think it’s a great teaching tool.”

“And you remember how to do it?” he asked, sounding impressed.

“I was always good at potions. Where do you buy wolfsbane potion?” I asked curiously.

“Knockturn Alley.” he answered disgustedly. “I hate going down there, but it’s the only place you can buy it ready made. It’s the absolute last place I want to be seen, but it’s either that or move into the commune where I can get it for free. That’s not an option either.”

“I could make it for you. I wouldn’t even charge you -- I can get the ingredients from the stock at school.”

“Please don’t be offended but it’s too important to risk getting wrong. I prefer to keep buying it to be on the safe side. I haven’t gone mad during the full moon in five years…’ his eyes went dark and he shivered slightly. “I don’t ever want to again.”

“I understand, but if you change your mind, let me know.” Then because I felt I should steer the topic away from dangerous waters, I said, “There’s something else I wanted to run by you. I’ve saved up enough money for three wands.”

“You must have a very generous half brother.”

“He is. I visited him before I went home -- we’re getting along really well. I never thought we would.”

“That’s good. You don’t have any other family here do you? You should have someone.” Remus glanced at the clock. “It’s about time to go to practice.”

“Were your parents glad to see you?” I asked as he shrugged into his coat and reached for a scarf.

‘Yes. My mother fussed over me worse than Molly. They invited me to move back home, but really…I’m a grown man. I should be on my own.” He yawned as we stepped out into the snow, looking excruciatingly tired. “So do you think you could pass me off as a Muggle to do that job?”

“You dress convincingly. You might have problems with the culture, your words and actions might give you away, but you never know until you try. Have you ever interacted with Muggles much?’

“No.” Remus answered as he paused to lock the door. “I’ld probably end up drawing attention to myself.”

“You’re a likable person and that would make people overlook anything that seems odd. Over time you’d start to fit in better. Really, it’s a solitary job. You do most of it in the car. It might be a way to get your feet wet in the Muggle world. If you can’t get jobs in the magical world then why not work in the Muggle world? I would.’

“You have a lot of big ideas.” he said as we got in the car.

“You say it like it’s a bad thing.”

“Again, it’s the wolfsbane talking. I’m tired. Right now I don’t have the energy for big ideas, either coming up with them myself or listening to those of other people. I’m sorry. I’ll give you an answer after the full moon. I won’t be thinking very clearly this week.”

“Take your time.” I told him. “There’s no rush. I’m definitely taking the job. Just come and ride the route with me sometime and see what it’s like.”

I pulled up in the courtyard of the commune where we found Royal lurking in a dark corner, gazing up thoughtfully at the almost full moon. He looked restless and irate, as though he had a problem that he wanted to get off his chest.

“What are you doing out here in the cold?” asked Remus.

“The Ministry was here. It’s wolfsbane and contraceptive day again…let’s all pass around the party hats.” said Royal bitterly, his voice fairly trembling with rage. "They took Megan…my twelve year old…” he clarified, his gaze shifting to me. “They took her into a room with all the other twelve year olds and proceeded to explain about birth control and how werewolves should not reproduce, and gave her a month’s supply. Twelve years old ! My little girl was told by the government that she is not fit to have children of her own once she grows up. She was told that the best service she can do for her country is to be sterile and die.”

Remus looked sympathetic, and I felt disgusted. What comforting thing can you say to someone in Royal’s situation?

“Celestia is up there now having a woman to woman talk with her.” said Royal, glancing up toward the window of his flat. “Well, woman to girl. She isn’t even interested in boys yet, thank God. I’d like to break Cornelius Fudge’s neck. You raise your kids to be good citizens and this is how the government repays you.”

“It’s possible to love your country and not your government.” I quietly pointed out. “The Ministry is wrong. Their policies on werewolves are barbaric and against basic human rights.”

“Ah, there’s the problem.” said Royal with an ironic smile. “They’ve classified us as part human. I might see their point if they’d ever met Basil and his merry men in person. I suppose you’re going up to see them?”

“I’m afraid so.” said Remus.

“Yestin Plunkett is on the warpath again.”

“What now?”

Royal’s chest heaved with silent laughter. “ Brand, Mel and Streak put a sack full of droppings outside his door, set it on fire, yelled ‘fire’ and well…you know. Brand set the fire by magic, by the way.”

“I’m glad to see that our teaching has been put to such good use.’ said Remus dryly, but he looked amused. “Thanks for the warning, Royal.”

Royal nodded.

“Well don’t freeze to death out here. Celestia will sort it out.”

I shot Royal a look of sympathy and followed Remus inside. We took the stairs together in companionable silence. I could tell he was thinking about twelve year old Megan. There was an angry jut to his chin and his jaw was bunched tight. I caught myself wondering if a kiss would relax it and then mentally kicked myself in the butt.

Yestin Plunkett suddenly stepped out onto the nearest landing blocking our path with a hand on each rail. He looked absolutely furious, his scowl made more prominent by the downward droop of his thick mustache. “Lupin.”

“Yestin.”

“Those damned pups of yours…look what they did.” he held out a soiled shoe for us to see.

“I heard. You’ll have to take it up with them, Yestin. I have no authority over them. They are adults…well…technically.”

“You’ve been teaching them magic. You and her.” growled Yestin, jabbing a finger at me. “They’re horrible enough as it is without that.”

“We could teach you too if you like.” said Remus pleasantly.

Yestin stared at him suspiciously for a few moments before turning to me. “You need to go back home where you belong. You too, Lupin. You’re too good to live here, you should stay out of here. One of these days you might get hurt.”

“Let us pass Yestin.” came Remus’s calm response.

I saw Yestin’s eyes wander over Remus, searching for the wand that he knew Remus carried. Then he glanced at me and I knew he was wondering if I was armed too. Apparently he decided it wasn’t worth the risk. “Fenrir should have severed your spine, Lupin.” he spat as he retreated into his flat and slammed the door.

Remus’s expression was inscrutable but his jaw was bunched again. “Good night to you too.” he said into the silence.

We continued upstairs. Halfway down the hallway that led to Basil’s room we could hear a chorus of voices chanting, “Chug, chug, chug, chug….”

“Great. Just great.” said Remus dryly. “First the cold, then the full moon, now this.”

We entered the room to find Basil, Mel and Streak quickly downing steaming goblets of wolfsbane potion wile the others egged them on. This included Tonks (tonight with spiked, pink hair) who was pumping her fist in time to the chant.

Mel finished first, throwing up his hands in triumph. Tonks was clapping and laughing, and her eyes (blue tonight) widened when she saw me. “Kerri! You’re back!” she exclaimed, and jumped up to throw her arms around me. She slipped on an empty pretzel bag on the floor and I had to steady her.

“Hey ! Me!” Mel exclaimed in annoyance. “Not her! Me! You promised to kiss whoever won, and that was me!”

“Oh fine, come here.” He puckered up at her but she turned his face away and pecked him on the cheek. “It’s good to have you back, Kerri.” she said, while Mel threw his hands up in despair.

“Say Remus, you look like hell.” said Basil. “Want some pepperup potion?”

“I’d prefer you guys get Yestin Plunkett off my back.” Remus shot back.

“Next time we’re going to write your name on a firework and throw it in his room.” laughed Streak.

“Anyway…” said Basil, speaking directly to me. “Now you’re back, I want us to just sit down and pick out songs for the concert at Scarlet Dawn…the vampire club that Lorcan manages. They should be dark, smooth…what were the words you used, Tonks?”

“Sensuous and eclectic.”

“Yeah, that. This is what we have so far…hang on.” said Basil, rooting through an explosion of papers that had been stuffed in the space behind the door. “Here.”

I took the page he handed me and sat down on the bed by Tonks, who was flopped across it on her stomach. Mel sat down on her other side and gave her a friendly swat on the bottom, which resulted in him being thrown head first on the floor. “Do that again and it will be the curse of the bogies.” she threatened.

“That sounds like it might be a fun one to know.” said Brand hopefully.

“Forget it.” said Remus. “We had to have been out of our minds to teach you ‘incendio’.”

It took a couple hours but we got all our songs picked and sorted out. “Great. “ said Basil cheerfully, reaching under the bed and coming up with a bottle of amber liquid. “Let’s party.”

“Before you all get yourselves trashed I want to tell you something.” I cut in. “I’ve saved up enough money to buy wands for the rest of you. If you pay me back from that ten percent we’ve been setting aside anyway, we can go to Diagon Alley on Saturday.”

I had expected some sarcastic, lewd, or silly responses, because that’s usually how they respond to everything. Instead, the room went deadly quiet.

Then Streak said with uncharacteristic seriousness, “You’d do that for us?”

“Of course. I agreed to teach you, didn’t I? I was there one night to see what you go through with those dementors, remember?”

“How did you get that kind of money?” asked Augustus. “It’s going to cost a fortune.”

“From a relative.”

“We knew you liked us, but we didn’t know you liked us that much.” said Streak.

“You’ve been holding out on me, Kerri.” Tonks teased. “I’m going to make you buy more groceries.”

“You’re really willing to spend that kind of money on a bunch of worthless werewolves?” asked Brand.

“If I thought you were worthless I wouldn’t bother.”

Streak threw an arm around my shoulders. “Thanks. We aren’t going to forget it.”

“You ever need anything, you let us know.” Augustus agreed.

“Unless it requires money or brains.” laughed Mel.

“But if you ever need a date…” said Augusuts.

“Or a cheap thrill…” Streak suggested.

“Or someone to kick someone else’s ass for you...” Mel added.

“Okay, okay, I get it.” I told them. “Just pay me back, okay?”

“See our accountant about that.” said Brand in a posh accent, gesturing grandly at Remus who had been watching the scene with a look of amusement.

“Can me and Brand come to Diagon Alley too?” asked Basil.

“We don’t want to miss this.” Brand agreed.

“I’ll bet you all turn out to be squibs….none of the wands will want you.” said Basil.

“Don’t be stupid.” I told him in annoyance.

“She likes us better than you.” Streak told Basil, giving me a squeeze.

“Well, let’s celebrate.” said Basil, waving the bottle of what I now recognized as Ogdens’.

“I bet I can out drink all of you.” said Tonks.

“You’re on. How about you, Remus?”

“Maybe one before I go out into the cold.”

“Kerri?” asked Basil. “Maybe some milk in a sippy cup?”

“Shut up, dumbass.” said Augustus scathingly. “Just because she has better things to do with her time than get wasted…we’re going to have to find something you will drink, Kerri. I’ll bring you up your own pot of tea from now on; how’s that?”

“Thank you.” I said, feeling slightly flustered by the attention.

Basil had thrown a friendly arm around Tonks and was pouring her a drink. “I think we should get rid of Kerri and keep you. You’re more fun.”

“No way.” said Tonks “It was fun, but I’d never be able to keep up in school if I had to do this all the time. I’ll be happy to substitute again though. Let me know.”

“Thanks Basil.” said Remus, setting down his glass. “Ready to go?” he asked, looking at me.

I untangled myself from Streak and followed him out.

“Well, congratulations. You’ve won three friends for life. They’ll never forget that you bought them wands and they really will do about anything for you.”

“I’ll be happy if they just buckle down and learn.”

“This trip to Ollivander’s should be interesting. I hope Streak keeps his clothes on.”

“Are you coming too?” I asked, more excited by the prospect than I care to admit.

“Of course. I wouldn’t feel right leaving you at their mercy.”

But I think it will go alright. The boys can behave when they want to. I just hope I can behave in Remus’s presence, as my feelings for him grow warmer by the day. I have got to put a stop to it somehow, but the problem is I don’t know how. It’ll just go away eventually, won’t it?

Author's Note : Thank you for the kind reviews.

Next Chapter : The trip to Diagon Alley --- I do love playing with Lockhart.

Excerpt :

The rest of us watched while the two of them headed into the bookstore, opening the door without setting off the bell with a skill that indicated they’d done it before.

“There’s talent for you.” Augustus snorted. “Oh yeah -- they grew up in werewolf-land.”

“I don’t know you people.” said Remus as Streak crawled into the window while Mel made sure no one inside was watching. Streak removed something from his pocket and proceeded to deface the poster of Lockhart. Just as Lockhart turned to face the camera, Streak scrawled an untidy mustache and horns on him. Above that, he began altering the letters in Lockhart’s name so that it now read, “Gilderoy Farhart.”

“My God. We’re all going to Azkaban.” said Remus, with a cautious glance up and down the street. “Let’s get out of here.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 28: Chapter 28
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Letter from Albus Dumbledore to Cerridwyn Howard : January 9th, 1992
Dear Kerri,

What a pleasure to hear from you. I trust you are well.

I am pleased to hear that you and Remus have found one another. I knew that you would take to each other if you were fortunate enough to meet. In answer to your question, his birthday is on the tenth of March.

Severus told me about his birthday dinner with you and I saw the lovely scrapbook you made for him. I’m glad that you managed to get him out of the castle for a few hours. He has had quite a lot on his plate lately and spends entirely too much time down in the cold and dark of the dungeons. That environment fosters depression enough as it is, but in winter, the effect is ten times worse. Severus, it seems, is especially susceptible to it.

Fortunately, you seem to have a positive influence on your brother. You give him something to think about other than the monotony of his job and creative excuses for putting students in detention. He thinks of himself as a teacher and mentor to you. Granted, he still has his moments, and though I don’t think the students have marked the improvement in him, I certainly have. He hardly complained at all that I told you when his birthday was.

Keep up the good work at Merlin and have a good term. Do say hello to Remus again for me.

Sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore



Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : January 7th, 1992
Dear Kerri,

How are you? I am fine.

Things are pretty quiet here. Being winter there’s less for me to do. Caught a blood sucking bugbear hanging around the chickens but other than that, haven’t been too busy.

Got a couple salamanders in my fireplace and they’re driving Fang mad. For the first day he wouldn’t stop barking at them. I like them there because they give the place a homey feel. It’s nice to sit at night and watch them.

Haven’t seen hide nor hair of a unicorn lately. I figure they settled down deep in the forest for winter. By now a few more foals should be born. Can’t wait until spring to see them. I always like seeing the little ones when they first come into the open.

I liked the pictures you sent. Very different from our forest here. The trees are so small. Looks pretty thick though. Bet there’s lots of interesting creatures in there. Looks like you had a good Christmas.

Love, Hagrid



Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : January 3rd, 1992
Dear Kerri,

I am so busy right now that it isn’t funny. I don’t have time to write this but I know that you’ll sympathize with what they’re making me do now. They shove off all the really horrible jobs on the people with the least seniority, and that’s me.

We have some orphan baby dragons that we’re rehabilitating. Brand new baby dragons are tiny and sometimes they can get separated from their parents in bad storms. Well, we have to separate them by gender. Do you know the process for determining reptilian gender? Do you? You have to stick your finger inside them and feel around. What makes it even more fun is that some of them are starting to breathe fire. I’d breathe fire too if someone was doing that to me!

Thank God my mother left before I started this project. Whatever you do, don’t tell her about it!

I have blisters on my fingers and I can hardly write. Talk to you later.

Charlie


Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : January 11, 1992
Dear Kerri,

I hope this letter finds you well.

Again, thank you for the birthday dinner. I enjoyed spending time with you. This summer I would like you to stay with me at Spinner’s End for a longer period of time. I have many more things to show and teach you.

School has started again and life is just as dreary as ever. I do think Quirrel is trying to dodge me, which I find amusing. I keep catching him lurking outside, usually around the edges of the forest. I’d love to know what he’s up to out there. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was trying to meet someone, but it isn’t that easy for any random dark wizard to just come strolling onto the Hogwarts grounds.

If he wasn’t aware that I was following him before, he is now. I don’t even bother to hide it. Why should I when he can’t do anything about it? I want him to see me and know that I’m on to his little plot. Let him squirm a bit. Perhaps it will dissuade him from any further hocus pocus at the next Quidditch match that the Potter brat plays in.

Incidentally, you’re correct about he and the Weasley boy. There’s a girl in on it too. I’ve been following them off and on as well, but at a more discreet distance. Several times I’ve seen them listening at the door of the third floor corridor. Sly little busy bodies.

Naturally, I informed the headmaster of their behavior. Don’t worry -- I kept Hagrid’s name out of it although no doubt he was able to deduce the source of the leak. Oddly, he doesn’t seem bothered by it. He asked me to please continue monitoring the situation, but not to interfere.

Of course…dump baby-sitting duties on Severus. Severus has nothing better to do with his time. Clearly that Potter brat has charmed the headmaster too.

I’m in a horrible mood, I suppose. I spent the remainder of the holiday reorganizing the shelves in my office and following that twit Quirrel around. I still haven’t caught the little bastard who keeps enchanting brooms outside my office door. I found another one this morning. I hate children.

I need something to lighten my mood. Perhaps I’ll fail all the fifth year Gryffindors on their latest essays. Minerva will have heart failure if I fail all her OWL students. It’s so easy to get under that woman’s skin. I know from experience that I can blame Peeves by saying that he got into my files and changed the grades. She knows better, of course, but can’t prove it, and that’s what makes it entertaining. The depths to which one must sink for amusement around this place.

Take care, Severus





Today was an entertaining and interesting day. It was frustrating as well, in some respects. I didn’t sleep very well the night before, thinking about getting to spend extended time with Remus in some place that wasn’t the commune or the workhouse. True, we would be with Basil and his merry men, and of course there isn’t, and never will be anything between us…but I did take special care in dressing nevertheless.

I’m really setting myself up for problems, aren’t I? No matter how hard I try not to do it, my mind insists on thinking about Remus in a romantic way. Why can’t I just be sensible about it? It would never work. I’m too young for him. He probably thinks of me as a nice young friend…or worse…as a younger sister. I have got to get a grip !

I was dressed and waiting when Basil and the others arrived, not looking any the worse for having just come through the full moon. Mel, Augustus, and Streak were looking especially excited about the wand buying expedition. Streak couldn’t seem to stay still. He kept pacing back and forth across the tiny room, brushing into things and knocking them over.

“You’re getting as bad as Tonks.” I told him.

“Does she like…have a boyfriend?” asked Basil.

“Yes. His name is Gideon. He’s a student at Merlin.”

“Yeah. That figures.” said Basil with an unconcerned shrug, but his tone was very flat.

“Basil thinks she’s hot.” Mel informed me.

“Let’s face it -- we all think she’s hot.” said Streak.

“Because she is.” Brand agreed.

“Well it’s nice that you all agree on something.” I laughed.

“We think you’re hot too.” Mel told me. “Your legs go on forever -- they’re nicer than hers. Know what I’d like to see you do with them?”

“Cool it, will you?” snapped Streak, who seems to have assigned himself the role of my protector ever since my announcement that I intended to buy them wands.

There was a knock on the door as Remus arrived. I knew it was him before I even answered, because I know what his knock sounds like. That, and my heart did that annoying leaping thing that it always whenever he's around.

“About time you showed up.” said Streak.

“I’m so sorry that I couldn’t arrange to be here sooner on this fine morning.” said Remus with uncharacteristic sarcasm. Unlike the others, he looked much the worse for wear from the effects of the full moon. He seemed to think better of it, and shaking snow from his silvering hair added, “I’m sorry. It’s been a stressful few days.”

“No kidding. It’s just been a picnic for us.” said Augustus sarcastically.

“We were all just discussing Kerri and Tonks’s hotness.” Mel explained conversationally. “Which one do you think is hotter?”

Remus looked wary. “Oh no. You are not getting me into a debate like that. I have more sense than to get involved in any judgment of feminine beauty.”

“So if Tonks has a boyfriend.” said Basil to me, frowning slightly. “What about you?”

“No.”

“Tonks said you spent the night with some guy during her party.”

I mentally strangled Tonks. This was the second time her big mouth had given the wrong impression about me. First the thing with Lockhart and the campus guard thinking I was a werewolf, and now this. To me, having people think me promiscuous, is worse than having them think me a werewolf, and I could feel the heat rise in my cheeks. A covert glance at Remus showed him perfectly composed, but with a suspiciously amused sparkle in his gray eyes.

“She didn’t mean it like that.” I said loftily. “I just decided to clear out before someone got arrested.”

“Let’s go ahead and leave.” said Remus. “The stores will be open by now.” He shot me a look that was half amused, half reassuring, and I knew that he wasn’t going to tell them anything.

“Awesome.” said Streak happily, helping himself to floo powder. “Let’s go. Ladies first, Kerri.”

It was early in the business day and the Leaky Cauldron was mostly empty when I arrived there seconds later. That was a good thing, considering the size and exuberance of the party coming in behind me.

“Hot damn. I could use a beer.” said Basil cheerfully, glancing around.

“Not now.” said Streak, annoyance in his tone. “You stay and drink yourself sick all you want. Some of us are here for a reason.”

“ Brand and I are betting you turn out to be a squib. No decent wand will want you.”

“I am not!” said Streak, and this time there was anger in his voice. “I used to have a wand….until I bit it in half.”

The others laughed, except for Remus who like myself, seemed to have noticed that the man behind the bar was eyeing us suspiciously. “Let’s go.” he said quietly.

Diagon Alley in winter is a very different place from Diagon Alley at back to school shopping time. Patios were abandoned, the tables and chairs either covered or removed altogether. Brightly covered awnings had been taken down and doors were securely closed against the chill. The usual bustling crowd was absent, replaced by a few solitary shoppers hurrying from store to store, bundled up so that little more than their eyes showed.

“Well look at this. Fine literature at it’s best.” said Remus sarcastically. He was pointing toward the front window of Flourish and Blotts which was filled by a large poster that announced :

“From award winning author GILDEROY LOCKHART --- Wanders with Werewolves -- Coming soon! Pre-order your copy today !”

Below the bold lettering was a photo of Lockhart brandishing a wand at a werewolf cowering at his feet. Every now and then he would place his foot on the top of the werewolf’s head and turn to wink toward the camera.

“Who the hell is that?” asked Brand, scowling.

“Believe me, he’s just as horrible as he looks.” I said, staring at the picture in disgust.

“You know him?” asked Augustus.

“He’s been around school.” I hesitated before adding. “He got me into trouble once by telling the campus guard that I’m an undeclared werewolf. He heard about me being in the band and jumped to conclusions.”

“When was that?” asked Remus, giving me a searching look.

“Shortly after the dementor attack. I didn’t say anything because I figured you’d freak.”

“Gilderoy Lockhart.” said Mel, gazing at the poster, committing Lockhart’s face to memory. “If I ever meet him, I’ll kick his ass for you.”

“I’d pay to watch that, but believe me, he isn’t worth the trouble.” I warned him. “If he was, I’d have done it myself.”

“I have an idea.” said Streak, lips curled into an evil grin. “Come on Mel -- cover for me.”

The rest of us watched while the two of them headed into the bookstore, opening the door without setting off the bell with a skill that indicated they’d done it before.

“There’s talent for you.” Augustus snorted. “Oh yeah -- they grew up in werewolf-land.”

“I don’t know you people.” said Remus as Streak crawled into the window while Mel made sure no one inside was watching. Streak removed something from his pocket and proceeded to deface the poster of Lockhart. Just as Lockhart turned to face the camera, Streak scrawled an untidy mustache and horns on him. Above that, he began altering the letters in Lockhart’s name so that it now read, “Gilderoy Farhart.”

“My God. We’re all going to Azkaban.” said Remus, with a cautious glance up and down the street. “Let’s get out of here.”

I was at his side as he began walking away from the store in the direction of Ollivander’s. “Lockhart is an idiot.” I said.

“You have something against idiots? I’d never have guessed.” Remus laughed, glancing back over his shoulder.

“Not all of them. Just Lockhart.”

“Well I can’t wait to read his new book. I’m sure it will be absolutely fascinating.”

“Yes. I’m sure you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about werewolves but were afraid to ask.” I teased. “You know the last time I saw him, he was in the library reading. “Werewolves for Dunderheads.”

“And now he’s written. “Werewolves by Dunderhead’”.

In the distance we could hear whoops of amusement and rushing feet advancing on us. “Are you being chased?” I asked once the boys had caught up.

“Nah. We never get caught.” said Mel. “Well, hardly ever. My personal record is six arrests and no convictions.”

“Arrests for what? Do I want to know?”

“Does the Ministry need an excuse to arrest a werewolf?” asked Mel righteously.

“You were arrested for pick pocketing.” blurted Streak, who had to duck to avoid Mel’s fist.

“If you get into a brawl here, I’m leaving.” Remus calmly threatened. “And I’m taking Kerri….who holds the gold…with me.”

That immediately calmed them down. We continued down the street to Ollivander’s with no more trouble. Streak bounded ahead to hold the door open for me like I was royalty or something. I hadn’t been in the shop since I’d bought my own wand at the age of eleven, but the place looked exactly the same. The only difference was that the spindly chair sagged more.

“Good day.” came a quiet voice that seemed to melt right out of the stacks of boxes, just as it had before.

I had the money so I did the talking. “These three gentlemen are interested in purchasing wands.”

Mel, Augustus, and Streak all stood up a little straighter.

Ollivander’s eyes gave me a piercing look. From he expression on his face, I knew he was trying to place me. “I know you.” he said at last. “Blackthorn and unicorn tail hair…eleven and a half inches.”

“That’s right.” I said in surprise. “It was so long ago.”

“I remember every wand I’ve ever sold.” said Ollivander with quiet pride. His eyes shifted from me to Remus. “And you…let’s see….hazel and unicorn, also eleven and a half inches.”

“Yes sir.” said Remus courteously, removing it from the inside pocket of his cloak. “It’s been very good to me.”

“You’ve taken good care of it.” said Ollivander, looking at the lovingly polished instrument in Remus’s hand. “Take care of your wand and it will take care of you.”

Ollivander’s eyes wandered over Streak and Brand, but their wands had come from other shops so he didn’t recognize them. “So.” he said, in a businesslike tone as he faced the other three. “Every Ollivander’s wand contains a powerful magical core….”

It was the exact same speech I’d heard years before, almost word for word. From the look on Remus’s face, which was politely interested with subtle undertones of half boredom - half amusement, I knew he’d heard it at least once too. I wondered just how long Ollivander had been giving that speech. The sign over the door said that the store had been around since 382 BC., and although Ollivander looked like an old fossil, I didn’t think he was quite that old.

“Can I…can I go first?” asked Streak somewhat nervously once the sales pitch was over.

The rest of us watched while Streak began trying out wands. Cherry and phoenix feather, bendy…maple and unicorn hair, supple…willow and dragon heartstring, swishy. The fourth one was apple wood and unicorn tail hair, ten and three quarter inches. Streak gave it a wave and red sparks flew. He was so thrilled that he actually gave me an impulsive kiss. I couldn’t be annoyed because his evident delight was contagious.

“I don’t need a box.” he told Ollivander breathlessly. “I’ll carry it.”

“As you wish.” answered Ollivander, as though this request was not out of the ordinary. “Who is next?”

“How about me?” said Mel, stepping forward. His eyes followed the tape measure suspiciously as it zoomed around of it’s own accord, measuring seemingly random and unrelated body parts. Basil and Brand were snickering at him. I silenced them with the same look that I used to give Peeves and plan to use one day on my students. Weasleys in particular.

I’m starting to sound like my brother.

Mel took a bit longer to match with a wand, which seemed to please Ollivander, who rooted through boxes, muttering excitedly to himself under his breath. Finally, he wrestled a box from the bottom of an ominously tipping stack, saying to himself, “…hawthorne…we don’t sell many of those…hmmm. Yes.” he said decidedly, handing the box to Mel. “Try this one. Hawthorne and phoenix feather, ten and a half inches. Give it a wave.”

Mel did, and red sparks blossomed from the end. Red sparks flew from Streak’s wand as well, because he’d been waving it around for the last ten minutes. “Careful.” cautioned Remus, who had come perilously close to being blasted in the face.

“Next.” said Ollivander.

“I guess that’s me.” said Augustus quietly as he stepped forward.

Unlike Mel, Augustus found a wand almost immediately, oak and dragon heartstring, eleven and a half inches.

“Seven galleons each.” said Ollivander, holding out his hand expectantly.

Beside me, Streak stopped playing with his wand and flinched. All of the others grimaced at the statement of the sum. “I have it.” I said calmly, and counted out twenty-one gold Galleons.

Back out on the street, I went through another awkward round of being thanked and hugged. “It’s okay.” I told them. “Just promise to study hard and learn to use them.”

Reassured, a teasing grin twisted Augustus’s features. “Hey Basil --- everyone’s wand is bigger than yours.”

“Stuff it.”

“Mine’s the biggest.” said Augustus, pulling his out for comparison.

Basil was looking so annoyed that even Remus laughed. “Let me just say that I am perfectly secure with the size of my wand, thank you.”

“It’s not the size of the wand that counts.” Basil huffed. “It’s how good you are with it.”

“Spoken like a man with a small wand.” snickered Streak.

“Your mother….” Basil began hotly.

“Was a fine woman.” I interrupted quickly before things escalated. “Knock it off. I don’t want to hear about or look at any of your wands anymore. Act like civilized werewolves or I won’t take you out in public again.”

“Civilized werewolves?” laughed Brand. “You don’t know much about werewolves obviously.”

“Come on Basil -- what’s your wand?” asked Streak. “You know all of ours and we won’t laugh.”

“Holly and unicorn.” answered Basil, looking ruffled. “None of your business how long.”

“Well mine is ten and a half inches, oak and phoenix feather.” said Brand cheerfully.

“Well now that we’ve settled that,” said Augustus, “Let’s stop in the Leaky Cauldron for something to eat on the way back. We’ll pool our money.”

“Not you, Kerri.” said Streak firmly. “You’ve spent enough for one day.”

“Count me out.” said Remus. “I have things to do at home.”

“We know you’re flat broke.” said Basil “We’ll buy.”

His words made me internally wince. Remus has a lot of financial problems but he has pride too. “That isn’t necessary.” he said coolly. “I need to be getting back home.”

“Yeah. So you can eat bread and butter sandwiches without butter because you can’t afford the butter. Oh…and drink hot water without tea because you can’t afford that either…lets’ not forget that.” said Basil abrasively.

“Basil Loogan!” I gasped. “Stop being such a rude jerk!”

“A rude jerk is all I know how to be.” he whined.

“Then keep your mouth shut.”

We started back up the street, me at Remus’s side. His expression was neutral but his quick step suggested that he was annoyed by Basil’s words. The others trailed after us, arguing back and forth like a flock of crows. We passed the bookstore where “Gilderoy Farthart” was frantically trying to wipe away the drawn-on beard and shake the werewolf off his leg. It had taken advantage of his preoccupation and sunk it’s teeth into his thigh. Remus looked up at it and laughed. “That’s really horrible.” he said, though he didn’t look remotely sympathetic.

“Hope it rips his leg off.” I agreed. “Remus, why don’t you stay for lunch?”

“You ask so much more nicely than Basil does that I’m tempted to accept.” he said quietly. “But the truth is that he’s right…I can’t afford to eat out. “

“If you can’t pitch in, none of us mind.”

“I do. I may be a werewolf but I still have pride. I’m still a man no matter what the Ministry says.”

“Of course you are.” I agreed. “I know that.”

He gave me a sharp, sideways look that made me blush. His eyes had gone hazel, as they always do when he seems to be feeling some sort of emotional turmoil. We were standing by the door of the Leaky Cauldron and were jostled apart as the others pushed between us on the way inside.

“I wish you’d stay.” I said again.

“I really do have work to do at home.” Remus answered, holding the door for me. “I need to clear up the…hair…”he finished uncomfortably.

By which I knew he meant, ‘wolf hair’.

“You stay here and have fun.” he said, glancing toward the others who had staked out two tables in the corner, pushing them against one another. “Really, they’re on their best behavior.”

“I know…but I want you here. I mean, we won’t see much of each other now that I’ve left my job.”

“I’ll be around.” said Remus, smiling. “I still might take you up on your offer. I’ll see you at the next practice.”

I watched him as he walked a short distance away to apparate, feeling abandoned. Just before he disappeared his eyes met mine and they had what I thought was a very wistful expression in them. Maybe I imagined it.

Disheartened, I retired to the corner of the room where the others were waiting. “Don’t worry about him.” said Basil. “He’s just hardheaded.”

“I know when his birthday is -- March tenth.”

“Awesome. How did you get it?”

“I wrote to Professor Dumbledore.”

“We’ll have to throw a party for him then.” said Basil cheerfully, tipping back in his chair. “Won’t he be surprised? He doesn’t want us to know when it is because then he thinks he’ll owe us something when our birthdays roll round.”

“How old will he be?” asked Augustus.

“Thirty two.”

Our food arrived, a random assortment of finger foods and sandwiches that we set in the center of the table and shared.

“So.” said Basil, fixing me with a solemn blue gaze. “What do you want to ask us?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well…you’re curious, aren’t you? But you never ask because you don’t want to hurt our feelings. About the werewolf thing, I mean.”

The others nodded encouragingly.

“Who wouldn’t be curious?” I asked. “But why all of a sudden like this?”

“Because you treat us like there’s no difference -- you bought us wands.” Brand explained. “If you were any closer to actually being one of us, you’d have a scar to prove it.”

“My scar is on my ass.” said Streak.

I almost choked on my drink. “I’m sorry…that’s really not funny.”

“Yes it is.” said Streak cheerfully. “You didn’t know? I’d have thought you’d have seen it by now. I’ve given you plenty of chances.”

“I try to look the other way when you start stripping.”

“Most of us have scars on our backs from trying to run from our attackers, or on our hands or arms from trying to defend ourselves. “ said Brand frankly. “Except Basil who was born a freak.”

Basil raised his hands in mock jubilation. “Born freak --- that would make a great tattoo.”

“What’s it like to be in wolf form?” I asked.

“Fun.” came Basil’s surprising answer. The others all nodded in agreement.

“You can move so much better.” said Streak. “I love to get out on the shore and just run.”

“Going up and down stairs is a pain, though.” said Brand. “That’s why they built the commune like they did.”

“I like the heightened senses part the best.” said Mel, thoughtfully through a full mouth. “I can smell out every pretty girl for miles.”

“Are you guys supposed to be out running around during the full moon?” I asked.

“No.” said Basil. “But we don’t go far. None of us has been caught at it yet, but not all of us do it. Royal and his kids stay put.”

“And you’re fully aware?” I asked. “I mean…your minds are still your own?”

“The only thing that changes is our bodies, thanks to the wolfsbane potion.” said Basil. “Before then we went totally rabid.”

“That’s how I bit my old wand in half.” Streak explained.

“That’s how I almost bit my own arm in half once.” said Basil, hiking up his sleeve to show me the scar. “I tried to gnaw it off when I was a kid. When you’re like that, if nothing else is around, you attack yourself.”

“Why exactly?”

“Just the nature of a werewolf, I guess.” said Brand thoughtfully. “It’s hard to explain. It’s not like with a rabid animal that’s in so much pain that it just has to bite something. It’s more like instinct…drive.”

“It’s more like you feel pain if you don’t bite something.” said Augustus wryly.

“But not physically.” Mel added.

“So it’s instinct. Like salmon swimming upstream to spawn?” I asked.

“Something like that. But it isn’t’ as much fun as spawning.” laughed Mel.

“It isn’t much fun at all.” said Brand darkly. “Thank God for wolfsbane potion.”

“So what about transformations?” I asked. “What are they like?”

“Hell on earth.” said Brand fervently. “Like the cruciatus curse -- I know, I was hit with that once.”

“Ever had growing pains as a kid?” asked Basil.

“Yeah….I used to get them in my chest.”

“I’ll bet you did.” snorted Mel.

“Well, it’s like that but one hundred times worse…all over your body…all at once. Even in places you wouldn’t think of. Even your internal organs change.” Basil explained. “My mother says it’s almost as bad as childbirth.”

“What if it’s cloudy and the moon doesn’t come out?” I asked.

“We don’t transform, so long as it stays that way. Sometimes we get lucky if there’s a bad snow storm or something.”

“What if the moon comes and goes off and on during the night?”

“We can only transform once. If the moon comes out, we stay in wolf from until morning. All it takes is being exposed to it to trigger the transformation. It takes the rising of the sun to trigger the transformation back.”

“And what if it rains all day and the sun doesn’t come out?” I asked.

“The sun is still stronger. Even on an overcast day we change back.” Basil explained, reaching for a third sandwich.

“There are some places in the world where the sun doesn’t rise for months though.” said Brand knowledgably “Alaska I think. Sucky place for werewolves.”

“How did all of you get lycanthropy?” I asked. “Besides the obvious. I mean, I know Fenrir attacked Remus to get back at his father for a debt.”

“There was more to it than that. Fenrir didn’t like Remus’s father much.” said Brand.

“Well you know that I was born this way.” Basil answered my question.

“Fenrir got me.” said Brand.

“Me too.” said Streak, laughing. “I mean really…biting me where he did…I think he enjoyed it way too much.”

“I don’t even know who got me.” said Mel. “It happened when I was ten and my parents just left me at the commune.”

“They abandoned you?” I asked in horror.

“Well, werewolves are hard to raise -- especially before they’re old enough to take the potion.”

“Same here.” said Augustus. “I got grabbed when I was twelve while I was home from school. I was at Hogwarts at one time, believe it or not. Dumbledore would have let me back, but my parents were afraid of what would happen if I got out of control and bit someone. They left me at the commune. Lots of parents do it.”

“Do you ever see them?” I asked.

“They came by to check on me when I turned seventeen.” said Augustus with a shrug. “Haven’t seen them since.”

“It’s not easy to raise werewolves.” Basil reiterated. “Remus was unbelievably lucky that his parents stuck it out. Even now, kids under twelve can’t take the potion because it’s too strong and will poison them. They have to be locked up.”

“That’s why we don’t live so long.” Brand explained. “The transformations are hell and it really messes up your body over the years. And back when there was no potion to help, the madness made it even worse.”

“And lets face it.” said Augustus, snatching the last onion ring from under Mel’s reaching hand. “Our living conditions suck. The Ministry makes sure we don’t get what we need to take care of ourselves. They don’t want us to live long.”

“My mother died at thirty five and my father at thirty nine.” said Basil. “Remus keeps going like he is, we’ll be burying him soon. Fenrir made him a werewolf, but Fenrir doesn’t work like Remus does. He likes to say that he’ll lift his leg on Remus’s tombstone.”

“Remus says that he hopes Fenrir will just keel over one day.” said Streak. “He’s pushing fifty.”

“Fenrir’s too mean to die.” said Brand darkly. “He’ll outlive us all.”

“I’m going to enjoy the time I have.” said Streak. “It may not be much, but I’m going to make the best of it.”

“It sucks.” said Basil hotly. “It really does. But we’re just as good as anyone else -- we have as much right to live as the next person. They can call me a ‘being’, they can call me a ‘beast’, they can call me whatever they want. I’m a werewolf and I don’t care. While I’m here I’m going to go where I want, and do what I want, with whoever I want. People don’t like it -- tough.”

“That’s the attitude Remus needs to adopt.” I said “Good for you.”

“See that’s what we like about you. Most people hear talk like that from a werewolf and they freak. You’re not scared of us.”

“Should I be?”

“Only after we’ve eaten beans.”

“Mel leaves the toilet seat up.” said Streak.

“But I’m talented in other respects.” said Mel with a wink.

We had finished our food, except that which we had wordlessly agreed to set aside for Remus. “I’ll take it by.” said Basil. “He won’t want to take it, but I’ll drop it and run.”

“We look out for him.” said Brand. “Someone has to. You know even Fenrir has his cronies, and they don’t like Remus much because Remus has tried to pass himself off as normal so much.”

“He’s ashamed of what he is and he needs to get over it.” said Basil flatly.

“He’s a good guy, but he’s killing himself by inches. “ said Brand. “Maybe he’s doing it on purpose.”

“And not even enjoying it.” sighed Streak. “Me -- I’m going to party hard, die young, and be a good looking corpse.”

The others laughed, but I couldn’t join their amusement. Interesting as the conversation was, it was disturbing too. They talk like it’s perfectly okay for people to abandon their children in werewolf communes and seem perfectly resigned to the fact that they’ll all die young. I feel a lot of affection for them…and anger on their behalf.

What they all need to do is unite and push the Ministry to make changes in their favor. They won’t do it because most werewolves don’t trust each other. There are too many Fenrir’s among them. What they need is someone to stand behind. A leader with some education who can articulate himself well -- someone like Remus. Remus, who is ashamed of his illness.

It crosses my mind that in that hands of the right woman, one who could love him and teach him to love himself…but I’d better not finish that sentence. The last think I need to do is start rationalizing this feeling for him.

But I could have been good for him, and I know he could have been good for me. Like Basil is fond of saying, “It sucks.”


Author's Note : Thank you for the reviews -- and for being patient enough to sit through such a horrendously long chapter.

Next Chapter : Kerri's class standing is officially announced, she learns the name of the young man who fought with Mel at the Halloween party, and she and Remus become business partners.

Excerpt : Tonks is still desperately interested to know the identity of the person Kerri stayed with Halloween night.

"You know...." said Tonks slyly. "I'll bet Alexander would come along if you did."

"Have fun." I repeated more firmly.

"Why not?" Tonks wheedled. "He liked you, you know. He's good looking and smart, and nice to hang around with...."

"You go out with him then."

"Oh sure. I'll just go back and forth between he and Gideon. I'll date Gideon on odd days and Alexander on evens."

"Have fun." I said again.

"If I didn't know better I'd think you have a man hidden in your closet or under your bed. I've never known you to go out with anyone...that I know of. Come on Kerri -- who did you stay out with all night on Halloween? I want all the details. He must be pretty...ahem...talented if you won't go out with anyone else."

"I'm tired of being bugged about that, NYMPHADORA." I said angrily. "You know that Basil and the boys have even asked me about it? You have the word's biggest mouth."

She looked slightly hurt, but I was too angry to care.

"Go and have fun." I said for the hundredth time.

"I didn't think you approved of fun." she said in a frigid tone. She pulled a green cap over her pink hair and stalked out the door, shutting it rather harder than necessary.













Chapter 29: Chapter 29
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Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : January 12, 1992
Dear Hagrid,

How have you been?

Things are okay here. My new classes have started and I have a new job. The old one wasn't working out very well. I wasn't getting along with my boss so I quit before I left for Christmas. I work in the wee hours of the morning so my days are free for classes and studying, which I like. Plus, I'm making more money.

I love how your letters are always full of Hogwarts wildlife. I don't even have a pet of my own here. I've thought about getting a cat or dog, but I don't have the time to care for one. And too, I go home for holidays, and what would I do with it then? I'll just have to wait till I come home to Hogwarts for good and I have Fang for company.

I don't get to go walking in the woods much anymore either. The snow is too thick and there's a werewolf living in there who is considered dangerous, whether in wolf form or not. I'm pretty sure I could take him if I had to, but I prefer to avoid problems. Luckily, there is a park with lots of trees here in town so I can go there when I really need to get out.

We're studying hippogriffs right now in school. I don't like a lot of the practices they're teaching me -- your ways are better -- more natural and based on common sense. Still, I have an advantage over everyone else in my class because I've had so much experience from helping you with the hippogriffs at Hogwarts. I'm the only one who can actually say that they've helped deliver foals.

I hope things are going okay there and Ron and Harry are staying out of trouble.

Love, Kerri




Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley : January 12, 1992
Dear Charlie,

I have your dragon story beat. You check for hippogriff pregnancy in a similar way. If you think sticking your finger in a baby dragon is bad, try sticking your entire arm in a hippogriff. Not fun. (Quit laughing and go harvest some dragon pies!).

The goal is to feel between the partition of the stomach and the reproductive organs so you can feel if there is a foal and how far along it is. That's NOT how Hagrid taught me to do it. Hagrid might not have book learning, but he has more brains than to stick his arm in a hippogriff's backside. I'll never feel clean again and Tonks keeps saying that I smell. (Stop laughing, you redhaired twit !)

The way Hagrid taught me is to observe the behavior of the females. If you see onelooking for nesting sites or gathering nesting materials, you know t's expecting. I also know how to determine fetal development by feeling the mother's stomach --- from the OUTSIDE, as well as by sight.

Hagrid's techniques are simple, natural, and non invasive. I prefer them much more to the things I'm being taught here. Sometimes I wonder how much of what I'm learning in school I'll actually use. Maybe all this education will amount to nothing more than a piece of paper.

But I WANT a diploma, Charlie. I want to be "Professor", and to have really earned it. I swear that when I graduate, I'm even going to make my mother address me that way. "Professor Cerridwyn Howard" has a nice ring, don't you think?

Talk to you later,

(The future) Professor Cerridwyn Howard




Letter from Cerridwyn Howard : January 12, 1992
Dear Severus,

You aren't honestly serious about failing those Gryffindors are you? Come to think of it...I do seem to remember Charlie freaking out in his sixth year because Peeves had gotten into the potion grades and failed all the Griffindors. You're evil -- you know that? Just don't do it to the fifth years and seventh years. They have enough problems.

It is a pretty hilarious idea, though.

You don't exactly get along with McGonagall, do you? As students, it amazes and amuses us to see the petty rivalries that you teachers get involved in. (If you don't mind me saying). You just expect teachers to be above that sort of thing. Sometimes I wonder if Dumbledore doesn't have as much trouble keeping his staff in line as the staff has keeping the students in line. It's going to be a very weird feeling to return as a teacher.

Of course I'd like to come spend time with you this summer, but I'll have to go home and visit my mother first. She resents that I ever came here in the first place, and disapproves of my friendship with you. I'll try to make a point of getting away sooner this summer...no rush...there's plenty of time to work it all out. What exactly do you want to show me anyway?

Now, it seems odd that Aedennan would be lurking around outside in the dead of winter. He hates the outdoors and the cold. It makes no sense that he'd be having secret meetings with dark wizards on the Hogwarts campus. Wouldn't it make more sense for them to meet in Hogsmeade at the very least -- anywhere but underneath Dumbledore's nose?

Is it possible he could be looking for something or hiding something? Could he just be trying to get away from you? Is anyone around when you find him out there?

You don't think he's in direct contact with That-Person-You-Don't-Want-Me-To-Name-Whose-Name-Starts-With-V-And-Ends-In-T do you?

Why would Dumbledore not put a stop to Ron and Harry's investigating? Did he give a reason? That cerberus could tear them to pieces and they need to keep away from there if Aedennan is creeping around there trying to get to the...Thing. I really don't like to think he'd hurt a student, but I am convinced that he's gone over to the dark side. I just can't understand why.

At any rate, you really have your hands full. It doesn't seem fair that Dumbledore has put all this onto you. Just don't take it out on your students. It sounds like you really have it out for the Potter kid. If you hate him that much, why don't you just unlock the door to the cerberus and wait ?

Maybe this will cheer you up a bit --- I've officially achieved Sophomore standing and my name is posted on a list of the top twenty five students on a board in the main courtyard. Every organization on campus has invited me to join, but I don't think I will. I really am busy. Trying for four years of work in half the time isn't as easy as it looks, and I have lots of extracurricular projects I'm trying to keep up on too. Besides, those organizations are just about exclusivity, status, and prestige, and I don't care about those things. Still, it's very gratifying to have been asked.

I do hope that things get better for you, Severus. Let me know if I can do anything to help.

Affectionately, Kerri


Tonight...last night...well....early this morning, was the first time I've done the paper route without supervision. I'm tired, but I suppose I'll get used to these hours. Well, I guess I wasn't totally unsupervised -- no one rode with me but I will be followed for the rest of the week.

It would have gone fine but for one flaw. Once a week a special paper comes out that's geared toward business owners. I only have a few on my route but this was the first time I've ever had to deliver them. The street one of them was on had several wizarding addresses, which threw all the Muggle house numbers off. It took me half an hour to find that customer alone ! By the time I found it, the person following me had caught up !

Never again. Now that I've made that mistake, I won't make it again because I know where that one is now. I think once I've gotten used to the job, it should only take me about an hour to do the route. That's without help -- I'm still hoping that Remus will take me up on my offer.

Tonks is being very patient with the bizarre hours I'm keeping. (Well I've always been patient with her partying). We've switched beds so I have the one closest to the door and she doesn't ever complain when the alarm goes off. Not much at least. Every morning when the alarm starts buzzing I hear the most unearthly groan from the opposite bed. Wide awake though, she's very supportive. "If this means you have more money for pizza, I'm all for it." she told me when I explained the new job to her.

The job isn't the only fresh start in my life as classes have begun again. I was a bit shocked when Tonks and I were crossing the main courtyard and I discovered my name in shimmering gold letters emblazoned on a message board at the head of a list of the top twenty five students in the school. "Cerridwyn Howard, Sophomore."

"I hate you." said Tonks, whose name, "Nimphadora Tonks" was fourteenth on the list.

"They spelled your name wrong."

"Everyone spells it wrong. I wish they'd just abbreviate it to N. Tonks. I could just kill my mother for doing that to me." Suddenly her eyes focused on something across the courtyard and she added darkly, "But then some people think that last names are all that matter."

It was the young man who had showed up at Tonks's party on Halloween and gotten into a fight with Mel. He gave us a contemptuous glare and kept walking.

"What a stupid moron." I said slowly and distinctly so he could read my lips.

"I found out what his name is. Franklin MacNair. He has an older brother who works for the Ministry. My mother knows all the old wizarding families because she came from one -- and she knows all their dirty laundry. She told me that his brother was an accused Death Eater but he got off. Figures -- from what I've seen of Franklin, they seem like the type. They live on a pretty good sized piece of property over on the opposite side of the werewolf commune."

"Never heard of them." I said with a shrug. "And I don't think I want to get to know them either."

Things are coming along beautifully with the boys and their lessons. They have really knuckled down and set to work with a seriousness that I'd never have thought them capable of. Even Remus is amazed at how hard they're working. Streak, of all people is going to be our prize student I think. He's asked if I can loan him some old text books to read and says he wishes we had time to work on potions.

They have a wide range of abilities ranging from first year to some fourth year level. Most of it is random and sporadic, but each one of them does seem to have a particular talent. Mel, who has such a gift for fist fighting is the best at defensive spells. Streak, on the other hand, seems to learn charms with almost no effort. If I was going to bet on who will be the first to conjure a patronus, I'd bet on him. We're still a very long way from that but I'm hopeful. If I can just get them to the point where they can fend off dementors, I'll feel that I've done a good deed.

I keep thinking about my brother and how he's always telling me to 'find a passion in life'. I don't think that's exactly what this is, although I really do get very worked up over werewolf rights these days. It was never an issue that I gave a second thought to until I made friends with Remus and Basil and the rest. Especially because of Remus and these sentimental feelings I have for him, however inappropriate. It's hard to watch people you care about being backed into corners and being victimized by the government that's supposed to protect them.

Sometimes I think I'd like to help them organize and lodge protests at the Ministry. Can you imagine the conniption Severus would have? Somehow I think Remus would disapprove of it too. He doesn't like to rock the boat, but you can't go through life letting people step on you all the time. So what if it's the law? Sometimes laws are wrong and need to be changed. On the other hand, I guess it would be pretty hard to fight the system when you know that the system can throw you into Azkaban for no reason at all and most of the general population will applaud it.

At any rate, I'm not going to go out and storm the Ministry tomorrow. However, that bill to ban werewolves from owning wands should be coming up for review in a few months. I might start thinking about what could be done about it. Patience is one of those things that I admire most about Remus, and is a good thing in moderation. On the other hand, it can be lethal if it turns into complacency.

I'm glad that I'm staying so busy -- it keeps me from sitting around waxing romantic about Remus. I have classes and tutoring and Tonks is still working with me on self defense. I'm not sure I'm learning much more from her than how to land gracefully when she knocks me down.




Today I had a surprise guest for dinner, which was nice because I was all alone after Tonks ran out on me.

"Gideon invited me out at that last minute...bet you worked hard on that....you really need to get a hobby or something. Personally, I hate to cook. What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Nothing." I said, greatly annoyed. "Have fun."

"You know...." said Tonks slyly. "I'll bet Alexander would come along if you did."

"Have fun." I repeated more firmly.

"Why not?" Tonks wheedled. "He liked you, you know. He's good looking and smart, and nice to hang around with...."

"You go out with him then."

"Oh sure. I'll just go back and forth between he and Gideon. I'll date Gideon on odd days and Alexander on evens."

"Have fun." I said again.

"If I didn't know better I'd think you have a man hidden in your closet or under your bed. I've never known you to go out with anyone...that I know of. Come on Kerri -- who did you stay out with all night on Halloween? I want all the details. He must be pretty...ahem...talented if you won't go out with anyone else."

"I'm tired of being bugged about that, NYMPHADORA." I said angrily. "You know that Basil and the boys have even asked me about it? You have the world's biggest mouth."

She looked slightly hurt, but I was too angry to care.

"Go and have fun." I said for the hundredth time.

"I didn't think you approved of fun." she said in a frigid tone. She pulled a green cap over her pink hair and stalked out the door, shutting it rather harder than necessary.

Aggravated, I settled down on the sofa to finish up some reading for one of my classes. I was almost finished and ready to go get my roast out of the oven when there came a knock on the door. It was familiar knock and it made my heart give an odd little leap. I knew who the visitor was before I ever answered. "Remus ! You're just in time to eat. I have a roast cooking and Tonks ran off and left me to eat the whole thing alone."

"I just came by to talk business. Are you sure I'm not intruding?"

"Of course not...don't be silly." I said, pulling him inside. "You ought to know that you're always welcome around here by now. Basil and the others certainly have no problem dropping by when they think there might be food around."

"It smells good in here." he commented as he removed his coat.

"Thanks. I hope you like garlic. I injected whole cloves into the meat. It really isn't as much work as Tonks thinks it is. Just get it started and let it simmer all day. Just don't tell her I said that."

"I like garlic. My mother always used to cook hers the same way. Tonks has a date, I assume?"

"A last minute one with Gideon. Sit down and I'll get dinner on the table."

"I came over to ask you, do you still think you can pass me off as a Muggle?" asked Remus, watching me start to work.

"Of course. Do you want to give it a try?"

"I'm getting pretty desperate for money this month. I don't suppose you've heard, but the rain last summer did a great deal of damage to the wolfsbane crop. Prices have spiked and naturally the cost of the potion has gone through the roof. I've been backed into a place where I can either pay rent or buy potion."

"Sorry to hear that." I said sincerely. "Look under the cookie jar there. There's a paper there where I worked out how much you'd make once supplies and my half of the wages are factored out."

"A month?" he asked, after reading the figures.

"A week." I corrected, unable to hold back a laugh.

"Muggles make this kind of money? You described this as a low paying, part time job."

"It is." I assured him. "But everyone on earth makes more money than you people in the workhouses do."

"That's true." he ruefully agreed. "It's been so long since I've had a real salary that I've forgotten what it's like. This will be in Muggle money?"

"Yes. But I can have it changed over. If you trust me to handle it for you, that is."

"Of course. You trust me to handle your band earnings don't you? Besides, I know where you live."

"You can send Fenrir after me if I cheat you." I said as I set the platter on the table.

"He's been asking about you." said Remus darkly, but his eyes lit up at the sight of the roast. I really do think he lives off bread, sausage, and water. It's nice to be able to feed him something decent now and then. "He's curious as to why you quit. I think he just does it to annoy me because he knows I can't stand him."

""Can't stand him' is a mild term." I teased. "You're much nicer about it than I'd be."

"Well, when I was young I felt sorry for him. I thought that it had been an accident. Then I got older and learned the truth....and actually met him face to face...."

"How was that?"

"Uncomfortable. It was when I first moved into the commune after I left home. By then I knew the truth and I also knew his name. He knew who I was right away because he knew my name as well. This was before the commune banned him so I'd seen him around there but I didn't know who he was. One day he walked up to me and asked me to take off my shirt so he could see his handiwork."

"What a complete jerk." I said viciously, feeling that this was another grave understatement. "What did you do?"

"At first I didn't understand what he meant. I couldn't fathom that he would just walk up to me like that and proudly admit to attacking me. I was young then and I wasn't used to people like that. He told me his name and that's when I knew who he was."

"Then what?"

Remus smiled in a sheepish, slightly ashamed sort of way. "I was going through a very hard time then. It was the final breaking point. I punched him."

"You punched him? You?" I laughed. "I can't imagine you punching anyone."

"He's lucky I didn't curse him. I was more angry than I'd ever been in my life. Here was the person who had ruined my entire life, standing before me bragging about it. I'd been through too much stress in recent months and that was the breaking point. Royal was there and he pulled me off him. Fenrir just laughed as though it hadn't bothered him, as though it hadn't hurt. as if I'd been no more than a child slapping at him. That was worse than if he'd hit me back.."

"He's really nuts."

"Yes, he is. And that's why I want you to be careful of him. Hopefully now that you're not working there anymore you won't have occasion to come under his notice."

"Is he still living in the woods?" I asked. "I mean...it's pretty cold."

"Off and on. When the weather is very bad he and his followers sleep at "The Lair." He's friendly with the owner. So..." said Remus, in a tone that indicated a change of subject. I sensed that he was uncomfortable talking about his loss of temper with Fenrir. "The job?"

"All you have to do is show up and help me. You don't have to apply or anything like that. Just show up here around two thirty in the morning. Dress casual and warm...and like a Muggle obviously. With luck we'll be done by four thirty."

"That should give me time to go home and sleep a little before I have to go to work at the workhouse."

"If this works out, will you quit your job there?" I asked, hoping the answer would be 'yes.' Remus is not what I'd call weak, but he isn't as physically able as the younger werewolves are. He's aging far before his time and working as hard as he does to maintain his independence only speeds the process.

"Perhaps. I'll try it for a month and see how things go. I'd like to be able to quit...I really should quit. You know why." he said uncomfortably.

"Yes, I do know. I wasn't sure that you did though."

"It's worth it." said Remus firmly." I honestly don't mind it so much as long as I don't have to live in the commune. I woke up once with a dementor standing over me and moved out that night. I lived on the streets for a little while, until I saved up enough to get a place. Anything is better than the commune. I swore to myself then and there that I'd never live there again."

"Couldn't you ask your parents for help?"

"No. They would help of course, but I feel that I've caused them enough trouble to last a lifetime." he sounded very decided on this point.

Poor Remus. I know that he hates the lycanthropy but it brings out so many traits in him that I admire. He doesn't complain, he just goes through life with this patient endurance that I could never pull off. I have too much of a temper. I'd have killed Fenrir years ago. I wish I could be more like Remus.

So we made plans to meet tonight....tomorrow morning rather...to go to work together. I'm really looking forward to working with him again. I always enjoy spending time with Remus, too much perhaps. I'm beginning to despair of ever getting a handle on my feelings for him, and I don't really need to. All I have to do is keep him from finding out about it.

I wonder how he'd react if he knew?





I think this thing with Remus might just work out -- this paper route thing --- not the romance thing. Obviously.

Once I was dressed and ready to go I poked my head out the door to see if he'd arrived yet. I startled slightly as he appeared on the doorstep, almost on top of me.

"Sorry." he said quickly.

"That's okay." I said, looking him over swiftly. Jeans, sweater, coat, scarf...nothing out of the ordinary to attract unwanted attention.

"Am I convincing?" he asked.

"You look fine. You're not trying too hard, which is the mistake most wizards make."

"Werewolves usually know how to blend in because of the travel problem...not being able to apparate. I prefer pants for sleeping and working, and especially in winter. There are some body parts upon which you just don't want to feel a draft."

Laughing, I unlocked the car and we got in. "I have a good heater." I told him, cranking it up. "I prefer not to use magic at all when I'm working but the heater in the car is wonderful once it gets going. Trust me, you won't be cold."

Remus looked a bit bleary from sleep, but no worse than anyone else would be at that hour of the morning. There was more stubble on his chin than I was used to seeing and it looked kind of sexy. Did I just use that word?! I am losing my mind !

There were no problems while we were picking up the papers. Remus was mostly quiet, gray eyes taking in his surroundings with a mixture of caution and curiosity. He's such a gentleman...they don't make men like him anymore. He insisted on loading the car for me and refused to let me help.

"I plan to earn my keep, Kerri." he said firmly. "Besides, I have better manners than to let a woman do heavy lifting. "

There's something nice about being treated like a woman...no, like a lady...for a change. I grew up with mostly boys for best friends and I could always hold my own among them. I was a complete tomboy. Back home with my mother it was just us, and if we wanted anything done we had to do it ourselves because there were no men in our lives to help us. I'm simply used to doing for myself, and it's a foreign experience for me to have someone holding doors and lifting heavy objects for me. Charlie Weasley would never have thought of such a thing.

I kind of like it. Isn't that silly? Women spent centuries fighting for equal rights and I'm selling out for a wizard who looks cute in jeans. Did I just say that?



Author's Note : As always, thank you for the reviews.

Next Chapter : Vampire Ryann instructs Kerri on the finer points of flirting...

Excerpt :

The music that was playing by then had a sultry, oriental feel that put me in mind of palm trees and deserts. "Wonderful. Perfect music for you to get Remus's attention to." Ryann said in my ear.

"What !" I gasped, and almost stormed off the floor.

"You heard me." laughed Ryann, pulling me back. "You have to move like this....imagine you're moving against him." she said, demonstrating.

I'm sure that my face was the color of a tomato. "I don't think of him like that."

Ryann gave a deep, throaty laugh. "Methinks you doth protest too much. I've been watching you two subconsciously signaling to each other all night long. You want him and he wants you. It's simple."

"No it isn't simple." I shot back. "I'm probably too young for him and he thinks he isn't good enough for anyone because he's a werewolf. Besides...he doesn't think of me like that. You don't think he does....really....do you? Seriously?"

"Yes, I do. I notice these things. Come on Kerri...move your hips like this."

"In this skirt?"

"Especially in that skirt." Ryann laughed.















Chapter 30: Chapter 30
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Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : January 13, 1992

How are you? I am fine.

I hadn't' thought about you being' in a city. I wouldn't want to live in one myself so I understand. When I was a kid my dad and me lived out in the country and when I went to Hogwarts, I never left. Never lived any place else and never wanted to. No place else like Hogwarts, is it?

Still there's lots to do in a city that you can't do here. You should get out a bit and see what the world has to offer before you settle down. Might have done myself if I'd had the chance. No regrets though.

I guess it would be different how I do things and how they teach you at school. I never had schooling past my third year and what I know, I learned from the gamekeeper before me and from getting out and spending time with animals. I bet you come back from Merlin with stuff to teach me.

I go see Fluffy now and then to feed him and tidy up. I play with him 'cause he's feeing lonely and restless lately. Feel bad for him shut up there but he has a job to do. Wish I could take him for a walk. Bet the kids would really love him and I know Fluffy would like having kids to run and play with.

Take care and study hard.

Love, Hagrid





Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : January 18, 1992
Dear Future Professor Cerridwyn Howard,

I'm in a mood to humor you after that hippogriff story. You're right -- that's worse than anything I've ever had to do here.

I'm doing okay, keeping busy. I'm thinking about staying over summer. You'd think she'd be glad, but my mother is already having kittens over it. I have to grow up sometime don't I?

Bill is doing great in Egypt. I got a letter from him yesterday with some pictures included. You should see the tan he has and how long his hair is! He doesn't look like a banker but he's so good at what he does that they don't care. He brought in such a haul on his last job that they have him a promotion.

I hear from Percy a lot too. He is so full of himself. You weren't like that when you were a prefect. He's aiming for head boy, and I bet the little brat gets it too. If he does, there'll be no living with him. I feel sorry for the others. Plus, it's his OWL year and he's stressed out, which makes it worse. You know how he is when he gets like that -- like he has PMS.

I heard from Fred and George once since school started. The little idiots sent me a box full of Cornish pixies. We fed them to our baby dragons once we caught them though, so it was alright in the end...and very satisfactory after the mess they made. If F & G had been here I would have fed them to the dragons !

And finally, Ron sends letters now and then too. If nothing else, having a large family ensures that you score big at mail call. Mostly Ron's letters are full of Quidditch and Harry Potter. I think he's pretty flattered to be best friends with Mr.-The-Best-Seeker-Since-Charlie-Weasley. Sounds like Oliver is working the team hard. I'm tempted to write and offer some strategies but I know I'd have been furious if McKenzie had done that to me when I was captain.

As for me, besides working hard I've started regularly seeing a girl here in town. Her name is Saskia and she has the prettiest eyes I've ever seen. She doesn't speak much English, but with eyes like that she doesn't need to.

Anyhow, glad you're okay and keeping out of trouble....watch where you stick your hands from now on.

Charlie.




Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : January 13, 1992
Dear Kerri,

I assure you that I am deadly serious about failing those Gryffindors. The enemy are so naturally cocky and self assured that I feel it a beneficial experience for them to receive a scare now and then. Besides, it was amusing. Professors have senses of humor too, you know.

To answer your question I have some spells I'd like to teach you that are of the sort not taught at Hogwarts. They are not illegal...most of them at least...or necessarily classifiable as Dark. I never thought it made sense to classify spells as Dark or otherwise anyway. Wizards are Dark, not spells. If a man murders another man with a knife, is it the fault of the knife? If you use these spells responsibly and wisely then I see no harm in your knowing them. If worse comes to worse the knowledge of them may prove advantageous.

The questions you have about Quirrel -- how and why he went over to the dark side -- I suggest you ask him yourself. If you answer his letters too passively and seem to accept his new beliefs too readily, he will begin to suspect a trap. Challenge him now and then, just enough to make him believe that you stand upon the edge of adopting his philosophies. Your questions may spur some interesting answers.

And now I have a question for you. You were a student more recently than I was and are more up to date on the working passages than I am. Is there a shortcut that a student could take to get completely out of range of the library corridor in under two minutes? I am beginning to rethink my theory about the disturbance in the library over Christmas, though I prefer to say no more than that until I am certain. Everyone is under the impression that I am 'out to get' the person whom I suspect.

I'll close this off now before I get into a foul mood.

Stay safe.

Severus





Why can't I rid myself of this irrational attraction to Remus Lupin? This is not why I came to university. I am not one of those silly, weak minded girls who just pursues higher education as a cover for the pursuit of potential husbands. I came here to get an education and a teacher's certificate. I don't need to get distracted by romantic fantasies that have no chance of becoming reality.

I've had crushes before and they always went away. In my experience, romance is like a bad cold -- there's no known cure but if you let it run it's course it eventually goes away. This is starting to feel chronic. He just wakes up feelings in me that I've never felt before. That sounds so cliche I could just puke, but I can't think of a better way to articulate what I'm going through. It's so...new. I guess I'm a late bloomer because this is like nothing I've ever felt before. I wish there was a potion to bring a person's heart under control when it starts admiring unattainable objects at inopportune times. That would be a worthwhile invention and I'd drink it by the quart.

I feel like...no....I know that I made an idiot of myself at Scarlet Dawn. I acted like a total slut. Well...for me at least. I've always had such perfect self control but it seems to just go right out of the window where Remus is concerned. Maybe I can blame Ryann for it --- it was her idea.

I suppose it started with getting dressed for the concert --- and I can blame Basil Loogan for this part of it . He had the idea to make me wear this outfit. Kind of like medieval serving wench meets innocent maiden. Honestly, how stupid. It was a white skirt and blouse with a scarlet corset. Most of it was second hand, the blouse being mine but the skirt belonged to Tonks and the corset was Etta's. I was not happy with it to say the least.

"The skirt is too short!" I'd protested while Tonks was trying to coax me into a pair of white stockings with crisscross ribbon lacing up the back.

"You're tall Kerri -- you have beautiful legs. I'm not one of those jealous girls who can't compliment another girl when she deserves it. I can make myself taller if I want, but it isn't natural so it just isn't the same. My eyes are prettier than yours at any rate -- naturally. But if I had legs like that, I'd show them off."

"I look like a slut."

"You do not !" Tonks protested. "You're the most un-slutty person I know, second only to Professor McGonagall."

"Oh gee, thanks."

From the other room came the sound of the front door being unceremoniously wrenched open. "Honey, I'm home!" came Basil's voice.

"Thank God!" Tonks exclaimed. "I have her dressed -- miraculously. What a nightmare."

"Come out and let us see Kerri!" called Basil.

"Or we'll come in after you!" called Mel.

It has been only recently and by means of threatening them with death, that I have trained them not to come walking into my bedroom whenever they want. Remus is the only one in the group who has manners and I can't expect him to supervise all the time.

Annoyed and self conscious I emerged from the safety of my room. Six...not five pairs of masculine eyes roved over me from head to toe....Remus included. Well, he is only a man I suppose, but it only served to make me blush. Still...he was the most reliable one of the group. "Seriously Remus....is it too much? I know you'll be honest."

Basil answered before Remus could reply. "I like it -- you look like a slut."

"That's it ! I'm changing!" I said flatly.

"No you're not -- not after what I went through to get you dressed." Tonks protested, blocking the path back to my room.

"Remus?" I pleaded, hoping for support.

Remus took his eyes off my legs with an abashed smile that was very fetching on him. It made him look positively boyish. "It wouldn't be appropriate for class but for a concert it's fine. All the vital things are covered. Vashti wears much less than that on stage."

"You've noticed that too?" asked Mel.

"Who hasn't?" asked Brand. "But it's all to impress you, Remus."

"I don't find that sort of thing impressive." said Remus coolly. "Kerri, you look fine."

"Are you sure?"

"You're the one who has to wear it, not us." said Streak reasonably. "If you don't feel good in it, then take it off."

"Take it off." Mel agreed. "Take it all off."

"Grow up, why don't you?" Streak snapped at him.

"At least I don't run around naked in public."

"At least..."

"Let's just go." I cut in, wanting to avoid a fight.

"Don't bend over with your back to the audience!" I heard Tonks laugh as we left.

Scarlet Dawn is a highly misnamed place, as everything there is cobalt blue. Not so much painted blue, as it glows with a heavily perfumed blue haze that gives the place a dark, mysterious sort of feel. It almost reminds me of a carnival funhouse because everything is mirrored from the walls and ceiling to the bar and table tops. Thankfully not the floor, considering what I was wearing.

We were very well received. Vampires have a reputation for being kind of snotty, so I was very pleased by how we were treated. Somehow I think it was because we were a novelty. People were interested in humoring the silly werewolves and the slutty looking girl with the nice legs.

"You're fine." Remus reassured me once Hybrid had finished performing and I had sought him out. He looked amused at the way I was anxiously tugging my skirt down as I sat down beside him. "Look what Lorcan gave us."

"Wow." I said, peering into the money pouch.

"I know. And he's going to see if he can make room to invite us back too. If this keeps up, you'll have the money you spent on the wands back in no time." Remus's gray eyes sparkled with mischief and he slyly added. "You'll be able to buy a longer skirt."

"Oh right. And You can buy a flea collar." As soon as I said it I inwardly winced, wondering if I'd gone too far.

Remus laughed and took a sip of his drink, not looking remotely offended. He seemed to be in an especially good mood that night. "As long as it isn't pink with rhinestones."

"Kerri!" exclaimed a female voice and a hand tapped me on the shoulder.

"Ryann." I acknowledged, turning toward the voice.

Beside her was the pixie faced young woman I'd seen in the photo. "Jillian, right?" I asked.

"And you're Kerri." answered Jillian with a nod. "Ryann told me all about you." her blue eyes went from me to Remus and I thought I detected amusement. "Both of you."

"You clean up beautifully Kerri." said Ryann pointedly. "I've never seen you away from work before. Bet you don't miss that place."

"You'd bet right."

"Want to dance?"

I stared at her in stunned silence for several seconds. Back at Hogwarts we girls would get together in our dorm and dance together to the radio, but never in my life have I been formally asked to dance by another girl.

She was watching me with a wicked expression, sensing my discomfort.

"She's speechless." said Jillian, sounding definately amused.

"It's because I'm a vampire...she's never been asked to dance by a vampire before." said Ryann sarcastically. "Oh for heavens sake -- lighten up will you, Kerri? I don't bite...hard."

A swift glance in Remus's direction told me that he was not coming to the rescue this time. Through the blue haze of the room I could see his gray eyes shining with wicked amusement. In spite of my consternation I couldn't help but laugh. "Fine."

"I'll keep Remus company." said Jillian, pulling out a chair.

"Basil and the others will never let me hear the end of this." I told Ryann as we headed for the dance floor. "This is totally outside my comfort zone."

"Oh, I know it is. That's why I asked you." Ryann laughed. "It's good to get outside your comfort zone now and then. Speaking of which....how much did they pay you to wear that skirt? You've been tugging it down all evening. You shouldn't, because you have nice legs."

I glared at her in exasperation. "I wish everyone would leave my legs alone."

The music that was playing by then had a sultry, oriental feel that put me in mind of palm trees and deserts. "Wonderful. Perfect music for you to get Remus's attention to." Ryann said in my ear.

"What !" I gasped, and almost stormed off the floor.

"You heard me." laughed Ryann, restraining me by pulling me into the dance. "You have to move like this....imagine you're moving against him." she said, demonstrating.

I'm sure that my face was the color of a tomato. "I don't think of him like that."

Ryann gave a deep, throaty laugh. "Methinks you doth protest too much. I've been watching you two subconsciously signaling to each other all night long. You want him and he wants you. It's simple."

"No it isn't simple." I shot back. "He thinks he isn't good enough for anyone because he's a werewolf. Besides...he doesn't think of me like that. You don't think he does....really....do you? Seriously?"

"Yes, I do. I notice these things. Come on Kerri...move your hips like this."

"In this skirt?"

"Especially in that skirt." Ryann laughed.

"Doesn't Jillian mind you dancing with other people?"

"She trusts me. Besides...she knows you only like men. Oh -- he's looking this way. Copy me."

Maybe it was Ryann's infectousness. Maybe it was the befuddling blue mist. But against my better judgment I gave myself up to the music and let it guide my movement. I matched myself to Ryann, undulating slowly to the steady beat of the dance.

"He's definitely looking this way." said Ryann, slyly looking over my shoulder.

For some reason it made me giggle like a total fool.

"You really have it bad." said Ryann knowingly. "Why don't you just tell him?"

"Long story."

"You two don't have time for a long story. Live while you can."

It took some time but I gradually relaxed. It wasn't so different from dancing with the other girls up in Ravenclaw tower after all, and she kept me constantly informed of Remus's actions by watching him over my shoulder.

I knew I was doing a horrible thing...purposely flirting with him from across the room, but an evil recklessness seemed to have possessed me. I knew I'd regret it in the morning, but for right then in that moment, I wanted him to watch me dance and I wanted him to enjoy it. What on earth was I thinking?

Ryann and I danced until Basil couldn't stand it anymore and cut in. "What the hell?" he asked with a raised eyebrow once Ryann had gone. "You've never once danced with me, but you'll dance with her? Is there something you haven't told us about you?"

"Not what you're thinking. Shut up and dance."

Basil was a much more exuberant partner than Ryann, lacking her finesse. I did get a few glimpses of Remus though. Ryann and Jillian were still sitting with him. He was talking to them with his usual polite expression but his eyes were indeed straying in my direction with increasing frequency. I worried about what horrible things Ryann might be saying to him, and then decided not to care.

"I think the incense is getting to you." said Basil. "You look sort of dazed, but then I've had that effect on girls before. Want to come back to my flat with me?"

"Basil Loogan! You know me better than that!"

"I thought so too but you're acting weird tonight. Worth a try anyway. What's gotten into you? Someone bite your neck?"

"If you don't behave I'll never dance with you again." I threatened.

Fortunately, Streak chose that moment to cut in, followed by a long sting of dance partners which included all of my bandmates and a couple more vampires.

"And you should feel privliged after that." said Brand, nodding toward the last one
as he took his place. "Vampires are snots."

Brand was looking especially handsome, all dressed in black with the blue lights glossing his dark hair. He put me in mind of the poet Byron...attractively rakish. Still, there was someone else I'd rather be dancing with who had not danced with me all night. And speaking of....the chair he'd been sitting in earlier was empty. "Where's Remus?" I asked.

"He left ages ago -- but it's great that you stayed for once. You never do."

"Because usually Streak is running around naked." I said distractedly. This was not completely true, as Streak is a lot more careful around me ever since I bought him a wand. "What time is it anyway?"

"Midnight."

"What ---?" I screeched. stopping in mid-sway. "I have to get up early to go to work in about an hour. I have to go home."

"Well, good night then." said Brand disappointedly as I pried myself from his grasp.

I apparated home and got in bed still wearing that horrible skirt, hoping to get a few minutes sleep at least....so much for that idea. Despite the lateness and my need to sleep, getting away from the befuddling mists and fumes of the club seemed to clear my mind. Had I really just spent all evening flirting at Remus across the room? Maybe I had dreamed it. It was very unlike me after all. What had I been thinking?

Worse ---- what had he been thinking?

Well, in an about an hour I would know. I spent most of the intervening time in a half doze, trying to work out what I was going to say to him and how I was going to look him in the eye.

I never did actually sleep so I rolled out of bed fifteen minutes before the alarm was scheduled to go off. I figured I could give Tonks a break anyway and save her the trouble of groaning at the clock for once. Dressing warmly, I went out on the doorstep to wait. It was cold, but then considering how I'd been behaving lately, maybe cooling off was just what I needed.

I was about half asleep with my head leaning against the door frame when Remus arrived at my elbow, looking hugely amused. "You look like you had fun."

"Why didn't you warn me it was getting so late?" I asked reproachfully.

"You were having too much fun and I didn't want to spoil it."

"Too much fun is right." I said sarcastically. It was to my benefit that I was feeling so drowsy. It made me a bit cranky and dulled the embarrassment. "I'm never going to do that again."

"I thought it was good for you." said Remus lightly as we got in the car. "You're too hard on yourself Kerri, and much too serious. You should let your hair down once in a while. You're supposed to have fun at university, you know."

"No. You're supposed to study. That's why they have classes and don't offer degrees in 'fun'." I pointed out. Then, more reluctantly. "I was acting like a total slut."

"Would you please stop calling yourself that? You judge yourself too harshly. You weren't doing anything that anyone else there wasn't."

His tone was reasonable and still slightly amused. Maybe he hadn't noticed that I'd been dancing for his benefit. In spite of everything, it was oddly disappointing...which goes to show that I probably haven't learned anything from this experience.

At any rate, no damage appeared to have been done to our friendship, and that's the important thing. Remus was as friendly and cheerful as always with no strain whatsoever. If he had noticed anything, he was too much of a gentleman to let me know it. They just don't make guys like that nowadays.

Without Remus I'd have never gotten through the morning. I was tired, in a bad mood, and didn't want to be bothered. There is a woman at the place where we pick up the papers who is very talkative and nosy. I wasn't in the mood to put up with her but Remus exchanged cheerful pleasantries with her so I didn't have to. Then, while I updated our delivery list, he went out in the cold and loaded the car alone.

"You look exhausted." he told me when I caught up to him. "If you trust me to drive, I'm willing. I have driven before, you know."

"I'll trust you to drive when you trust me to make your potion."

"Point taken. But if this arrangement is to work out, eventually I will have to drive."

"I know. We'll practice some time -- not today." I yawned.

It was nearly six when we finished and I had a pounding headache by the time we pulled into the drive. "Never again....I'm never staying after a concert again." I groaned.

"You're only exhausted because you had to get up and go to work." said Remus mildly. "You ought to get out and do fun things. When I was your age fun wasn't much of an option. Voldemort was at the height of his power and I was more concerned with staying alive than having fun. You're lucky to have come up in a world where you don't have those worries."

"Only because people like you fought to make sure that we didn't."

"Go get some sleep." said Remus. For just a brief moment he rested his hand on my arm, and then swiftly withdrew it as though he thought better of it. It made me wonder if Ryann might be right but I decided that it was better not to know.

I stopped by the bathroom before going to bed and met Tonks just emerging. She passed me on her way back to our room with her pink hair standing up in all directions and one of her cheeks flushed from resting on the pillow and damp with drool. "You look horrible." she told me.

"Gee thanks Nymphadora."

"Crucio." she mumbled sleepily over her shoulder.

I slept until afternoon and didn't wake up feeling very refreshed. Whenever I sleep during the day I always wake up feeling like I've been drugged.

"You still look terrible." Tonks informed me when I emerged from our room. "How about some pizza?"

Well, it's no worse than I deserve after flirting with Remus like that. It just figures with the way things in my life are always so awry. My first attempt at flirting would end up with me being embarrassed about it and the guy in question having no clue that I exist. Maybe now I'll quit being stupid about him. I really do have to get a grip.




Author's Note : As always, thank you for the reviews. I now have over 100.

Next Chapter : The upcoming Valentine's Ball at Merlin University is announced, and Kerri thinks back, remembering Quirrel teaching her to dance...and Snape interrupting one of the lessons.

Excerpt :

"What...in the name...of Salazar Slytherin....do you think you are doing?" Snape had asked slowly, as though trying to keep from losing his temper completely.

Aedennan had stepped forward between Snape and myself, taking responsibility for the situation. "W-w-w-w-w-we were p-p-p-p-pr---" he stuttered thoroughly agitated by Snape's sudden appearance.

"Perhaps Miss Howard should explain, as you have the verbal skills of a one year old." said Snape, turning from him to me. "Never mind. It's clear enough what's been going on here. A boy and a girl locked in an empty room together. If you become pregnant, Miss Howard, I'm afraid the grind of your OWL year will overwhelm you."

Now it was my turn to get angry and I knew my face had gone red too. "That's not what was going on!" I snapped. "We were practicing for the ball."












Chapter 31: Chapter 31
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Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : January 18, 1992

You're right, there is no place like Hogwarts. That's why getting back is all I thought of during my year back home. Maybe it's because it was the first place in the Muggle world that I was exposed to at length in all of it's glory and eccentricity. I think Muggle borns and people like me who were raised as Muggles, are affected by it more than others because it's so different than what we're used to. We've never imagined any place so wonderful and splendid so we fall for it heart and soul.

I've been thinking about the portraits because of something someone else reminded me of. Some of them have been around for centuries -- can you imagine the things they've seen and know? I've always loved talking to them. Whenever it was rainy or cold out I'd just go around the castle and visit with the portraits for hours on end. You should try it sometime -- you wouldn't believe the things they know.

I'd come by and help you exercise Fluffy if I could but I know that his presence there isn't supposed to be common knowledge. I'm sure he's really something else and I'd love to see him some day. Have Ron and Harry ever quit pestering you about him?

By the way -- I finished last term head of the whole school. Thought you might like to know.

Love, Kerri


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley: January 18, 1992

Dear Dragon Expert Extraordinaire, Charles Weasley

Thanks so much for the wonderful letter filling me in on all the doings of the Weasley clan.

I'm so proud to hear that Bill is doing well. They ought to pay him well for the kind of work he does. The other day Tonks's friend Willow was talking about the Egyptian methods of securing the pyramids. She's a Magical History major who wants to be a researcher at Stonehenge when she finishes up and she's taking a class on ancient curses. Those Egyptians were very creative. Humans have very fertile minds when it comes to inventing ways to hurt each other. No way would I want his job.

Now, about Percy. He's hardworking, dedicated, and not obsessed with wasting time on Quidditch. He has his life on track, knows what he wants to do and how to bring it about. Why is that so horrible? And if he wants to be Head Boy -- good for him. That's something that will be a plus on any college or job application. He's going to be a very accomplished, successful person one day.

Granted --- he annoys me too sometimes, but you have to remember how horrible OWL year is. Everyone gets cranky during OWL year. You guys are way too hard on him.

As for Fred and George, if I were you I'd send them some of that dragon doo and that should fix them.

I'm glad to hear you're...making friends....does your mother know you're dating a Romanian girl? When Remus and I had dinner over there she was talking about how you and Bill were 'getting to marrying' age. I like your mother, but I wouldn't want to be the girl that either of you take home to her. I kind of have the feeling your mother is the type who thinks no one is good enough for her sons.

I'm okay too, keeping busy. The band is really coming along. Some time I'll have to get someone to take pictures of us onstage and send them to you. We're doing about four concerts a week at the werewolf clubs and have our foot in the door of the vampire circuit. I am meeting some VERY interesting characters lately.

So anyway, stay out of trouble and don't get eaten by anything. Talk to you later.

Kerri


Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : January 18,1992

Yes, teachers do have senses of humor --- but yours is MEAN ! You always say that you're strict so you can push your students to succeed, but do you deny that you get a lot of fun out of being what you call 'strict'? (And speaking of which...do you remember that time you put me in detention because you caught Aedennan teaching me to dance?)

I hope that when my time comes I won't refer to my students as 'the enemy'. Can you imagine Professor Dumbledore making a statement like that? If you really hate your job that much then why don't you just quit? You're a potions expert and have good credentials. Research in the healing field pays well. Go after some of that fortune and glory you're always encouraging me to pursue.

There's this to think of too. If V-dmrt actually ever does come back and finds you that close to Dumbledore....well....that can't be a good thing. It might be a good idea for you to get out of there. On the other hand, if he's in touch with Aedennan Quirrel then he may already know. You really need to be careful.

Your somewhat convoluted explanation of the things you want to teach me sounds fishy at the least. Muggles have an expression "guns don't kill people, people kill people." You're talking about unforgivable curses aren't you?

In answer to your question -- no -- I don't know any shortcuts in the area you're talking about. But have you thought about asking the portraits along that corridor if they saw anything? People tend to overlook them but they're always there watching, and most are pretty quick to talk. Sometimes I think that's where Dumbledore gets his information. It's like having a fly on every wall.

My roommate is driving me nuts trying to make me go to some stupid Valentine's Ball. The world goes crazy this time of year. Can I assume that you hate this holiday as much as I do? I could use a little anti-Valentine's sympathy over here.

Thanks for the gold you sent - always much appreciated.

Kerri


Today the university was littered with violently pink flyers bright enough to rival Tonks's hair. Illustrated cupids flapped their wings on either side of ornate gold lettering that announced an upcoming Valentine's ball. I hadn't spared it more than a disgusted glance until Tonks dragged me over for a closer look at one when we met for lunch.

"So?" I asked, scanning it again.

"So -- it's the biggest social event of the year except for the graduation ball." said Tonks incredulously, as though I should have known.

"It sounds a bit formal. Somehow I have trouble picturing you in a ball gown."

"Why? Because I'll trip over the hem?"

"You said it, not me." I pointed out as I turned away.

"Well what are you going to wear?" Tonks persisted, following me across the frosty courtyard in the direction of the potions building where I had my next class.

"I'm not going."

"But -- you have to. Everyone does. If you need a date, I can get you one."

I jerked my thumb in the direction of the message board where my name still glittered at the head of the list of the top twenty five students. "You think that was easy to do? And that's with a double course load. I don't have time for balls."

"Take one of the boys with you." Tonks suggested, apparently not hearing a word I'd just said.

"Sure. I'll bring Streak. He'll be the life of the party when he takes off his clothes and starts comparing wand sizes."

Tonks didn't even smile. "You could get a date if you wanted -- loads of guys around here are crazy about you and you just ignore them. You can't miss this ball."

"I've never been to a ball before so I don't see why ----" I began.

"What? What about your graduation ball?"

"I skipped it."

"The Yule Balls?"

"I almost went to my first one but I got put into detention and missed it." I said with a resolved sigh.

"You? Detention?" asked Tonks, momentarily sidetracked. "For what?"

"I'd rather not say."

"By who? Never mind...only Snape would be so horrible as to ruin a girl's first ball. You can't miss this one, Kerri. Why do you have to be so stubborn?"

"Okay -- I give in. I'll go." I said with a perfectly straight face that somehow failed to convince her.

"You're not being serious, are you?"

"No. I'm trying to shut you up."

I heard her shout something at me in a very annoyed tone as I entered the potions building and firmly shut her on the other side of the door.

I am not going to that stupid ball. Valentine's day is such a waste. The only people who benefit are candy makers and shallow girls who want their boyfriends to prove their love in material objects. What a joke.

Tonks's wheedling has put that old memory into my head as vividly as if it happened yesterday.....



--- I strongly suspect that I have my brother's sense of dignity and pride.
It was my fourth year at Hogwarts and I was anxious about the upcoming Yule Ball. For one thing, the only remotely suitable dress I could lay hands on was a borrowed one. My mother wouldn't have bought me a ball gown even if she could have afforded one. She resented the fact that I was at Hogwarts at all and never did anything to encourage it if she could help it.

Then there was the thorny problem that I didn't know how to dance. Not actual ballroom dancing, and I knew there would be some of that at the big event. I'd been asked out by one of Charlie's buddies and wanted to attend, but the horror of admitting that I couldn't dance was almost too much to stand.

I've always hated admitting ignorance or asking for help. Maybe it's because when you're the kind of student I've always been, people just expect you to know everything. It's like they think it comes easy or something, and you have so much pressure to keep up that illusion that it's embarrassing to admit if you don't really know what you're doing. Besides
-- I have my brother's sense of dignity and pride.

I went to the library in the vague hope of perhaps finding a book about dancing or a spell to help me fake it. I've found that I can teach myself to do almost anything if I just have a good book in front of me, so I figured it was worth a try at least. Besides, I couldn't see any solution other than suffering the indignity of asking someone for help.

I'd been there most of the day and was getting very annoyed and frustrated wehn Aedennan Quirrel found me. That was his final year at Hogwarts and overnight he seemed to have blossomed into this self assured, steady, handsome young man who was ready to take on the world.

"P-p-practice is p-postponed." he told me. "Till Friday. W-w-w-what are you d-d- doing? You look up-upset."

"Nothing." I said shortly, shoving a book back into place and swinging my bag onto my shoulder. "I've had it. I'm getting out of here." I still had a crush on him, and having him catch me trying to find a way to teach myself to dance was just too much. Looking back it seems so silly, but at that age everything was tragic.

Aedennan followed me out. He was somewhat of a big brother figure to all the younger Ravenclaws and always anxious to help out wherever possible. I knew he was concerned and wasn't going to just drop it, but I wasn't in the mood to talk about it. On the other hand, I knew it was a lost cause. He had a magnetic personality and a genius for getting other people to open up to him. He was just one of those people that you felt safe telling things to because he never teased or told.

"W-w-what's wrong?"

"Who said anything's wrong?"

"B-b-b-because you're scary w-when you're m-mad. Even P-p-p-Peeves gets out of the w-way."

That was true. At fourteen teenage angst was setting in and my temper was getting volatile. Already I'd begun the search to answer my question of where my gift of parseltongue had come from, but had no idea where that search would lead. I kept walking, refusing to answer.

"Is it about this b-ball.? All the g-girls are going n-n-nuts."

He read affirmation in my aggravated silence. "Because of a g-guy?"

"No."

"Are you g-g-going?"

"Are you?" I shot back.

"What? D-do you think I can't get a d-date?"

He sounded flustered by my question. I hadn't meant it like that. "I know you can." I told him, slowing my pace slightly. "You're popular."

"So are you. Who are you g-going with?"

"Aidan from the Gryffindor Quidditch team asked me."

"And...?"

"I can't dance." I admitted, not looking him in the eye.

"Is that all? W-w-w-we can fix th-that. Where are you g-going now?"

"I was going to go down and help Hagrid get rid of some kelpies."

"Can you g-go later?"

"I guess, but....I'll never hear the end of it." I said as a pack of Slytherins passed by.

"Hey --- it's Aedennan Squirrel." one shouted.

"That's m-me. T-t-t-totally nuts." said Aedennan cheerfully as we kept on walking. "Kerri, p-people like you. They d-don't care if you c-c-can't d-dance. And so what if they l-laugh? Look what I p-p-put up with, and I don't care."

"I care. I wouldn't put up with the crap you do."

"W-words are just words." said Aedennan placidly.

Somehow he'd stopped following me and I'd begun following him. He led me to an unused classroom in a remote section of the castle. That's one thing about Hogwarts -- it's so huge that there are always plenty of places where you can go when you want privacy. I watched him jam a chair underneath the doorknob to secure it and then start moving the rest of the furniture against the walls. "Relax, w-will you? Any st-st-stiffer and I'd have to b-bury you."

"It'll look suspicious if we get caught alone in a locked room." I pointed out.

"The t-t-teachers know us b-better than th-that. Now....we should have m-music but I g-guess we'll have to m-m-manage. Nothing t-to it. Easier than ancient r-r-runes. P-p-put one hand here...now take mine l-l-like this."

Story of my life. People are always determined to force me to have fun whether I want to or not. I felt stupid and clumsy stepping on his toes like I was. I was rigid in his arms, both from inexperience and the attraction that I had to him.

Nevertheless, what might otherwise have been a torturous experience became a pleasant one over the next couple of weeks. We practiced in secret every day and he spared my dignity by never once telling anyone what we were doing. It came to be more like hanging out with a friend than self conscious dance lessons....I even quit stepping on his toes....mostly.

Things were going beautifully until Snape came along and ruined it all when he walked in on one of our lessons, if 'walked in' isn't too tame a phrase for the entrance that he made.

BANG. The door flew open so violently that the chair pushed against it scraped against the floor, ramming into the wall and tipping over. There in the doorway, face contorted with pure fury, stood Professor Snape.

Aedennan and I had separated and I had given an involuntary flinch before swiftly recovering. In the year that had passed since the potions incident I had given up trying to please Snape. I knew that he was going to do whatever he felt like in regard to me whether it was fair or not. I wasn't outright rude, nor did I go looking to offend him, but I didn't cower before him any more either.

"What...in the name...of Salazar Slytherin....do you think you are doing?" Snape had asked slowly, as though trying to keep from losing his temper completely.

Aedennan had stepped forward between Snape and myself, taking responsibility for the situation. "W-w-w-w-w-we were p-p-p-p-pr---" he stuttered thoroughly agitated by Snape's sudden appearance.

"Perhaps Miss Howard should explain, as you have the verbal skills of a one year old." said Snape, turning from him to me. "Never mind. It's clear enough what's been going on here. A boy and a girl locked in an empty room together? If you get pregnant, it will make your already stressful OWL year even more difficult."

Now it was my turn to get angry and I knew my face had gone red too. "That's not what was going on!" I snapped. "We were practicing for the ball."

"I was under the impression that it was to be a ball, not an orgy. Never presume to speak to me in that tone and you will address me as 'sir'."

"I wasn't talking back...sir." I said, hurling the title at him in a tone that turned it into an insult. "I was explaining. You asked for an explanation."

"Detention, Miss Howard. And ten points from Ravenclaw." said Snape, rounding on me. "And if I ever catch you alone in the arms of a boy again, I will have you expelled."

"N-nothing w-w-w-was ha-ha-happening." Aedennan protested.

"Ten more points from Ravenclaw." said Snape turning toward him with an especially nasty smirk. "If I were you I'd spend more time learning to speak correctly and less time putting my hands on the girls."

"He was teaching me to dance!" I protested. "Where is there a rule against that....sir?"

"Another ten points from Ravenclaw for talking back once more." said Snape silkily. "Oh dear...that brings the total to thirty. I suppose that has just put you down to third place for the cup hasn't it? Care to try for forty?"

I was so furious that I was dizzy with it but I knew that arguing would only make things worse. "May I go professor?"

"Get out of my sight and don't let me catch you in this situation ever again."


Turning on my heel I stormed from the room with my head held high, Aedennan right behind.

"A..a...a...ass---"

"Asshole." I loudly finished for him, not caring if my voice carried back. "I hate him and I'm going right to Professor Flitwick. I'm sick of putting up with his crap."
I had indeed gone to Professor Flitwick with my grievance. He managed to smooth things over slightly, talking Snape into giving us back the points but not out of the detention. Naturally Snape made a point of scheduling the detention to take place on the night of the ball so all my worrying about not knowing how to dance was nothing more than a big waste of energy.

By the time the next Yule Ball rolled around I had solved the question of my parentage and was in the midst of a depression. Balls were of no interest to me whatsoever. It wasn't long after that that I made my resolution to never get married and dating became rather pointless. Hence, I had never attended a Hogwarts ball, or any ball for that matter.

Sometimes, if I let myself think about it, I realize that I've missed out on a lot. When you're a little girl you imagine how things will be when you grow up -- the dances you'll attend, the beautiful dresses you'll wear, and the handsome boys you'll charm. Sometimes I think my life is just passing by without me ever having done anything really worthwhile.

But that's silly. I was prefect, head girl, I won awards, I'm the top student at Merlin. Isn't all that worthwhile? Those things are surely more important than balls and dates, aren't they?

Then why do I feel so empty when Valentine's day rolls round? I hate this time of year.



The boys stopped by to visit me today on their way home -- Basil and Augustus at least. All of my classes for the day were over with and I was taking advantage of a clear day to unwind with a little target practice out in the yard

"Whoa...you can shoot that thing?" asked Basil as the two of them came up the lane.

"You see arrows in the target don't you?"

"You could have cheated and stuck them in there by hand. I don't think-----ACK!"

Basil had screamed like a little girl as I took swift aim and shot in his direction. The bolt stuck in the ground at his feet, waving back and forth with the impact.

"You're nuts!" he exclaimed. "I knew you were for hanging out with a bunch of werewolves. Who taught you to shoot?"

"What absolutely insane person taught you to shoot?" Augustus clarified.

"The Hogwarts gamekeeper. I've been shooting since I was about thirteen. Come on in and get warm -- want some cocoa?"

"Has no one ever told you that chocolate is bad for canines?" asked Basil as they followed me toward the house. "First shooting and now poison."

"What are you guys doing here anyway? I think you'd be anxious to get home -- Remus fell asleep in the car last night."

"It sucks to be him." said Basil. "The little bit of life he doesn't work through, he sleeps through."

"And it sounds like he was managing to do both at the same time last night." Augustus laughed. "He fell asleep at work today too. He came back from lunch half an hour late."

"Why didn't you wake him up?" I asked.

"Because the old guy needs his sleep. He wasn't in a place where anyone would notice, and we were okay covering for him. He was about ready to kill us though. Fine way to show your appreciation."

"He needs to do one job or the other -- not both." said Basil.

"I know. He said he'd do both for a month and then make a decision." I answered, heading for the kitchen.

"We wanted to talk to you about his birthday coming up." said Basil. "Assuming he's still around then. Can we have the party here?"

"After the last one -- you're kidding, right?"

"Hey -- it wasn't us playing with shooting starts. That was the university students." Basil defensively pointed out.

"Just a small party." Augustus coaxed. "Nothing wild -- Remus is an old guy after all. We don't want him to keel over from too much excitement."

"He is not old." I said, annoyed.

"Just us from the band, Royal and Celestia...Remus...and his date if he can find one at his age." said Basil evilly. "And Tonks too."

"Basil likes Tonks." Augustus announced.

"Shut up." said Basil, not sparing him a glance. "What do you think?"

"I think Tonks is very popular -- most of the guys she knows like her."

"Not that. About the party. Idiot."

I let 'idiot' pass. That's still a lot of people to squeeze in here -- especially if Royal and Celestia bring all the kids. I guess we can manage. I'll have to run it by Tonks first, but I'm sure she'll be okay with it. She likes parties. What about food? Do I have to cook?"

"We can all bring something, I guess. We'll have to go around and make up a list. I hope Celestia makes those brownies of hers."

"Any ideas what we should get him?" asked Augustus.

"Something for his house." I promptly answered. "He needs a table. Maybe one of those fold up ones he can put out of the way when he isn't using it. That place he's living in is smaller than this."

"His house is severely lacking comforts. "Augustus agreed "But it seems like a boring present."

"I'm making him an afghan. He drew a beautiful picture for me for Christmas so I wanted to make something for him."

"We'll just have to think about it." said Basil. "Old guys do like practical stuff I guess."

"When your birthday comes I'm going to buy you a leash and collar." I teased.

"Make it black leather with spikes and I'll wear it."

"Especially if Tonks leads him around with it." Augustus laughed.

I think Augustus is right about Basil having a crush on Tonks because his reaction wasn't to joke or argue but to just shoot Augustus a pained sort of look. Wouldn't Tonks and Basil be cute together?

"We'll run the idea by everyone and see how much people can chip in." said Basil. "We don't know what we can get until we know how much we can spend. Hit Tonks up for us, will you?"

"Sure." I said quickly, because Augustus had just opened his mouth and he had a teasing expression on his face.

"One more thing we wanted to run past you." said Basil, his tone more serious. "The Howl Off."

"The what?"

"Howl Off. One a year the werewolf bands get together and compete. Whoever the judges pick is Alpha Band for the year. Pretty much that just means that they get to say they're the best ---- I want it so bad."

"There's the trophy." Augustus pointed out.

"They turn green within a month." Basil scoffed. "Anyway, the next one isn't until Halloween but it's never too early to start thinking about it. Problem is, Full Moon rising is arguing that we don't qualify to compete. They say you're not a werewolf so we aren't a werewolf band."

"You want me to quit?" I asked.

"No. We just want you to know what's being said."

"That's Vashti's band, isn't it?"

Basil nodded. "We told Remus he can't go out with her until she plays nice."

"Well, you know I'll step down if I'm getting in your way."

"You're not in the way -- people like you -- you know how to work a crowd. And it's months away yet. And everyone listens to Royal and he's on our side."

"Vashti is popular too."

"Vashti is easy." Augustus snorted. "That doesn't mean people really like her. She's kind of nuts. People listen to Royal and everyone likes him."

"Except Fenrir." Basil pointed out. "But then he hates everyone."

"But don't worry about him." said Augustus. "He rarely goes after anyone these days unless they really tick him off or there's money to be made."

"I don't know....he's getting pretty reckless lately." Basil contradicted.

"He likes Kerri, though.''

"Just because it pisses Remus off."

"You two make me feel so safe and reassured." I said sarcastically.

"If we thought for one second he was going to mess with you, we'd mess him up first." said Augustus with deadly seriousness.

"But if you ever do see a werewolf as wide as a car coming at you -- shoot to kill.' said Basil.

"Hey -- we'll come by tonight so you can see us in wolf form." said Augustus. "Is that okay?"

"Sure."

"Don't expect Remus. We've never even seen him in wolf form." said Basil, rolling his eyes. "He seriously needs to get over it. I'm told that I make a very beautiful werewolf myself."

"Modest fellow, isn't he?" asked Augustus.

So....I'm sitting here waiting but they haven't shown up yet. The thought of being visited by full blown werewolves doesn't worry me at all, but it does make me nervous that they go out running around on full moon nights. There are plenty of wizards who would think it an act of civic duty to kill them in cold blood, and even running into a trigger happy Muggle with a gun would not be good.

You can really tell I've been around Hagrid a lot --- I sympathize with misunderstood 'monsters'.

Author's Note : Thank you so much for the kind and generous reviews.

Next Chapter : The boys show up to visit Kerri and Tonks on a full moon night. Tonks continues trying to talk Kerri into going to the Valentine's ball.

Excerpt :

"So Kerri..." said Mel brightly. "You need a date for a ball?"

"NYMPHADORA TONKS !!!" I gasped.

"Nymphadora? Your name is Nymphadora?" Streak laughed.

"What's your name then?" asked Tonks coolly.

"Studmuffin." he answered quickly and without batting an eye.













Chapter 32: Chapter 32
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January 21, 1992
Feeling a bit tired today from lack of sleep. Between having the boys howling outside my window and having to go to work in the wee hours of the morning, I didn't get much rest. It was an interesting night though.

I sat up until ten expecting them to show up, but they didn't come. I was feeling a bit disappointed because let's face it --- how often do you get to see a werewolf in wolf form and feel safe enough to enjoy the experience? (I have been around Hagrid too long).

It was about half past eleven when I was startled bolt upright by an eerie howl right outside the window. Several other voices joined in chorus raising to a high crescendo.

"Wha---?" came a sleepy murmur from the opposite bed.

"It's the boys." I laughed. "They said they'd come by so I could see them."

"You're kidding." I heard Tonks's bed creak as she sat up and she sounded completely alert. "This I have to see."

I got out of bed and wrapped myself in the blanket my mother gave me for Christmas before kneeling down by the window. Tonks, barefoot and dressed only in a long t-shirt came to join me. Wiping fog from the glass, we both startled as a figure popped up right before our noses on the other side. It was a snow white werewolf with ice blue eyes. It was as though Basil's tattoo had sprung to life except the live one looked much more friendly. It...he...was wagging his tail at us.

Tonks laughed. "Behold the terrible werewolf -- Britain's ancient plague. Dark creatures at their very worst. Tremble before it. He looks like he'd lick us to death."

"Knowing him he would." I agreed.

Basil had been standing with his forepaws against the outer window sill and now he hopped down. Behind him stood the others in a neat row, tails wagging in greeting.

"This is going to sound weird but....they're kind of cute." said Tonks slowly.

They were. Something about all those wagging tails and cocked heads all in a row was adorable. Adorable werewolves. Honestly. "There's something a bit spooky about them too though." I said thoughtfully. "Something about the eyes. You can tell by the eyes that they aren't just animals."

"I'm freezing Kerri. Let me under your blanket."

We moved closer together and she crawled under the blanket with me as we watched the boys cutting up outside. They seemed very happy to have found a willing audience for their antics. One of them, a gray, was running circles in the yard at breakneck speed, vaulting over the backs of any of the others who didn't move out of the way in time.
Another had risen up on his hind legs and was walking across the yard in reverse. It was one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen.

"They should join a circus." I laughed.

"What a bunch of showoffs."

A black werewolf and a gray with reddish streaks started roughhousing, pouncing each other and rolling in the snow. Before long they were all sparring with each other in a free-for-all, wrestling and running so fast that snow flew in all directions. Our laughter and clapping egged them on and their rowdiness escalated.

Basil and one of the grays had just grabbed each other by the tail and were running in a circle when another long, low howl echoed through the yard. It was followed by a deep, vicious sounding bark that stood my hair on end. Several more howls sounded as glowing eyes flicked into view one by one from the cover of the woods. There had to be at least a dozen.

Basil and the others stood stock still, all of them staring toward the newcomers. Their ruffs were raised and they crouched low to the ground in defensive postures. "This doesn't look good." said Tonks.

"I'm willing to bed that at least one of the werewolves in the woods is Fenrir. I know he lives in there and has some followers."

"The one who attacked Remus?"

"Yeah. Streak and Brand too."

"Maybe it would be a good idea to fortify windows and doors." said Tonks.

Basil and the others were now prowling toward the eyes glaring out at them from the trees, bodies low and tails down. Their hair was puffed up until they were almost double their actual sizes. I couldn't think of anyone other than Fenrir who could put them so much on alert. They were clearly outnumbered. What if there was a fight? I couldn't just sit behind the safety of the window and watch them get slaughtered.

"Stay here and keep watch." said Tonks in a businesslike tone, tossing me my wand. "I'll take care of the windows and doors."

I was too preoccupied by the scene outside to pay her much attention as she went to work. By now, five bushy tails were all that was visible on the far side of the yard as Basil and the others approached the unseen owners of the burning eyes.

Gradually the blackness swallowed them up as they melted into the trees. One by one the burning eyes extinguished until nothing remained to testify that they had been there at all but a few tracks in the snow. I held my breath, listening, waiting for a fight to start but not a sound reached my ears except for Tonks returning to the room.

She walked across her bed and jumped onto mine before landing beside me. "What did I miss?"

"Not much. They just went into the woods."

"Are they still out there?"

"It's hard to tell." I answered breathlessly, not taking my eyes off the spot where they'd disappeared. "I can't tell from here and I'm not going out unless I have to."

"What was that all about?"

"Well...I think Fenrir just likes to cause trouble wherever he goes and the boys don't like him for obvious reasons. Even Remus talks terrible about him and you know how patient he usually is. I don't like him hanging around here -- he's bad news."

"How are you going to get to the car to go to work?" asked Tonks. "Even if you apparate right beside it you still have to unlock it and get in."

"Very carefully. I have a few hours before I have to leave. They may be gone by then."

"I'm going with you." said Tonks firmly, eyes still riveted to the woods for some sign of movement.

"You don't have to. I can take care of myself and it's cold out."

"I'll dress warm."

"Well if you're worried about it, just make sure I get into the car without getting mauled to death and then go back to bed." I suggested. "I know you hate getting up early."

"Your alarm wakes me up anyway so what difference does it make? I can come and help -- it might be interesting."

"It's boring actually."

"Well you can quit arguing because I'm coming." said Tonks staunchly. "Let's get in bed and sleep while we can."

She stood but I didn't move.

"They know what they're doing." said Tonks. "Come on."

Her words didn't make me feel any better but there was nothing I could do so I followed her advice. I lay awake for quite some time, listening, but never heard so much as a bark. Tonks was trying to downplay the situation but I knew that she was laying there listening too. Eventually we both fell into uneasy sleep until the alarm went off a couple of hours later.

"Arrrrrggggghhhhh....." came a groan from the opposite bed.

Smiling, I shut off the alarm and said, "You don't have to come."

"I'm coming." Tonks insisted, sitting up.

Honestly, I suspected that her zeal for protecting me from psychotic werewolves stemmed from a desire to try out some of her training. Once she was out of bed and dressed she was fully awake and giving orders. "I'm going out first. I want you to stay inside until I'm sure it's safe."

"I doubt they've stuck around waiting to pounce. Basil and the others would never let it happen. They'd warn us at the least."

"I'm going first." Tonks insisted as she cautiously opened the door, wand in hand. "Oh....my.....god. It's freezing out here. How do you do this every night?"

"Why don't you just----" I began, but was cut off by the door being shut in my face.

Rolling my eyes with impatience I watched out the window. If I'd thought for one second that there was any danger, I'd have never let her go out alone. Nevertheless, it didn't hurt to keep an eye out. If I did it from the safety of the window it would give her the chance to run around outside playing Auror.

"Werewolves aren't your jurisdiction." I told her when she gave me the all clear.

She shot me a slightly silly grin and didn't answer.

I was very apprehensive about taking Tonks to help pick up the papers, as much from her clumsiness as her lack of experience with Muggles. Still, it went much better than expected. The only real crises was when she toppled over one of the bins on the way to the car and we had to hurry to pick them up out of the right of way.

Once Tonks was fully awake she was her usual cheerful, optimistic self. We cranked up the heat and the radio and had a lot of fun singing along to whatever song came up. "Where did you learn Muggle songs?" I asked.

"When I go visit my father's family. Which reminds me -- there are a lot of wavy lines in the television again. Can you fix it?"

"I can try. It's our magic that's interfering with the appliances, you know. I can keep patching it up, but eventually it's going to go completely."

"I hope not." said Tonks worridly. "There are some shows I really love."

"I'll see what I can do."

"My father says it's a miracle that it still works at all. What exactly are you doing to keep it working?"

"It's kind of hard to explain." I said, not wanting to get bogged down in explaining wires and circuits. "Part of it is just tinkering with the mechanisms and part of it is bolstering it with magic."

"You're using magic to keep magic from interfering with it?"

"Some. That's why I know I won't be able to keep it up forever. Sooner or later it'll quit responding."

I had to stop the car to shift the bins around and argue with Tonks who felt we should just use magic. "It's three thirty in the morning." she'd insisted." Anyone who sees us will just think they've hallucinated because they've gotten up too early."

By the time I was finished, Tonks had gone unusually quiet and I thought she might be getting tired. I half expected her to fall asleep, but after another block or two she asked, "Kerri? Why don't you date?"

"This is about that ball again, isn't it?"

"You can't miss this ball -- everyone goes. Why don't you date? I heard you danced with a girl at Scarlet Dawn...."

"That's not why."

"If it is...I'm okay with it." Tonks plunged on. "Really...we can find a girl for you to go with."

I was too amused to be annoyed. "That's not the reason. I just danced with Ryann because...I don't know why. I think mostly because I felt that if I didn't, she'd think that I'm the kind of person who isn't 'okay with it'. Basil and those other idiots told you that, didn't they? They're so stupid. I should have known they wouldn't drop it."
"Well then, why don't you date? There are dozens of guys on campus who would go out with you if you gave them a chance."

"I just have better things to do. I didn't come to university to do that. You think it's easy getting the kind of grades that put you top of the whole school?"

"It wouldn't hurt to come in second for a change." Tonks pointed out.

"Maybe I've just gotten used to being first."

"But...what difference does it really make? Your diploma will be just as good the one belonging to whoever graduates second or third or even fiftieth. What matters is passing. You already have place waiting for you at Hogwarts and the only way you'd lose it is if you failed completely, and we know that won't happen."

"Why does everyone think it's so bad that I'm focused on my education?" I asked. "At least I'm not one of those girls who just goes to school to snare a man."

"It's rather nice to have a man or two around though." said Tonks slyly.

"This just isn't a good time."

"Well...you should still come to the ball. You don't have to commit to anyone, just go out with them. Take Basil -- he won't take off his clothes and he'll behave if you ask him to."

"Forget it. He asked me to spend the night with him after he cut in while I was dancing with Ryann." I said in disgust.

"Remus -- get Remus to take you. He likes you and you know you can trust him not to hit on you."

"NO!" I said so vehemently that she stared.

"He's not that bad."

"No...he isn't. I like him but....it's just not a good idea, okay? I have a ton of work to do. I have band practices and concerts and lessons with the boys. I don't have time."

Tonks scrunched down in her seat and pulled her collar up higher on her neck. There was a stubborn expression about her mouth that told me I had not heard the last of this subject. "I love this song." she said, leaning over to turn the radio up.

When we got home around four thirty all was quiet on the home front, with not a werewolf to be seen. We both went back to bed and slept until we had to go to class, after which I didn't see her for the rest of the day.

It was a long day as I was anxious to get to practice that evening and find out what had happened the night before. Stopping by on my way there to pick up Remus, there was no answer at the door. Feeling apprehensive, I peeked in the window to see him asleep on his mattress, looking completely exhausted. I didn't have the heart to wake him so I went to the commune alone, where I found Tonks and Celestia in Basi's room.

Tonks had a beer bottle in her hand and was sitting on the floor between Mel and Streak looking perfectly at home. Celestia was standing just inside the door looking as though she was about to leave.

"Where's Remus?" asked Basil when I walked in alone.

"No answer. I peeked in the window and saw him asleep."

"Just as well. We were talking about the party."

"I'm making the cake." said Celestia.

"Remember to put forty two candles on it." said Augustus.

"Thirty two." I corrected.

"Well he looks forty two so what's the difference?"

"He does not."

"So Kerri..." said Mel brightly. "You need a date for a ball?"

"NYMPHADORA TONKS !!!" I gasped.

"Nymphadora? Your name is Nymphadora?" Streak laughed.

"What's your name then?" asked Tonks coolly.

"Studmuffin."

"Go to the ball, Kerri." said Celestia, patting my arm. "Every girl should to at least one. Well, I need to go home and take care of the boy. See you later."

"Well --- what happened last night?" I asked when she was gone.

"Fenrir scented us and came to see what we were up to." said Basil in disgust. "The good news is we didn't get into a fight."

"What did you think of us?" asked Brand.

"I thought you were beautiful." I said honestly.

"I was the good looking one with the white coat." said Basil.

"You have a cute tail." Tonks told him.

"I'm the black one." said Brand.

"I have stripes in my forehead kind of like a tabby cat." Streak informed us.

"One of the grays?" I asked.

"Yeah. And I'm the other." Augustus answered. "But I have a little more white in my face."

"I'm the one with the reddish streaks." said Mel, running a hand through his shock of ruddy hair.

"And I have whatever color hair I feel like." said Tonks as her hair changed from pink to purple to green to blue to yellow and back again.

"Showoff."

"Okay..." said Basil in a more serious tone. "We need to get down to business here. We have to be better than ever with Vashti on the warpath. I'm glad you're here Tonks, because you need to keep up to keep your spot as Kerri's second."

So we started practice, which was just as well because I was highly annoyed over the ball thing being brought up again. I could have just strangled Tonks. She has the world's biggest mouth, but she means well so I can never stay mad. Still, I was glad when we stopped talking and I could cool off a bit. I guess music does soothe the savage beast....maybe I'll remember that the next time Fenrir come by and whack him upside the head with my guitar.

We were just finishing up when Celestia returned with a covered dish. "Would one of you ladies take this over to Remus? Knock until he answers. I'm willing to bet that he just came home from work and collapsed. Royal would be just the same if he didn't have me to look after him."

"I'm supposed to meet Gideon to see a play and I have to get dressed." said Tonks, looking at me.

I had a very good reason for not wanting to be alone in close quarters with Remus, but I agreed anyway. It's just silly not to be able to get my feelings for him under control. I'm determined that I will, and just dealing with it is the best way to do that, I think.

"Don't tell him about Fenrir." Basil pleaded. "He'll kill us."

"Ask him to the ball." Tonks suggested.

"He's almost forty two." Augustus protested. "He's way too old for her."

"Thirty two." I corrected in exasperation as I left the room. "And is not."

It took some time for him to answer the door and I felt bad about waking him up. He opened the door looking haggard and surprised. "What time is it?"

"We let you sleep through practice. You didn't miss much. Celestia sent you dinner."

Remus shook his head wearily, putting a hand over his eyes. "I'm sorry. I just meant to lie down for a moment and dozed off." He put his hand down and looked at me. I thought he hesitated for a moment before saying, "Come in."

"No. I know you're not feeling well. I'll just leave this and head home."

"No, come in. To be honest, you look a bit annoyed about something."

"Do I?" I laughed. "Sometimes you're just like Dumbledore...nothing gets by him either. Are you sure?"

"Of course. I always enjoy company. Come in." He swung the door wide in invitation and after a moment of hesitation on my part, I crossed the threshold.

Remus took the dish from me while I removed my coat. "You have a passionate nature and a face like a book. You can tell me all about it over dinner."

"I think Celestia intended that for you."

"And it will taste even better with someone to help eat it." said Remus cheerfully, bringing out two plates. "Pull the chair up to the fire."

"This is probably a stupid question, but how are you feeling?"

"As bad as I look. Tired. Sometime around the end of the month I'll decide whether or not to quit the workhouse."

"Is it helping?" I asked hopefully. "The extra money?"

"Immensely. I have tea for my water and butter for my bread now, as I was able to show Basil the other day."

Celestia had made a casserole full of chicken, rice, and vegetables. It was obviously made from scratch and very good, but I tried not to take much because I felt that Remus needed it more.

"How did you do last night?" he asked.

"Okay. Tonks went with me."

"That's good. So...what about tonight? Did something happen at practice?"

"Oh.....Tonks."

Remus raised an eyebrow. "After she got out of bed and went to work with you last night?"

"I know....I love Tonks dearly but sometimes she really gets on my nerves. She's trying to make me go to some stupid Valentine's Ball."

"Why don't you go?"

"Because....I knew you'd say that." I said, rolling my eyes. "You're no help -- tell you what. I'll go to the ball if you go on a date."

"You know I have reasons for not dating."

"And so do I."

Remus looked thoughtful for a moment and then said slowly. "Please don't think I'm not taking it seriously or making light of it, but whatever it is....it can't be as bad as what I have to deal with."

"You have a manageable illness. This is different."

"I might understand better if you explained it to me. I don't suppose you want to talk about it?"

"No." I said firmly. "It's not you --- I trust you. It's just that it's a family secret. It's complicated."

Remus nodded. "I understand complication. I won't press but you know I'm here if you need to talk. So....when are you going to let me practice driving, or are you afraid to?"

"How about Saturday?" I suggested, glad he'd changed the subject. "Have you ever driven a car?"

"One of my grandfathers was a Muggle and he had a horse farm like my parents did. On summer holidays I'd go work for him and he let me drive the truck around the property. It was a long time ago, though."

"It's like riding a broomstick -- you never forget how. Have you ever been licensed?"

"No. I never had a reason to be. I assume you are?"

"Yes -- I have a Muggle license." I told him. "Mr. Weasley would have helped me get the magical equivalent but I thought it would just be less complicated if I went ahead and got a regular one. Lots of wizards don't bother at all, you know."

"Many wizards have no respect for Muggles or Muggle law either. Eventually I want to be licensed."

"Just make sure you have a good memory charm ready if you get pulled over." I teased.

"Muggle prison would be preferable to Azkaban I'm sure. " said Remus lightly. "So....did you work with our students tonight?"

"No. I was missing my partner and Celestia gave me this to give to you. I didn't want it to get cold."

"Basil has been over here a lot lately. Sometimes I think he's up to something."

"We're planning a surprise party for your birthday." I said, knowing he wouldn't believe me. "He's trying to figure out what we should get you."

"That's simple. A few thousand galleons."

"If we can manage it. It depends on how much we collect. Celestia is going to make the cake."

"Good. I like her cakes." said Remus, completely unsuspecting.

We finished eating and he started cleaning up. I offered to help but he waved me off as he always does so I went to see his current art project. It was the same horse picture that I'd seen last time, but much more detailed and with the makings of a pretty background of heather clad mountains. "Have you ever tried selling any of the things you've done?"

He looked highly amused at the very thought. "The best use I ever got out of anything I drew was a map at Hogwarts that my friends and I put together. It had all the secret passages and showed the location of very person in the school."

"Wow. That sounds cool. Do you still have it?"

"No. Mr. Filch confiscated it. Has he ever retired?"

"He's still there." I answered. "Was he nuts back then too?"

"Thoroughly. Does he still keep those chains oiled? "

"You'd think by now he'd know that Dumbledore won't let him use them."

We started out swapping funny stories about Filch and ended up talking for most of the night. I was appalled when I realized how late I'd stayed. "I'm sorry. I know you're not feeling well." I apologized.

"I don't mind at all. I like the company. It distracts me from how I'm feeling -- I' ll see you in a few hours."

"You could take another night off if you want."

"No. That wouldn't be fair to you. I'll be there."

So I retrieved my coat and made a hasty exit. The bad thing is that I really didn't want to go. I'd have sat up with him all night if I could have, like a lovesick idiot. Being around him his addictive for me. It's like being on a drug and I always walk away feeling completely high, in the world's best mood. I like how he makes me feel. Is that so wrong? I'm beginning to come to terms with one simple fact.

I'm in love with Remus Lupin.

What a wonderful, exciting, ridiculous, tragic thing to have happen. I'm setting myself up for a lot of hurt on so many different levels. Whichever way I turn the situation around in my mind, I can't imagine there ever being a happy ending.

Author's Note : My review count has risen dramatically over the last week or so. Thanks to all of you who brought that about.

Next Chapter : Tonks continues to plot ways to get Kerri to go to the ball.

Excerpt :

The rest of the evening passed without incident and I put it as much out of my mind as I could until Remus himself brought it up later on while were working, completely out of the blue.

"Kerri, would you like to go to that ball?" he asked.

I felt my completely out of control heart give an affirmative leap. "Why?" I asked cautiously.

"Because if you want to go and you feel comfortable with me taking you, I'd be pleased to be your escort."

(Now aren't you all dying to know what her answer will be? Maybe it was cruel of me to cut this off where I did but there's something to be said for the power of suspense. I just couldn't resist).

Chapter 33: Chapter 33
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Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : January 23, 1992
Dear Kerri,

I am very glad you brought up this subject as it is something that I have often wondered about of late, considering my current preoccupation with Quirrel. What exactly did I walk in on that day? For some time I had been hearing rumors that you had been sneaking around with him and locking yourself up with him in unused classrooms. Well, you must understand my concern. I acted that day not as a teacher, but as a brother. Was there something going on between you?

Speaking of which -- when I visited on my birthday you mentioned being interested ina man of your acquaintance. Has anything ever come of that? But then judging by your sour sentiments about Valentine's Day, I suppose it is safe to assume not.

Valentine's Day around this place is torture. The girls have all gone silly and scatterbrained and the boys (rightfully so) are terrified out of their minds. The girls are stalking them like prowling manticores. Needless to say, grades are suffering. I am not going to go easy on them because they have raging hormones.

I agree that Valentine's is a useless holiday. Most people don't have the faintest clue about it's origins or what they are celebrating. Materialistic women mistake gifts for love and desperate men fall for it. Every sales flyer in Hogsmeade insists that a man is not a man unless he buys his intended diamonds, flowers, and candy. I can do without that sort of shallow affection, thank you. Romance is highly overrated -- you have missed nothing.

To your accusation that I am 'mean' -- maybe I am, but why shouldn't I be? Why put on a silly grin and walk around pretending to be happy when I am not? Aside from my career (which I hate) my life is a wreck. What do I have to be happy about and why should I pretend that I am? Isn't that dishonest?

There are no pretenses with me. People know exactly where they stand in my opinion. I may be 'mean' but I am honest and I do not play games. Isn't that preferable to deceit? And why does it bother you anyway -- I am not 'mean' to you am I?

Now, I was not necessarily referring to unforgivables in my last letter -- exclusively at least. It certainly wouldn't hurt for you to know them. Even if you don't plan to use them, it is always useful to make sure that your enemies know you can. There are other spells I wish to teach you too; vicious, diabolical things that would give the headmaster heart failure if he knew I was contemplating teaching them to you.

I followed your suggestion and questioned the portraits. Most of them were on nocturnal visits on the night in question, but one, a nun, was in her frame at the time. She reported clearly hearing disembodied footsteps running down the hall. I am almost certain that the culprit is a student now, but I don't have proof.

I have another problem close at hand. There is a Quidditch match coming up soon between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Naturally I am concerned for Potter after the attempt on his life at the last match. I've tried to talk the headmaster into banning him from playing but he refuses. That boy gets to do whatever he wants, after all.

The other option is to try to land him in detention and set it up for the same time as the match. A tricky operation as Minerva McGonagall would have fits of hysteria. Ordinarily I might find that entertaining, but the situation is too serious. I am trying to keep the vexing little brat alive, after all. The match is at the end of the month and I need to come up with a solution soon.

Perhaps I could slip Quirrel an undetectable poison, though that may be going a bit too far. The headmaster has an uncanny awareness of everything that goes on in this school and I seriously doubt I would get away with such an act. An amusing idea nevertheless.

And do not worry about me --- I've always known how to tell the Dark Lord exactly what he wants to hear when he wants to hear it. Look out for yourself instead.

Take care,

Severus



Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : January 25, 1992
Dear Kerri,

How are you? I am fine.

I'm so proud of how you're doing at Merlin. I knew you'd be the best of them all. Told you so. Told you there was no reason for you to be nervous. You're going to be famous one day. Hogwarts is lucky it'll get you as a teacher.

Always kind of wished I could've been a teacher. I guess that's why I liked having you here -- I got to teach you lots of things. You know lots of people don't like interesting creatures and are afraid of them, but never you. People don't understand them I expect or see what good they are. It would have been nice to be a teacher and teach people to love animals like we do . Still I don't complain. I like my job fine.

Things are cozy here in the cabin now. It's me, Fang, the salamanders, and four mice now. The mice come in real handy for cleaning up crumbs. Fang doesn't mind them as long as they stay out of his bowl. I like them. I think they're cute.

Fluffy is okay but bored. Ron and Harry haven't asked about him for a while. Maybe when Fluffy finishes his job I can let them play with him as special treat. It's never to early to learn to love interesting creatures after all.

Love, Hagrid



I don't believe I've let myself be talked into going to the Valentine's Ball. I've lost all sense of practicality and self control. When they invented the phrase 'fall in love' they chose the words well. I'm falling alright...and I know I'm going to splatter all over the place when I inevitably hit the ground. There's romance for you !

It was NYMPHADORA'S big mouth again that got me into this. It started on Saturday afternoon when Remus came by to practice driving, with plans to stay over for dinner. It went very well. He's a bit rusty, but he drives better than many wizards do. He actually knows how to obey traffic laws. We drove up and down the lane and around the yard before venturing onto the street. I'm sure that when the time rolls round for me to go home, he'll be able to do the route on his own.

Tonks sat on the doorstep watching, I suspect, with morbid interest. I thought it was unfair as she can't usually take a step without falling over her own feet. (Should be fun seeing her in a ball gown). I should have known by her thoughtful expression that she had more than Remus's driving skills on her mind.

"I see a dent." she teased when finally stopped.

"If so, it was there before I got in." Remus assured her as he tossed me the keys.

"I'm going to go start dinner. Don't pay her any attention, Remus." I warned him as I headed inside.

"Come on in, Remus." said Tonks cheerfully. "Tell me what Gryffindor was like when you were there. I'm sure it was the best house back then too. Much better than those stuck up, egghead Ravenclaws. Of course the team sucks, but theirs is worse. How was it back then? Were you on the team?'"

"Quidditch, quidditch, quidditch." I groaned over my shoulder. "I tell you, Remus, if those Gryffindors spent less time obsessing over sports, their grades would be better. But then I guess that's why they aren't Ravenclaws -- all brawn and no brains."

"Thanks a lot." said Remus with a laugh.

"I don't mean you personally, I meant in general. I think you were sorted into the wrong house -- you're way too smart for Gryffindor."

"But he has the nobility and chivalry that Gryffindor is known for." Tonks protested. "Unlike you Ravenclaws. They never take their noses out their books long enough to display anything but eggheadedness."

"See what I mean?" I called from across the counter that separates kitchen from living room. "That isn't even a word."

"Well, Gryffindors are not known for following rules." Remus pointed out with a straight face. "We think outside the box. We're more inclined to make rules than to follow them. And no Tonks, I wasn't on the team. Let's just say that my health prevented me from it."

"Oh right. I suppose it would. That's a shame. I'd have been on the team myself but I had other things I was involved in."

"Like detention." I called from the kitchen.

"Pay her no mind." said Tonks haughtily. "She's just jealous of our superior Gryffindorishness."

"That's not a word either." I pointed out.

For the most part I was too busy concentrating on cooking to join in the conversation. I like to cook by hand whenever I can because there's more of an art to it and I take more pride in the finished product than I would if I'd done it by magic. I could hear what was being said though and it seemed to me that Tonks was purposely steering the topic toward the subject of the ball with studied care. I had a feeling I wasn't going to like the result of whatever she was planning. "Nymphadora...oh Nymphadora dear..." I called sweetly, but she ignored me.

She was laughing about Remus's story about his buddies setting him up with three girls at his graduation ball. Her eyes met mine briefly before she took a deep breath and said, "...and then there's Kerri who has never been to a ball in her life. Isn't that horrible?"

"I've heard something about a Valentine's Ball at Merlin." said Remus, twisting in his seat to look at me. "I told her she should go."

I think that what Tonks said next took both Remus and myself by surprise. "Why don't you be her escort then, Remus?"

"Nymphadora Tonks!" I exclaimed, slamming the oven door. I went into the living room, fingers itching to wrap themselves around her neck. "I can get a date myself if I want one."

Remus's face had taken on an oddly closed look and his eyes had gone dark and hazel, a sure sign of some sort of emotional conflict. Horror over the idea? Or interest? "I'm certain Kerri is indeed capable of getting a much more suitable date." he said quietly.

"More suitable?" I asked.

"I'm well past college age. I have questionable physical health which makes me a social pariah, and what on earth would I wear? You'd never hear the end of it.

"Remus, I'm tired of hearing you put yourself down." I said sternly. "What would you wear? What would I wear? I don't own a ball gown."

"We can fix that." said Tonks impatiently. "And who cares about the age difference and all of that? It isn't a date-date. If anything, it's good that you're older than she is Remus, because then she won't have to worry about being hit on."

Remus laughed. "You're right. I'm far to old to be 'hitting on' anyone. Once you hit thirty it all goes downhill."

"That's not what I mean." Tonks protested, coloring a bit. "You've never been to a ball, Kerri. That's horrible. I know you have an aversion to dating...."

"Studies show that the smarter you are, the less likely you are to reproduce." I said wickedly.

Tonks ignored me and plunged on. "...but I know that you and Remus hang out together now and then outside of work and practices. You're friends. It's the perfect solution."

"I could just picture myself in a crowd of teenagers and twenty year olds." said Remus with a slightly twisted smile. "Don't you think I'd be slightly out of place?"

"Basil is right." said Tonks stubbornly. "You worry too much about what people think about you -- and so does Kerri."

"Basil has a big mouth, second only to yours." I flashed. "I need to go check dinner."

Tonks looked stung and I was too annoyed to care. Remus quickly diffused the situation by saying brightly. "So tell me about your Auror training, Tonks. I'm sure it's fascinating. They work you quite hard, don't they?"

Remus has a sixth sense for knowing just the right thing to say in any situation. Tonks takes great pride in her chosen career and loves talking about it. After one frustrated glance in my direction, she turned back to him and began animatedly telling him all about her classes.

I took a long time in the kitchen to calm myself down. I was furious with Tonks for making such a suggestion, and furious with myself for liking it so much. An image of myself in a sparkling gown on Remus's arm played through my mind like a movie; a scene straight out of those 'when I grow up' fantasies that you have as a girl. I felt a pang of regret for all the things I've missed out on. I don't want to end up as miserable as my brother.

Tonks was explaining the theory behind a particularly colorful curse when I called them both to dinner. I worried that she might still be mad at me, but she gave no sign. That's one great thing about Tonks, she's easy going and doesn't hold grudges against people she likes.

The rest of the evening passed without incident and I put it as much out of my mind as I could until Remus himself brought it up later on while were working, completely out of the blue.

"Kerri, would you like to go to that ball?" he asked.

I felt my completely out of control heart give an affirmative leap. "Why?" I asked cautiously.

"Because if you want to go and you feel comfortable with me taking you, I'd be pleased to be your escort."

"You would?" I asked in surprise. The vague hope was beginning to stir in my mind that maybe he was as interested in me as I was in him. Then I reminded myself sternly that Voldemort was my father and I'm nott good enough for someone like him whether he's a werewolf or not. It simply isn't possible.

"Of course. You and I are friends and Tonks is right...you should have the experience of going to a ball at least once in your life. When you get older, you'll regret it if you don't. I'm glad my friends bullied me into my graduation ball. Of course..." he said in a darker tone. "I completely understand if you don't want to be seen around campus with a prematurely graying werewolf in patched robes."

"Is that really how you think of yourself?" I gently scolded. "It's a controllable illness -- it isn't you."

"I suppose I know better if I think about it. But if you hear it said often enough, you start to believe it. And this is getting off topic. I had just asked you to the ball and was waiting for an answer. It isn't a date, you know. We both feel the same about that for our own personal reasons. It's just a friendly outing."

"No...what you essentially asked was if I was willing to be seen in public with you, and the answer is yes -- so I will go with you."

So there it is. Just like that I committed myself to going to a Valentine's Ball of all idiotic things -- when I should be home studying. I might have been able to keep my head and turn him down if he hadn't phrased it as he did. Of course I don't mind going out with a 'prematurely graying werewolf in patched robes.' Maybe going to this ball will be good for us both as long as I keep my feelings in check and don't say something stupid.

Tonks is just thrilled to death over the whole thing, bubbling over with pre-ball stress and excitement. She's blowing the entire thing out of proportion. It's so much easier to be a tomboy -- you have a lot fewer things to worry about.

"There are hundreds of things we have to do." said Tonks breathlessly when I told her that I had decided to go to the ball. "We have to get a gown for you --- maybe something red --- red would look good on you with those dark eyes and hair. Bright colors look best on you and I love bright colors. Do you have gloves? Black I think if you have a red dress. Maybe a pretty pair of red slippers. And you'll have to have your hair and nails done, of course."

"My nails?" I asked, when I was able to get a word in edgewise. "When I'm wearing gloves? What's the point?"

"If you feel good from head to toe then you'll look good too. I always feel good after a manicure."

"No manicure." I said firmly. "It would be a total waste of money and you know I don't have money to blow."

"Well what about your hair?"

"I can do it myself. I'll put it up."'

"But you'll at least get a dress won't you?" asked Tonks, sounding highly disappointed.

"I was thinking of going in jeans and a t-shirt."

"Now you're just being a smart-arse. Seriously, we need to take a trip to Diagon Alley."

"To the second hand robe shop." I said firmly. "Nothing too fancy because Remus won't be able to dress up and that wouldn't be fair."

"Well, we'll see when we get there. We don't have much time -- the ball isn't that far away. Let's go shopping tomorrow."

"I have to be home in time for practice."

"That doesn't leave much time after we get out of school but we'll have to manage." said Tonks fretfully.

"I hate shopping." I muttered.

"My father has this expression....I think it's a Muggle expression. Something about a silk purse and a sow's ear." said Tonks, lips twitching.

I smacked her hard upside the head with a copy of "Witch Weekly" and then went to study. I need to get ahead if I'm going to waste time at Diagon Alley. Do good grades mean nothing to anyone but me?

Author's Note : As always, I am eternally thankful for your reviews. And since (most of you) were all so patient about the last author's note I decided to go ahead and post this chapter a day ahead of schedule. By my calculations, the chapter with the ball should be posted next Thursday. Hey --- I'm looking forward to it too.

Next Chapter : Preparations for the ball continue but are interrupted when dementors attack the commune again.

Excerpt :

A sudden disturbance caught our attention as someone rounded the far corner and burst into the hall. It was Streak, stark naked, jumping up and down to taunt two dementors gliding toward him.

I fought an unholy urge to laugh. Remus had warned me about Mel's habit of hitting dementors, but not Streak's habit of flashing them. "This is what werewolves do for exercise?" I asked Mel.

"That and howl at the moon."

Streak was now barreling in our direction with the dementors in pursuit. "Run like hell." he gasped as he passed us, running down the stairs two at a time.

Mel and I backed onto the landing as the dementors bore down on us. I couldn't see their faces beneath their hoods, but it was evident that they were more interested in catching up with Streak than us. Not that I blamed them.








Chapter 34: Chapter 34
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Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : February 1, 1992
You didn't walk in on anything that day ! He was teaching me to dance for the ball -- which I tried to tell you but you wouldn't listen! You not only can't talk to your students, you can't listen to them either. Do you have any idea how humiliating that was for me? I wasn't that kind of girl -- I'm STILL not that kind of girl ! ! ! ! Concern is one thing, but bursting in like you did, handing out detentions and taking away points is another. See what I mean about you being mean?

There -- I feel much better having gotten that out of my system. It's been bugging me for years. Getting to know you has been thereputic in some ways.

Now; "pretending to be happy" and being decent to people are two different things. You might feel happier if you tried acting like you were. Being nice when you don't feel like it isn't "being dishonest", it's being polite. Even if you're miserable, what good does it do to make everyone else miserable too?

Severus, you really need to get out of there. That's no way to live, being depressed all the time. You're wasting your life sitting there in that dungeon, hating your job and vegetating. You talk about pushing your students to reach their full potential, but what about your potential? You're not going to reach it living the way you are now. When I was one of your students I just thought you were cruel and spiteful, now I realize you're just depressed.

And Severus, I won't deny that I'm curious about learning unforgivables, I just don't know that it's a good idea. I worry about what darker nature may be lurking somewhere deep down inside myself -- I'm his daughter after all. Besides, we don't want to give Professor Dumbledore a heart attack, do we? Nevertheless, I will come visit you over summer if you want me to.

And one more thing I need to say that I don't think you'll like. (Sorry). Don't put that kid in detention to keep him out of the match ! You're doing the same thing to him that you were doing to me when you gave me detention to keep me from going to the ball. If you harass him for no apparent reason he'll end up hating you for it. I know I did -- though I don't anymore now that I understand you better.

But if anything does happen to Harry....I might just help you brew up the aforementioned poison. He isn't that corrupt, is he? What a waste of a life.

Take care of yourself, please.

Kerri




Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : February 3, 1992
Dear Hagrid,

Don't be silly --- you are a teacher. I learned more from you than I ever learned from Kettleburn. People learn better by doing than by sitting in a stuffy classroom listening, at least in my experience.

Take training owls to carry mail for example. Remember that fall when I helped you train a new batch for the school owlery? In my Care of Magical Creatures class we read about the process, but reading about it doesn't teach you half so well as actually doing it does. People generally just buy an owl and stick it on a perch and take for granted that it will do it's job. They have no clue the work that goes into it or the relationship of trust and respect between trainer and bird. You learn to appreciate animals more when you work with them, and that's something I got from you. If not for you I might have ended up specializing in potions or something -- and then I'd have to go after Snape's job.

I'm getting to practice my own teaching skills a little bit here. I have some friends who couldn't afford formal magical education so I've been helping to tutor them. Every week they make a little more progress which is very gratifying. It's very time consuming, but I don't regret it.

Sounds like things are nice and cozy there in the cabin. Say hello to Fang and the salamanders and the mice for me. I think mice are cute, but my mother would never let me have any because she thinks they're 'vermin'. I can't wait to get back to Hogwarts where I can have access to all the interesting creatures I want.

Love, Kerri




Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard: February 10, 1992
Dear Kerri,

Sorry it's been a while since I wrote last, but things have been crazy here. A friend of mine and fellow researcher named Dmitri was almost killed by a dragon the other week. Quidditch games have been suspended.

There was a dragon sleeping near where we were playing, hidden in the brush and snow. We have this one woman -- really husky -- who got a bit exuberant and the quaffle landed on the dragon. Dmitri didn't see it until he was almost on top of it and swerved about a second too late. He got hit head on by a really wicked blast of fire.

You're always saying that Quidditch is a waste of time, but it taught me good reflexes. I got the dragon's attention and distracted it by making it chase me until the others got Dmitri out of harm's way. I only got singed a bit --- but don't tell my mother !

Dmitri was in bad shape so a couple of us strapped him into a harness and flew him to the nearest healer, thirty miles away. We stayed over a few days to make sure he was okay. He still isn't conscious as far as I know, but they say he's going to make it . They're not sure if they can fix the scars though.

Great idea about sending dragon doo to Fred and George. I could use a good laugh about now. I wouldn't even mind paying the extra shipping rates at this point. I think I might give it a try.

No, my mother doesn't know about Saskia and I don't want her to. She'd blow it completely out of proportion. What was she doing discussing my love life anyway? Is your mother that way? Does she drive you crazy even from thousands of miles away?

Sounds like your band is starting to take off -- just don't get bit by anything.

Later, Charlie






Well, today has not been the most fun day I ever had, even if I hadn't been dragged to Diagon Alley against my will. The dementors were loose in the commune again.

Remus seemed very pensive when I picked him up for practice, but if anything was bothering him, he wouldn't say. Whatever it was, I'm sure he forgot about it once we arrived at the commune and found it in chaos. Most of the inmates were milling in the courtyard, staring up fearfully at the building. I knew instantly what the trouble must be and felt my stomach give a sickening lurch.

"Wonderful." said Remus in a frustrated tone. "Do you feel comfortable splitting up to deal with this? It will go faster."

"Sure. Don't worry about me. I can handle it."

"Right then." he said grimly, pulling out his wand.

"I hope they suck your guts out through your nose!" called Yestin Plunkett as we passed him.

"Nice to see you too." said Remus over his shoulder as we continued on.

"What is his problem?" I asked heatedly.

"No brains." growled Royal. He and Celestia were standing in the shadow of the building with their children huddled around them, two girls and two boys. "Would you please get rid of those horrors before we all freeze to death out here? I'd do it myself but somehow I don't think punching them will work and I don't have a wand. And you'd better tell that to Mel if you see him."

Remus shook his head in disbelief. "He has to stop doing that. One of these days he's going to hit a dementor and be kissed. Kerri, you take the righthand side, I'll take the left. If you find Mel, tie him up if you have to, but don't let him take a swing at any dementors."

I nodded, trying not to laugh despite the seriousness of the situation. With one last glance over my shoulder at Remus, I started up the stairs and almost collided with a teenage couple holding hands and clutching a poker.

"Where are they and how many?" I asked.

"Two on the third floor. That's where we just came from." panted the boy.

"Thanks -- run for the courtyard -- none are out there."

Holding my wand before me in the combative position I took the stairs two at a time until I reached the third floor landing. Peering down the hall I was just in time to see a tall, black figure emerge from an apartment door. "Expecto Patronum!" I shouted, and my little winged boar flew full tilt down the narrow corridor, straight at it's target.

If dementors could show surprise, that one would have. It paused, looking my direction, face obscured by it's hood. Once it realized it was under attack, it turned and went back into the flat from which it had just emerged.

This was not ideal. "NO!" I gasped, even as a shrill scream rent the air from inside the apartment.

My patronus had swung around for another charge and beat me to the door. I got there just in time to see the dementor actually break through the window to escape it. Acting quickly, I repaired the glass and fortified it to prevent the dementor from coming back in that way. Then I turned to an older woman who was cowering behind a chair in a corner. "It's gone. Stay in here and lock the door. I think that's safer than trying to get downstairs."

I didn't wait for a reply as I turned on my heel and reentered the hall, my patronus scurrying around my ankles. It's presence was comforting and I felt very calm in spite of the situation. "Let's just go see if we can find the other one." I told it quietly.

The hall was eerily empty and quiet as I passed door after closed door. It reminded me of an old horror movie I'd seen once about a cursed hotel. I startled as another hulking black figure suddenly appeared at the end of the hallway, and started gliding in my direction.

Once more my patronus charged. The dementor swooped backward quickly to the intersecting corridor at the far end of the hall. A second figure appeared suddenly at it's side wielding what looked like a Quidditch beater's club.

"No Mel ! Get back!" I shouted, hurrying to intercede and praying I wouldn't be put into another position where my only recourse was to attack the dementor by hand. I did not want a repeat of the last such encounter. Fortunately, the dementor was shrinking away from my patronus which had wedged itself between it and Mel. We watched as it retreated down the hall and swooped out of the window at the far end.

"They can fly?" asked Mel, distractedly.

"Not that I know of. They must be using the ledges. I don't care -- let's just fix the window so it can't get back in. Go ahead -- you know how. "

With a satisfied sort of grin, Mel stuck the club through his belt and pulled out his wand. "Reparo." he said, giving it a quick wave. "Awesome."

"This spell will make the glass unbreakable. Infragilius." I showed him.

"Infragilius." Mel repeated. "I'll remember it."

"Are there any more dementors?"

"Probably. Usually they come over, ten at a time and split up between the two wings. Tell me how you do that get-rid-of-dementors thing."

"Not now -- you aren't ready." I said impatiently as I started back toward the stairs. "We'd better get rid of the others. Stay with me -- Remus told me to keep you out of trouble."

"He did? What a jerk. You know it totally sucks getting saved by a girl."

"I won't tell anyone." I distractedly promised, listening for sounds of more trouble. Taking the stairs two at a time, we reached the fourth floor landing. "I've chased out two, so that leaves three assuming you're right." Cautiously, I peered down the dimly lit passage of securely shut doors. All was quiet. "Somehow I think if they were on this floor we'd see or hear some sign. Let's go to the next one."

We ran up another flight of stairs and found the fifth floor corridor as deserted as the fourth.

"Pretty much all we can do is lock the doors and wait it out." said Mel. "I'm sick of living this way."

"I don't blame you."

A sudden disturbance caught our attention as someone rounded the far corner and burst into the hall. It was Streak, stark naked, jumping up and down to taunt two dementors gliding toward him.

I fought an unholy urge to laugh. Remus had warned me about Mel's habit of hitting dementors, but not Streak's habit of flashing them. "This is what werewolves do for exercise?" I asked Mel.

"That and howl at the moon."

Streak was now barreling in our direction with the dementors in pursuit. "Run like hell." he gasped as he passed us, running down the stairs two at a time.

Mel and I backed onto the landing as the dementors bore down on us. I couldn't see their faces beneath their hoods, but it was evident that they were more interested in catching up with Streak than us. Not that I blamed them.

"Expecto Patronum!" Mel and I shouted in unison.

Naturally Mel's spell had no effect, but my plucky little winged boar reappeared and charged the dementors, who swooped down the stairs to escape it. In their haste, they almost collided with Streak who ducked into the nearest landing just in time to get out of their way.

"Whoo-hoo!" Streak cheered, jumping up and down like a maniac.

"Will you PLEASE put on some clothes?" I begged as I passed him, anxious to make sure that the dementors didn't run into anyone else on the way down and create more havoc. In a wry corner of my mind I could see the humor of the situation. It reminded me of one of those old cartoons where the good guys and bad guys chase each other in and out of a random set of doors in seemingly endless pursuit. All we needed was some campy pop song in the background.

By the time we caught up...Streak trailing behind, still completely naked... three dementors had congregated beneath the stairs and were trying to force entrance into a large iron door. Relentlessly jogging along on it's stubby little legs with the occasional push from it's wings, my patronus tore after them, making them scatter. Mel, Streak and I watched them from the stairs as it forced them out the front doors and into the courtyard.

"YES!" exclaimed Streak, energetically bouncing up and down beside me.

"STOP THAT !" I exclaimed, looking everywhere but at him. "We need to go cut them off -- Royal had his kids out there when Remus and I got here."

Together, we burst through the doors and into the open air just as Remus's great silver stallion charged past. Remus was standing in the middle of the courtyard, wand in hand, watching the last of the dementors disappear over the walls.

Streak quickly retreated to the far end of the yard to avoid Royal who was looking at him with murder in his eyes and his hands over the eyes of one of his kids. The excitement over, the people who had taken refuge outside began heading in. Yestin Plunkett shot me a resentful look as he passed, probably disappointed that I, like Remus, had survived the encounter intact.

"Got a problem?" Mel shouted at his back, raising his beater's club again.

But Yestin didn't spare him so much as a glance as the doors closed behind him.

Remus joined us, looking with disgust at Streak who was jogging toward us in all his naked glory.

"That was great." panted Streak brightly. "Great job."

"Cold?" asked Remus dryly.

"Yeah -- think I'll go get dressed. Kerri's freaking out."

"Which is nothing to what Royal will do if he gets his hands on you. I'd avoid him for a while were I you."

"I'll be careful." Streak promised as he headed inside.

"There --- look --- you can see his scar." Mel told me, pointing.

"No thank you." I said flatly.

"Are you all right?" asked Remus.

"Besides being flashed by Streak....I'm fine. You?"

"No harm done. I had Basil and Augustus with me until we became separated. Have you seen them? I last saw them heading downstairs."

"No." I answered, and then a light went off in my brain. "Unless.....wait a second." Turning toward the building I headed inside, going right to the iron door beneath the stairs. I gave it a yank and found it secure. "Anyone in there?" I shouted, banging on it with my fist.

There was a pause, a creak on the other side, and then the door came open, grating heavily on the floor. Basil and Augustus were inside along with a very annoyed looking girl who slapped Basil hard on the arm before storming out of the room and up the stairs.

"I can't trust you alone for one moment." said Remus, who had followed me inside.

"What?" asked Basil with a guilty grin.

"What is this room?" I asked, looking over his shoulder. It seemed to go down in to a basement-like area that was large enough that I couldn't see how far back it went. The walls were thick stone cut right out of the ground and the place was very damp and dreary.

"This is where we used to have to go during full moons back before the potion was invented." Basil explained. "The ministry would send officials to lock us in. Parents still have to lock up their kids who are too young to take the potion yet. No one can hear you down here."

"I know." said Augustus in a reminiscent sort of way. "My daughter was conceived down here."

"That's more than I needed to know." I told him. "This place is built like a bunker...you could set this up as a safe room against dementors."

"It wouldn't work." Remus vetoed. "You'd never be able to evacuate the entire population quickly enough or safely enough."

"Yestin would get in and lock everyone else out." said Mel. "And Basil would get in here with all the girls and not let anyone else in."

"You're just jealous." Basil smirked.

"Has anyone seen Brand lately?" asked Mel.

It turned out that no one had seen him so we all started upstairs feeling a bit anxious. Fortunately, our worry was shortlived as he met us halfway up to Basil's room along with a fully clothed Streak.

"Everyone okay?" he asked. "I was holed up in my apartment with my neighbor. He doesn't get around like he used to."

"Great...everyone in one piece." said Basil, clapping his hands. "Who wants popcorn? Nothing like a little party after a game of hide and seek with dementors."

So that's what we did, and we never actually got around to formal practice, though we did take out our instruments and experiment a bit. We're a rock band first and foremost but it's fun to sometimes just play around with different things. I played them a couple country music songs which they listened to with careful attention.

"Some parts of that sound almost Celtic." was Brand's verdict.

"Well, some types of country music came from Celtic originally -- from Irish and Scots immigrants who settled in the hills." I told him.

"Hey listen." said Mel, who apparently had other things on his mind. "When can we start learning to fight dementors? How come when I said 'expecto patronum' nothing happened?"

"Because it isn't just 'point and shoot'."

"You have a lot of basics to learn first." Remus added. "The patronus charm is seventh year material at Hogwarts. You simply aren't ready."

"When will we be?" asked Streak, sounding disappointed.

"Realistically, not until next year at least, and that's stretching it. It depends upon your progress....no one ever said it would be quick and easy. Nothing worth having ever is." said Remus in response to more disappointed faces all around.

"The harder you study, the better." I added. "Streak is doing the right thing in reading my books and learning the theory behind the spells. You'll have to understand the theory behind the patronus charm to work it."

"This obviously isn't formal school." Remus pointed out. "You are responsible for your own progress -- and you are coming along better than I would have expected."

"Well let me read some of those books when you finish them, Streak." said Mel determinedly. "I'm sick of running from dementors. The sooner I can kick their ass, the better. Do dementors have asses? I've never seen a dementors ass, but they must have something they sit on. Do dementors sit?"

"I have no idea -- look it up." I laughed. "If you can't find it in one of my books then try the library."

Apart from the dementors it was a pretty nice evening. The guys are so fun to be around because you never know what will come out of their mouths next. Do dementors have butts ? Honestly.

Remus, in contrast was unusually quiet, and had a very thoughtful expression on his face. I asked him about it as we headed downstairs a couple of hours later.

"I was thinking about your safe room idea."

"But you said it was a bad idea."

"No. I said that it wouldn't work. There might be a way, however. I was reading about a spell last night that involves teaching a door to recognize a photo of your enemy and refuse entrance. You know we have an advantage over dementors...something they don't have."

"Magic." I promptly supplied.

"Precisely. They can't break spells because they can't perform magic. There would be no way for them to break that charm, leaving physical attack as their only recourse. Well, it would be very easy to fortify the doors against that as well."

"What a great idea."

"Perhaps." said Remus with a smile. "It still needs work. Putting a single safe room at the bottom of the stairs would not work. It would be dangerous trying to evacuate everyone there. It would be wiser to place at least one safe room on each floor of each wing. That would mean people being willing to open up their flats to their neighbors though, which might prove difficult. "

"I'll bet the boys would help. So would Royal."

"And Royal has influence so others might follow his lead. Give me time to think things through a bit more, and then we may go run the idea past him."

"Sounds great." I agreed.

"And something else -- about this ball. Could we hire someone to fill in for us on the paper route that night? That way we won't be pressed for time."

"Are you sure?" I asked, wondering if he could afford to miss another day's pay.

"Of course." he said, shooting me a knowing look that told me he understood my concern. "Do you have a dress yet?"

"Yes. A white one. Tonks had hysterics -- she thought I should wear a brighter color, but I had to buy used and it was the right size and didn't have any flaws. I like it."

"And that's the thing that matters."

So the day wasn't a total wash and ended on a cheerful note. I'm just tired I guess after running all over Diagon Alley this afternoon and then all over the commune tonight. I'll be glad when this ball is over and things settle down.


Author's Note : Thank you so much for all the kind reviews. I absolutely live for them.

Next Chapter : Kerri and Remus attend the Valentine's Ball.

Excerpt :

Remus and I separated with guilty starts at the sound of a key in the lock of the front door. My heart was pounding so fast that I could hardly breathe --- and when had he put his hand on my waist?

"Hot cocoa?" asked Tonks brightly as she swept into the room. "Any left for me?"

"No." I said a bit stupidly, staring in shock at Remus who looked equally stunned at what had just happened and slightly ashamed too. I watched him struggle to master himself.

"I need to be going." he said, his usual pleasant smile strained. "Good night. Tonks -- Kerri."

I nodded dully and didn't try to stand up. I was shaking so hard that I knew my legs would never support me. What would have happened had Tonks not walked in just then?







Chapter 35: Chapter 35
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I am the stupidest person who ever lived. My brother likes to say I'm a genius but that just goes to show that he's stupid too. How could I be so stupid? I should never have gone to that ball. I saw this coming and I should have prevented it but I just let it happen. I don't know how I'll ever show my face to Remus ever again.

It all started out well enough, with Tonks and I arguing for space in front of the tiny mirror over our dressing table Some of her excitement had finally rubbed off on me and I was anxious to get everything just right.

My dress was white, with a high, empire waist and a matching cloak trimmed in faux fur. The lace around the waist had been a bit yellow so I'd removed it and replaced it with narrow silver ribbon which I also used to cover some fraying on the sleeves. To finish it off I had a new pair of long white gloves and a pair of white evening slippers. I arranged my hair in a French roll and tucked some baby's breath into it.

Tonks, of course, was pink from head to toe. She had turned her hair blonde with a streak of pink and piled it all on her head, secured with a pink ribbon. Her dress was a vibrant confection of hot pink satin, lace, and tulle, every bit as sparkly and flamboyant as she was. Pearls shone warmly on her throat and ears and she had a gold charm bracelet that had been a Christmas present from Gideon clasped to her wrist.

"I wish you'd have worn my pearls." she complained, looking at my reflection beside hers in the mirror. "Honestly. The guys around campus are calling you "the Ice Queen" now, and you're dressed in white so you look the part."

"My gold cross will be fine." I said, amused by the 'Ice Queen' moniker.

"I wish you and Remus would come with Gideon and I. Gideon hired a car."

"We'll be along as soon as Remus has gotten off work and changed clothes." I reminded her for what seemed like the hundredth time since Gideon had told Tonks that he had arranged for the car.

"I'm bringing the camera to get pictures."

"Oh goody."

"What is with you?" Tonks burst out in a frustrated tone. "You're just so weird. One minute you're up and the next you're down. He's just a friend. It isn't a real date so you don't have to impress him or anything. There's nothing to be nervous about."

"Of course....just a friend...no reason to be nervous." I repeated, and tried not to laugh at Tonks's puzzlement over my sarcasm.

There was a knock at the door and she gave an excited little leap. "That's Gideon -- I look wonderful, don't I? You do."

"You do look wonderful and you know it -- you don't need me to say so."

"But I still like to hear it. I'll see you in a bit, okay?"

"I'll be there."

Tonks flitted off, full skirts knocking her copy of "Witch Weekly" off of her night table as she passed. As I picked it up and casually flipped through the pages, my attention was captured by the all too familiar grin of Gilderoy Lockhart. It was an advert for pre-orders of his latest book, "Wanders with Werewolves" which was due out in March. Disgusted, I closed the magazine and stashed it in the nearest drawer.

About an hour later there was another knock on the door, and with my heart pounding madly, I went to answer. Remus was standing on the step wearing simple black robes, very basic and not unlike those my brother often wears. He'd pulled his shoulder length light brown hair back into a neat tail, and the effect of the streaks of gray against the black of his robe was very becoming.

"Come in."

"Kerri, you look absolutely beautiful." he told me, smiling. "I brought you this." From behind his back he brought out a perfect, long stemmed white rosebud. "I wish I could have afforded a dozen." he apologized.

"No. I love it ....no one has ever given me a rose before." I said, fighting an annoying, squishy sort of feeling that was washing over me. No one that mattered had ever given me a rose before at least --- Lockhart's hideous flowers didn't count. "I'd better put it in water before we go."

"Where's Tonks?"

"She went ahead."

I took the filled vase and set it on my bedside table, the only surface in the house that I don't share with Tonks...although her things do have a habit of occasionally spilling over onto it. "Ready."

I retrieved my cloak and began putting it on, but he pointedly took it away and helped me into it. "I'm not used to this sort of thing." I said, flustered.

"Maybe it's time that you were." Remus answered, his lips very close to my ear. His breath ticked a bit. "If you don't mind my asking....have you ever been on an actual date before?"

"Tonks told you that I haven't, didn't she?" I asked, feeling the color in my cheeks deepen.

"You're putting so much pressure on me to make sure you have a good time." said Remus, avoiding my question.

I wondered what he meant by that and decided I'd better not ask. "I'd be perfectly happy just sitting by the fire over some cocoa." I suggested hopefully.

"Oh no. I intend to escort you to your first ball....if I don't, Tonks will be after my blood. Are you aware of those curses she's learning?"

"I've helped her study by letting her practice the non lethal ones on me. It isn't fun. She's more excited about me going to this ball than I am. I really don't see what the fuss is about."

"Exactly." said Remus firmly. "Shall we?"

We arrived in a paved courtyard cordoned off by thousands of fluttering fairies holding hands along the perimeter. They glowed pale gold beneath trees hung with real icicles that had been charmed into shades of red and pink. Remus offered his arm and we walked across the bare flagstones toward the banquet hall where warm light spilled from the tall, narrow windows of the ballroom. My stomach was fluttering just like the fairies.

It was a building I'd never had occasion to enter before. After we removed our cloaks in the entry, we paused for a moment between the gilded double doors of the grand ballroom. The floor was highly polished white marble and the walls featured a high relief frieze picturing scenes from the life of Merlin which ran around the length of the circular room. The high ceiling had a glass dome that opened to a frosty velvet sky hung with milk white stars.

I felt a bit intimidated by the other girls, dressed like Barbie dolls in bright reds, pinks, and assorted pastels. Skirts in rich fabrics rustled and crinkled as they swept past, while diamonds and gold tinkled and glittered in the light. My dress that had seemed so simple and elegant back home suddenly seemed rather plain. I shot a nervous, sideways glance at Remus who seemed perfectly calm and in his element, unruffled by the splendor.

He didn't even look uncomfortable when Tonks bustled over with Gideon who was resplendent in a navy blue waistcoat with lace at his throat and wrists. On his feet were a pair of shiny, costly, dragon hide boots. But then men don't pay attention to each other's clothing the way women do. Women use their clothing weapons sometimes, a way of establishing superiority over each other....which is probably why I prefer men. They're much more sensible.

Tonks threw both arms around me as though we hadn't seen each other in ages. "Oh Kerri --- relax will you? You feel so tense. You should have a drink."

"You've been nagging at me to 'experience a ball' and you want me to get drunk so I can't remember half of it?"

"Oh Kerri lighten up. There's just champagne and it takes a lot to get drunk on that, for me anyway. I can drink a whole bottle and it doesn't have the slightest effect."

Behind her, Gideon shook his head vehemently but quickly stopped when she turned to face him. "Gideon, take a picture of Kerri and I together."

Being around the ever effervescent Tonks is like being caught in a whirlwind -- there's simply no escape. Laughing, I allowed myself to be pulled over to the side for a photo. Putting our arms around each other and drawing our faces close together we smiled for the camera. "Beautiful." said Gideon.

"Now get one of me with Gideon." Tonks instructed. "Come here Gideon."

Gideon handed Remus the camera and dutifully took my place as I ducked out of view. He put an arm around Tonks who affectionately threw both around him, resting one flushed cheek on his shoulder. "Okay -- now one of you and Remus." she directed once the picture was taken. "Stand over here. Closer together....closer than that...put your arm around her. Kerri, will you please relax?"

Remus shot me an amused. 'well we don't have much choice' sort of look, and set one hand lightly on the small of my back. I felt a rush of heat that had nothing whatsoever to do with the temperature of the room.

It seemed to take forever for Tonks to snap the picture and once she had, she rushed over to throw both arms around me again. "Aren't you glad you came? I want you to have lots of fun."

"I am." I reassured her, squeezing her back.

"There's Priscilla!" she said suddenly, her eyes fixing on someone across the room. "Priscilla!"

Tonks started off across the floor, a whirl of pink lace and frills. Her skirt caught on the corner of a bench and ripped, leaving a modest sized snatch of pink tulle behind.

Laughing good naturedly, Gideon retrieved it and tucked it into an inner pocket. "See you two later." he said before following in Tonks's wake.

If nothing else, Tonks's exuberant cheerfulness had relaxed me, and put me in a better mood. I no longer felt quite so awkward and out of place.

"So...." said Remus, turning to me with a slight bow. "Would you like to dance?"

It was just like those old 'when I grow up' scenes that I imagined as a little girl. I had a pretty dress and a handsome partner and everything was more perfect than things are wont to be in real life. I should have known the evening would end in humiliation.

We stepped onto the dance floor and Remus wrapped one arm around my waist, pulling me close...much closer than he had while Tonks had been taking our picture earlier. His hand felt warm and steady in mine even through my glove and his touch made my hand tingle.

Remus proved to be a very good dancer. Being tall, I found that I was only a couple inches shorter than he is so our strides matched perfectly, eliminating any potential awkwardness on that score. With nothing else to worry about I was free to lose myself in a whirl of color, perfume and light. As I had that time at Scarlet Dawn, I gave myself up to the dance, only this time I was in the arms of the object of my affection. White stars whirled above and Remus held me steady and secure, hazel eyes fixedly gazing into mine. That ought to have been a warning sign right there, but I wasn't thinking with my head at the time.

There was a dinner at which Tonks found us and contrived to wrangle seats next to ours. She was wound up, breathless and flushed with a strand of hair hanging askew over one ear and the hem of her gown frayed where she'd stepped on it. Willow and Etta were there too with their dates, a couple of rowdy college boys who were half drunk and acting like compete idiots. I reflected that there is an advantage to older men, as I noted with pride the poised way that Remus carried himself.

The dinner was nice, certainly fancier than any I've ever attended before, even at Hogwarts. I tasted a little champagne, didn't like the carbonation, and stuck with water after that. I noticed that Tonks was drinking champagne, but nowhere near enough for it to have much affect. Her hyperness was completely natural, attributable to a sparkling personality and a very good mood.

"I like the fragrance you have on." Remus told me over dinner.

"Oh, thanks. My mother gave it to me for Christmas. It's magnolia."

"That doesn't grow here."

"It grows wild back there." I told him " The trees have great big white flowers that are so fragile that they fade if you touch them. They really stand out when they're growing among a bunch of plain old pines."

"They only grow in some places though, don't they? I remember reading about them once in an old book on magical trees."

"Just in the South -- where I was raised. That's why my accent is so horrendous, although it has improved with time. When I first came over here people used to tell me that they couldn't understand what I was saying --- mostly Slytherins though so I ain't sure I believe 'em." I said, purposely thickening the accent.

"Don't lose it. I like listening to accents and it's a part of who you are."

For some reason his words made me warm all over. It was like that all evening, a torture of warm blushes and cold chills, usually in conjunction with Remus's touch or voice.

After dinner I was approached by a very pretty blonde girl in a blue silk gown. She was vaguely familiar but I didn't know her name. I had the impression that she was someone important around campus but couldn't place why. I had a feeling she was about to tell me. "Good evening." she said in a formal tone. "My name is Aline Gardener. You are Cerridwyn Howard, are you not?"

"Yes."

"How do you do?" she asked, not waiting for a reply. I had the feeling that she didn't really care anyway. Briefly, her eyes gravitated toward Remus in an evaluating sort of way and she turned her body fractionally so as to exclude him from the conversation. "I'm the leader of the campus chapter of Merlin's Maidens, a nationally known group of accomplished, academically gifted young ladies. Membership in our group is a great honor and a lifetime benefit that can lead to a prestigious career in any field. I am aware that you turned down our written invitation, but would like to encourage you not to make such a mistake. We would welcome you with open arms and I am positive that you would benefit greatly from your association with us. We are, as I am sure you already know, the upper crust of Merlin University."

I've always been a good judge of character and I knew right away that I wanted nothing to do with Aline Gardener's type. She had snubbed Remus and that was unforgivable. Wickedly, I thickened my accent to the extreme and said, " Aw shucks, that sure is a nice thing fer ya t' say about me. I really do appreciate it but I ain't got the time t' join. I got me a lotta lessons t' learn an' I'm the lead female singer in a werewolf band called Hybrid, an' that just takes up more time. Hey -- the pay ain't good but the company is great. Anyway, full moon nights r' about th' only free time I got. It was real nice of yeh t' ask me though."

Aline held her poise, but her attitude became fractionally colder. She made a quick, huffy sort of motion that made the diamonds around her neck catch the light. I suppose it was supposed to be intimidating, but I was past that. Over her shoulder, I could see Remus looking at me with an expression of mixed horror and admiration, as though he wanted to laugh but felt he shouldn't.

"I see. Well have a nice night." said Aline coldly as she turned on her heel and floated off.
"I cannot believe you said that." said Remus, his voice thick with supressed mirth.

"She was a snob --- I didn't like her. I didn't say anything that wasn't true and I wasn't rude. I reckon meybe she don't like accents as good as you do. I've been getting invitations to every sorority and club on campus ever since it got out that I have the top grades in the school."

"You didn't tell me that. Congratulations."

"It's no big deal." I said dismissively, though inwardly thrilled with his praise. "I was top at Hogwarts too."

"But you weren't doing twice the work load."

"Strategy -- that's all it is. It's a matter of knowing how to balance the work load and do the work efficiently. Anyone could do it if they tried."

"You're frighteningly smart Kerri, and you don't even know it." he insisted, putting me in mind of my brother. "And very modest."

"Please. I'm just not a snot like that Elaine or Aline, or whatever her name was. Like I care what it was."

"Maybe we should go have another dance before you get into any more trouble." said Remus, offering me his arm again. "You know you remind me a great deal of an old friend I had at Hogwarts. He was never the type to mince words either. If he liked you he would do anything for you....if not....God help you. At least when we were young." he added, somewhat darkly.

So we went back to the ballroom and danced until midnight. By then I had long since given up ignoring my feelings for him and was just trying my best to keep him from noticing. Internally, I was moving closer to accepting it -- I loved him, and being in his arms made it impossible to deny.

"Let's walk home." I suggested, not being in any particular rush to let him go.

"Dressed like this?" he laughed.

"It isn't very far and you know the streets are not going to be busy in this little town at this hour of the night. I don't want to just apparate back...it's been such a nice night...let's walk home."

"In the cold?"

"It isn't snowing. It isn't far and we have cloaks."

"Alright." he gave in, looking hugely amused "Let's walk home."

Another mistake I suppose, but it was such a lovely, clear night that all common sense was over-ruled. The waning moon was beautiful, hanging in the sky like a curved icicle. I saw Remus glance up at it with a resentful glare.

"It's pretty." I told him, following his gaze.

"For you maybe. Moonlit walks lose their charm when you have what I have. Not that I'm not enjoying spending time with you." he added swiftly.

I felt another of those inexplicable surges of warmth that had been annoying me all night. "Same here." was all I could trust myself to say.

We were quiet as we walked up the lane, the only sound breaking the winter stillness being our shoes crunching on the drive. The yard was beautiful under it's blanket of snow, sparkling in the home lights like sugar on a cookie. Translucent spears of ice hung in fantastic patterns from the roof in the breathless winter air. "Come in for some cocoa." I said -- the most fatal mistake of all.

"It's late." he reminded me.

"It's the least I can do after making you walk home in the cold."

I saw hesitation flicker across his face...perhaps it was the last gasp of his own common sense. Then, quite clearly I saw the hesitation break as he made up his mind. "All right. Just for a while."

"Sit by the fire and get warm." I instructed as I headed for the kitchen.

"It's dying. I'll build it up for you." he answered, kneeling by the hearth.

I was back in all of two minutes -- I cheated and used magic. Remus was still sitting on the floor by the fire when I sank down beside him and offered him a mug. "With whipped cream and cinnamon."

"I prefer that to marshmallows. Marshmallows overpower the chocolate." He wrapped his hands around the mug to warm them and said, "So...did you enjoy your first ball?"

"Yes. I'm glad that everyone bullied me into going -- seriously. Thanks for taking me."

"It was my pleasure. You dance well."

"Thank you."

We were quiet again for a while, sipping cocoa in companionable silence. Sitting there with Remus, just listening to the fire crackle and watching the light play in his silvering hair was a wonderful ending to the evening.

It was as I set my empty mug down on the hearth that he caught my hand in one of his. "Do you know..." he said in that husky voice of his. "....that you have exceptionally beautiful hands?"

"No I don't. They're rough and they snag everything. My fingertips are all chewed up from the guitar strings and the rest from working with animals."

"They have beautiful structure." he explained, tracing the back of the one he was holding with one of his fingers. Goosebumps rose at his touch and I prayed he wouldn't notice. "Long slender fingers...the kind of hands that are a pain and pleasure for any artist that tries to draw them." His eyes left my hand and focused suddenly on my face. "May I as you a very personal question?"

"Of course." I answered somewhat apprehensively. There was an unfamiliar expression in his eyes that was making cold chills trickle down my spine.

"Have you ever been kissed by a man?"

Whatever I'd been expecting him to say, it wasn't that. It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. "I've never even been kissed by a boy." I said lightly, in a last ditch effort to avert disaster.

Remus's eyes never left mine. All the things I was feeling and had been feeling for months now were reflected back to me in their hazel depths. I suddenly knew with dead certainty that he'd been struggling with the exact same thing and had finally reached the end of his rope.

"Come here." he said quietly.

I should not have done it. I should have made a joke to diffuse the situation but didn't. I knew it was a bad idea and that I'd regret it later, but at the moment I didn't care. Like a lovesick idiot I leaned toward him.

Remus leaned forward to meet me and for a split second I felt a moment of panic, wondering what I was supposed to do. Then complete clarity washed over me, the tension rushed away like water from a glass, and I decided to just relax and let it happen.

It was like being outside of myself watching it unfold like a scene in a movie. Time seemed to stop as he cupped my cheek with one warm hand and his face drew close to mine. I could feel his breath on my skin. His mouth descended on mine and I just melted with this soft little sigh of desire. His lips were so sweet and gentle that I didn't want it to ever end when......

Remus and I separated with guilty starts at the sound of a key in the lock of the front door. My heart was pounding so fast that I could hardly breathe --- and when had he put his hand on my waist?

"Hot cocoa?" asked Tonks brightly as she swept into the room. "Any left for me?"

"No." I said a bit stupidly, staring in shock at Remus who looked equally stunned at what had just happened and slightly ashamed too. I watched him struggle to master himself.

"I need to be going." he said, his usual pleasant smile strained. "Good night. Tonks -- Kerri."

I nodded dully and didn't try to stand up. I was shaking so hard that I knew my legs would never support me. What would have happened had Tonks not walked in just then?

Tonks is no dummy. I saw her look shrewdly from Remus to me and back again as she saw him out. "I interrupted something didn't I?" she apologized once she had closed the door behind him.

But the night's humiliation was not over yet. To my great disgust I burst into tears, covering my face with my hands.

"Don't cry!" exclaimed Tonks, rushing over to throw her arms around me in a sisterly sort of way. "Why are you crying? Remus is a really great guy."

"It's impossible!" I gasped, furious with myself for this show of weakness. "It just is. I should have known better --- I should never have invited him in."

"Well, if it makes you feel any better, I think I'm giving up men." said Tonks darkly.

"Why?" I sniffed, wiping my eyes and lifting my head to look at her. "Did you and Gideon have a fight?"

Tonks sighed deeply and smoothed out her bedraggled skirt. "No. He's just getting so serious. I mean --- I'm serious about him too, but he's talking about getting married."

"He proposed?"

"No. But he...hinted. He hinted that he wants to get married as soon as we graduate next year, but I have another year of specialized training with the Ministry to do. I like Gideon and I want to get married one day, but not right away. I want to be an Auror -- I've wanted it as long as I can remember. I don't know. Maybe I should aim for magical law enforcement instead."

"Not if you want to be an Auror." I said firmly. "You'd be throwing away all the hard work you've already done. You do exactly what's right for you and don't worry about anyone else."

"I wish I could be more like you. You're so responsible and serious and steady. I shouldn't have made you go to the ball."

"No. I wanted to go....with Remus. I've had a thing for him for a few months now."

"Well you did a good job hiding it." said Tonks, looking genuinely surprised.

"You know the person I spent the night with during your party?"

"Remus?"

"Yes -- but I slept on the bed and he slept on the floor."

Tonks laughed. "I knew you weren't the type. I was just teasing. Me -- I like to kind of have a party girl reputation, but it's mostly for show. I really don't drink half as much as people think and Gideon and I have never...well, you know. I'm glad we didn't. I'm not so sure things are going to work out between us." Tonks sighed, looking very glum. "So -- why don't you and Remus get together? The age difference or his...um....illness?"

"The lycanthropy is part of it. He's pretty much made up his mind to swear off of women, you know."

"Ha. No man can do that. They're just made different from us. So he doesn't have that kind of relationship with women? From the color of your cheeks I'd say he was doing a pretty good job before I came in."

I couldn't help but laugh. "Maybe. What a night."

"I'm telling you. Hey, I hate to ask this but....you don't have any of that chocolate left from Christmas do you?"

"I've been saving it for a day like this. Tell you what, let's split it. Then let's use magic to enlarge the bathtub and do a water stirring charm on it to turn it into a jucuzzi."

"A what?" asked Tonks curiously.

"You'll see. Come on."

So at almost two in the morning, that's what we did, and it was immensely satisfying. Thank heaven for Tonks or I'd have been very depressed. It was pushing four a.m. before we went to bed, and afternoon when we got up. Right now I'm sitting here trying to collect my thoughts and come to terms with the choices I made last night.

In a couple hours I'll have to go pick Remus up to go to practice, so there's no point fretting. I have no idea what I'm going to say to him, but soon it will be over with for better or for worse. What happened last night cannot happen ever again and I'm hoping that it won't ruin our friendship.

What's horrible is that I don't think I've fully learned my lesson --- kissing him has only made me want him more. You'd think it would be out of my system now, wouldn't you? I hate romance.

Your first kiss is another of those milestones that you speculate about when you're a girl. It's a shame that mine had to be like this. It's a very confusing situation -- I wish I hadn't kissed him and yet I don't regret the actual kiss.

Author's Note : Thanks to all of my reviewers, but especially to morgana67 who read this chapter over for me prior to posting. Her encouragement went a long way to dispel my growing doubts about the quality of this chapter.

Next Chapter : Things are tense between Kerri and Remus as they try to go back to the way things were before the ball. Remus suggests the safe room idea to Royal and Kerri develops a grudge against the MacNair brothers. Snape comes up with a plan to protect Harry in the upcoming match and is keeping a close eye on Quirrel.

Excerpt :
I have volunteered to referee the upcoming Quidditch match. I decided that was the best way to ensure I would be near enough to intervene swiftly should there be another attempt on Prince Potter. It is fortunate that I have no care for what people think about me because the entire staff thinks sabotage is my motive.

As if I need to sabotage Gryffindor -- my team has nothing to worry about from them.
Besides, this is a school, not a Quidditch camp. Too much emphasis is placed on sports around here.

I saw Quirrel lurking around outside again today. I had spare time on my hands so I thought I'd just take a little stroll around the grounds to see what he was up to. I'd love to know exactly what he's doing out there.














Chapter 36: Chapter 36
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Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : February 8, 1992
Dear Kerri,

I suppose you think that your angry words about the old Quirrel incident have angered me, but they have not. I feel relieved. Relieved to know for certain that you didn't waste yourself on the likes of him. Granted, as your brother I do not think anyone is good enough for you, though I do genuinely hope you find happiness.

I am in a better mood tonight than I was when I wrote my last letter. I put the Weasley demons in detention today -- always a cause for celebration. You worry about my emotional wellbeing without need. There are some satisfactions to be found in my job.

Kerri, I do not want you to worry about me. If you do that, I shall stop confiding in you. You have enough problems in your own life without anxiety over me. I am not worth the trouble. Heavens....do you mean to tell me that after so many years of despising your brother, you've become fond?

Trust me, if I could leave this place I would. I abhor every stone, beam, tile and blade of grass. I know you'll be greatly surprised when I tell you that I am not overly fond of the students either.

I have volunteered to referee the upcoming Quidditch match. I decided that was the best way to ensure I would be near enough to intervene swiftly should there be another attempt on Prince Potter. It is fortunate that I have no care for what people think about me because the entire staff thinks sabotage is my motive.

As if I need to sabotage Gryffindor -- my team has nothing to worry about from them.
Besides, this is a school, not a Quidditch camp. Too much emphasis is placed on sports around here.

I saw Quirrel lurking around outside again today. I had spare time on my hands so I thought I'd just take a little stroll around the grounds to see what he was up to. I'd love to know exactly what he's doing out there.

Oh yes -- I warn you that I'm about one move away from checkmate. Take your time to study the board before you make your next move -- it may be your last. I shall allow you an extra day to decide....despite the face that I am 'mean'.

Your Brother, Severus




Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : February 5, 1992
Dear Kerri,

How are you? I am fine.

Except I had a cold last week but Madam Pomfrey fixed me up. The Ogden's I drank helped a lot too. Nothing better for a cold. No cures are like the old cures I always say.

It's nice of you to say you learned a lot from me. Some day when your famous I'll tell people that. You could be headmistress of Hogwarts one day. Ever thought of that?

Fang and the salamanders and the mice all say hi back. One of the mice had babies on my pillow. They're pink and not much bigger than my thumbnail. I have quite a family here now.

Looking forward to starting the spring garden. The seeds you helped pick out at Christmas got here today. Any chance you'll visit around Easter?

Love, Hagrid




Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley : February 16, 1992
Dear Charlie,

They're going to send you home in a box yet! Not that dodging a dragon on a broomstick doesn't sound like loads of fun, of course.

You guys have to be nuts playing Quidditch in dragon habitat. What idiots ! People zooming around on broomsticks there is about as smart as a mouse running through a tiger cage in a zoo !

That dragon doo you've been collecting has clearly affected your brain.

Yes -- my mother drives me nuts too. I know exactly what you mean. I had a shouting match with her over the phone the other day. She was after me to come home and work full time. I understand how hard she works and that it isn't easy being alone, but I'm obligated to teach for seven years to pay back my debt to the school. Eventually I'll be making decent money and I'll be able to send some home to her, but she can't seem to get that through her head. She just doesn't want me living in the wizarding world, that's all her problem is.

We just go in circles and she makes me feel like a selfish, horrible person. Maybe I am.

You sound like you've had a rough time and now I'm being depressing and whining to you. Sorry. I hope your friend is all right and I hope you are too.

Hey -- this should amuse you. I attended a Valentine's Ball. I wore a ball gown and gloves and slippers and everything. If you don't believe me I'll send pictures when they're developed. I'll close off by leaving you with the entertaining thought of me looking like an idiot at a ball.

Kerri





Well...I feel very ambivalent tonight about the future of my friendship with Remus. It isn't the same as it was before. There's a guarded awareness now on both sides and he seems to think of me differently. Despite agreeing that there is no future in a relationship with each other he's become almost annoyingly protective of me. The fact that he's ....fond of me... doesn't mean he needs to watch over me like a mother hen. Whey can't things go back to the way they were before? Why do they have to change?

Tonks didn't want me to have to face him alone. I had a tough time getting out the door without her when I left for practice. It took some doing to convince her that I really was perfectly comfortable facing him alone and that I preferred it that way. An audience would only have made it more embarrassing.

He was waiting for me when I pulled up in front of his house. He didn't even give me time to get out of the car and knock. The door opened the moment I pulled in and he came out to meet me.

"We need to talk." we said in unison as he slid into the seat beside me.

Despite my discomfort I couldn't help but laugh. Remus smiled too. "Let me go first." he said, taking a deep breath. "I'm the one responsible. I want to apologize about last night. I was entirely out of line. I was supposed to be a safe escort whom you could trust not to make advances and then I did that very thing." Remus paused, looking painfully ashamed. "I'm not going to make excuses for myself. I was simply wrong, and I'm sorry for it. I don't want this to ruin our friendship, but I understand if....well...I'm sorry."

It hurt to see how ashamed he looked. It had been my fault as much as it was his. Did he honestly think he'd forced himself on me or something? I hadn't exactly put up a fight. "It isn't your fault." I told him, suddenly very determined to make him see that. Did he think that because he was a werewolf I couldn't possibly be attracted to him? Some part of me wanted to set him straight and tell him exactly how crazy I'd been over him for the last few months. I plunged on recklessly. "I could have said 'no'. I'd had a good time at the ball and....it was my fault too. I like you a lot...not like a friend....in a different way. I may as well just make a full confession. I've been trying to get a handle on it. I didn't want you to know. Not because you're a werewolf but because I just have some personal issues in my life, and you know that.....and I'm rambling like a total idiot so you can stop me any time you like unless you just like watching me squirm."

Finally I got a smile out of him. I had to make an idiot of myself and put my heart on my sleeve to do it, but it was worth it. I didn't like seeing him looking so miserably guilty. "I'm fond of you too. Since you're making confessions I may as well too. I find you very attractive, Kerri. There is just something about you that feels right, as cliche as that may sound. However, you know there can never be anything between us other than friendship. My being a werewolf my not bother you, but it bothers me. I wouldn't want to burden anyone with my problems."

"So we both agree that we have our individual reasons for not being...more than friends." I finished lamely.

"Could we just pick things up as though it never happened?"

"That's exactly what I wanted to ask you." I agreed, and yet....although I know that's the best possible outcome, it seems sad too. It cheapens what happened between us somehow; makes it something dirty that should be swept under the rug. I don't like how that makes me feel.

I'll always wonder what would have happened if Tonks hadn't walked in right when she did. I'll always wonder what might have been if he hadn't been a werewolf and I hadn't been Voldemort's bastard.

Practice was uneventful. Remus announced that Lorcan has a permanent spot for us at Scarlet Dawn at nine every week night. It's going to make my study schedule tight but I'll manage. The more work I have to do, the less time I'll have to sit around mooning over Remus. I spend far more time thinking about him than is strictly necessary. After all --- we're just friends.

After practice Remus and I went to visit Royal and Celestia and pitch the safe room idea to them. Their flat is in the wing opposite Basil's and a couple floors down. The place is entirely too small for a family of six but somehow they make it work.

Royal's five year old opened the door, looking up at us gravely with big brown eyes just like his father's. "Hi."

"Hi there Matthew." said Remus pleasantly. "How are you tonight?"

"Getting ready for bed."

"Ah, I see. Is your father home?"

"Yeah."

Matthew's nine year old sister who also strongly resembles her father, suddenly appeared behind her brother clad in a pink nightgown and slippers. "Hello Mr. Lupin."

"Well hello there Melissa. My friend Kerri and I would like to talk to your father."

"Let them in." came Royal's deep voice from somewhere within.

Melissa swung the door wide to admit us. The flat was comprised of four small rooms with peeling, dingy wallpaper; a living room, bedroom, bathroom. and kitchen. The living room had a sagging couch of an ugly, mustard yellow paisley patterned apholstery popular decades ago. There was also a rusty card table and several folding chairs. Sitting at the table reading a battered copy of "The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Two." was twelve year old Megan. The eldest of Royal and Celestia's children, she was the only one who had inherited her mother's blonde good looks. She set down her book and looked at us with interest as we came in.

Royal pulled out a folding chair for himself as he pointed us to the couch. "Always nice to have company."

"Where's Celestia?" asked Remus.

"In the other room changing Michael's bandages. He still isn't completely healed."

"Bad transformation?"

"I'll be glad when he's old enough to take the potion. He just about gnawed through his own leg." said Royal grimly. He leaned over for Matthew and Melissa to kiss him good night and watched them disappear through the curtain that separated the bedroom from the living area. "Megan, why don't you make tea? You've gotten pretty good at it lately."

"All right." said Megan, getting up from the table, looking glad for an excuse to stop studying.

"So." said Royal, turning back to us. "Problem with Fenrir after last week?"

"What?" asked Remus as I inwardly cringed, knowing Royal was referring to the confrontation between the boys and Fenrir in my yard during the full moon.

"He doesn't know?" asked Royal, turning to me.

I squirmed uneasily. He had a way of making me feel like a little girl who had done something naughty at school.

"What don't I know?" asked Remus, looking at me in a way that had the exact same effect.

"Nothing happened." I answered quickly. "I didn't want you to worry."

"Worry about what?" asked Remus, now sounding slightly alarmed.

"Nothing." I insisted. "Nothing happened. "Basil and the others came by to...to visit on the night of the full moon. Fenrir showed up with some friends and...nothing happened. Really." Neither of them looked like they believed me. Remus looked more furious that I'd ever seen him.

"They lured Fenrir into your yard, at night, while he was in wolf form?" he asked in a dangerously low voice.

"They didn't 'lure' him. He showed up on his own." I answered, starting to get annoyed at how he was making me feel so defensive. "How did you know?" I asked Royal.

"Word gets around. It doesn't matter that nothing happened. Fenrir knows that there are people who like you and that he can use you against them if he wants. Now he knows where you live."

"He's never been remotely hostile to me." I said, looking from one grave face to the other. "I've never given him the slightest reason...."

"Do you think I did?" asked Remus, his voice cold with fury. I'd never heard him use that tone before. "I'm going to go have a chat with Basil later. I know the idea was his."

"Don't do that -- he'll think I tattled."

But Remus's eyes had a stubborn, steely look in them that brooked no argument.

"I gave them permission to come by."

"Cerridwyn Howard." said Remus in frustration, sounding alarmingly like my mother when she has a sulky fit on. "What did I tell you the first day we met? Stay away from Fenrir Grayback. You have to take him seriously or you are gambling with your life. Not everyone survives him. I should never have let you join that band."

It was the last sentence that did it for me. "Excuse me, " I began hotly, 'but......."

"Tea." said Megan, coming in with a tray. For her sake I bit my tongue and didn't say the things to Remus that I wanted to. He is not my keeper.

"Thank you Megan." said Royal. "Sit here beside me. Remus is right Kerri, take Fenrir serious."

"Seriously." Megan primly corrected.

Royal reached out and stroked her golden head, not seeming to mind having his grammar corrected by a twelve year old. "This one is just like her mother. Celestia almost graduated from Hogwarts, you know."

"What happened?" I asked.

"My parents ran out of money." said Celestia, emerging from the bedroom with a first aid kit in her hands. "They owned a business in Hogsmeade but they lost it in my fifth year and I had to quit school."

"What house were you in?"

"Ravenclaw."

"We're family then." I said eagerly, glad the conversation seemed to be securely steered away from Fenrir and hoping to keep it that way.

"Really?" asked Celestia as she took a chair on Megan's other side. "I wish Megan could have gone. She'd have done well."

"Were you and Remus at school together?" I asked curiously.

"I left during his first year. I wish I could remember him. I'll bet he was cute."

"He was horrible." said Remus. "My friends and I were horrible little brats. I really do miss those days."

"I knew it." I teased. "Like I've said before -- it's always the quiet ones."

"It would have been nice to send the kids to Hogwarts," said Royal, glancing at Megan thoughtfully, "but with three of them...."

"Four!" Celestia corrected.

Between them, Megan rolled her eyes, apparently bored with the old joke.

"Whatever. Anyway, Celestia teaches them as best she can. We're still paying on Megan's wand, but it's worth it."

I felt a sudden twinge of guilt. By all rights I should not have been able to attend Hogwarts either. Like Megan, my mother would never have been able to afford to send me either. The only reason I'd been able to go was because Dumbledore had offered to educate me in exchange for an equal number of years service to the school as a teacher.

Megan was as deserving as I was. So were other poor children born and raised right here in the country. Why had I been singled out and brought all the way from overseas? The only unique thing about me is that Voldemort is my father. If anything I'd think that would make me the least likely candidate for charity. One of these days I'm going to have to question Severus about it.

"My wand is hazel and unicorn tail hair." Megan clarified.

"I'd help you work with Basil and the others," said Celestia regretfully, "but with five children to look after, I don't have time."

"Four." Royal corrected.

"Well you never know what the future will bring." said Celestia slyly.

"Please no." said Royal with an exaggerated shudder of horror. "This place is crowded enough as it is."

"Kerri and I came over here to present you two with an idea she had." Remus cut in. "She's an outsider and you know what certain people here think of me so it isn't likely anyone would listen. You two, on the other hand are highly respected in this place. What would you think of setting up safe rooms against dementors?"

"I think we need to do something before they start taking away our wands." said Royal gruffly.

"They wouldn't really do that, would they?" asked Megan, whose wand was proudly laying across her knees. "Mama says it will never pass."

"It won't." said Celestia firmly. "Like the one that would have nullifed all marriages between werewolves and nonwerewolves. I was pregnant with Michael back then and it gave me a lot of sleepless nights. Never again. Nothing that extreme will ever pass."

"Not that it matters anyway, seeing as most people in here don't know which end of a wand to point." said Royal. "Good grief -- Megan is more adept than I am. It's good what you two are doing for those idiots....I mean...those young men. I was hoping it would mature them a bit, though. They put some kind of spell on one of the landings the other night that made the women's skirts blow up. Then they got on the landing below to watch."

"They did what?" I gasped in horror.

"Another thing I'll mention when I have my little chat with Basil." said Remus quietly.

"What do you think?" I asked Royal, not wanting Remus to get started on the Fenrir thing again.

"I think it's a good idea. I assume that you'll be able to start with the idiots, but the more people who are willing to give it a try, the better. One of my neighbors down the hall had their door splintered during the last attack. Still has a sheet hanging up where it used to be. I'll ask around and see if I can get any takers. If I do?"

"I'll magically fortify the doors against dementors, provided the owners trust me." said Remus .

"I won't ask Yestin then." Royal teased.

"He's a total nutter." said Megan. "He had a fit the other day because Melissa dropped a ball going downstairs and it almost hit him. It was an accident and we told him we were sorry."

"I wish he'd just go move into The Lair with Fenrir and be done with it." said Celestia. "He makes me uneasy."

"And Kerri...." said Royal significantly. He waited until I met his eyes. "You steer clear of Fenrir. He doesn't need a reason."

"Speaking of which, I need to have a chat with Basil." said Remus. "We need to be going."

"Please don't." I begged. "What's done is done."

There was a stubbornness about Remus's manner that I'd never seen before, a dogged sort of over-protectiveness. Why? Because he'd kissed me he now felt some chivalric sense of responsibility for me? Please. It was simply too much testosterone.

"You go on without me -- I'll get myself home." he said as we left the flat.

"If you insist on going up there to jump all over poor Basil, I can wait." I said, thinking I'd rather go with him and try to diffuse the situation.

"No. I'm sure you have studying to do." he said firmly.

His tone was politely casual but his words annoyed me. He was trying to dismiss me. "I don't need you to take care of me, you know. I'm nineteen not nine. I thought things weren't going to change."

"This has nothing to do with that." he said stiffly, and then softened his tone with an attempt at humor. "Gryffindor chivalry, remember? It never goes away."

His words didn't do anything to soothe my chafed feelings. I wanted to tell him that kissing me didn't warrant a lot of outdated Dark Age chivalric nonsense and restrained myself with difficulty. Was getting a point across more important than saving our friendship and getting back our old camaraderie? I decided that it wasn't.

"Are you sure you can trust me to get out to the car safely?" I asked with false lightness. I was being facetious and he knew it, but it was better than the other things I'd have liked to have said.

He didn't rise to the bait, but then I hadn't really expected him to. "Of course." he said with characteristic placidity. "Have a nice night."

Will things ever be the same again or has everything been ruined by a moment of careless stupidity? I'm never attending another unnecessary social function as long as I live, or getting myself in a position where I'm alone with a guy I like. From here on in it's just work, study, and sleep.

Just like my brother.




Tonks shook me awake first thing this morning. It didn't seem like I'd had much sleep since I'd crawled back into bed after work and a glance at the clock told me that it had only been three hours. "Kerri. There's someone her to see you. From the werewolf commune I think. They have a sick cat and it doesn't look very good."

"Oh no....." I groaned wearily, though I instantly got out of bed and pulled on a robe. "Who is it?"

"A man with two girls."

I wasn't surprised to emerge from the bedroom and that it was Royal with Megan and Melissa. Both girls looked very anxious and it was clear that the youngest had been crying. They were crowded around a box on the counter, looking somberly down at the contents.

"I know it's early but I thought of you right away." Royal apologized.

"What's going on?" I asked, peering in the box.

Inside lay a black and white cat. It was panting and foam flecked it's mouth. It had a glassy look to it's eyes that I didn't like at all. "When did this start?" I asked, carefully feeling it for obvious signs of injury.

"This morning we couldn't find her and went looking." Megan explained, her face very white but her voice remarkably calm. "We found her outside the gate."

"She means the entrance to the courtyard." Royal clarified. "Laying there like someone wanted her to be found."

His voice was calm too but I could sense his fury. It was like standing beside a ticking bomb.

"Is she going to be okay?" asked Melissa, pressing close to my elbow.

"Do you know what's wrong with her?" asked Megan.

I was quite certain that the cat had been poisoned but I didn't think it was exactly delicate to tell them that. I exchanged significant looks with Royal who shook his head in disgust.

"What can I do to help?" asked Tonks brightly.

"Have you two eaten?" I asked Megan and Melissa who shook their heads. "Make them some breakfast, Tonks." I said, hoping she understood that I wanted her to keep them distracted.

"Will do." she answered cheerfully. "Come on and help me. I'm Tonks, by the way and I can always use an extra pair or two of eyes to make sure I don't mess things up too much in the kitchen."

"Can I do anything?" asked Royal.

"It would save time if you set the cauldron to heating. It's beside the fireplace. I need to put together an antidote."

"Do you know what it is?" asked Royal, moving toward the fireplace.

"By the symptoms I'd say that it's any one of a certain family of poisons. Which one I can't say, but fortunately they're all very simple and can be cured with one particular antidote."

I hurried to the bathroom cabinet where our medicinal potion ingredients are kept. I knew I only had a small window of opportunity in which to brew and administer the potion before real damage was done. Already it was possible that some of the cat's organs were permanently affected.

By the time I returned to the other room, the cat's breathing was so labored that it could be heard throughout the whole house. Royal watched me mix together the potion ingredients while Tonks kept the girls busy making pancakes.

"I have to bring it to a boil and then cool it down fast." I told Royal. "And I need a dropper --- Tonks, can you hear me in there? ---- I think it's in the drawer next to the silverware."

"My hands are covered in batter." Tonks groaned.

"I'll get it." Megan volunteered.

"Ouch!" Tonks gasped.

I didn't look up to see what had happened. I could only deal with one crises at a time.

"Don't worry -- I'll clean it up." sang Tonks from the kitchen.

"Will she be okay?" asked Megan as she brought me the dropper. "The cat I mean --- not Tonks."

"I hope so. It depends on how fast I get this potion made." I told her honestly.

She looked down into the box and reached in to stroke her pet. "I want to be with her."

I gave her a swift, searching glance. She looked far from happy, but very resolute and calm. Not the type to fall to pieces. "All right. Keep petting and talking to her. Keep her calm."

Megan threw herself into the task wholeheartedly while I mixed ingredients as fast as I could. The cauldron was good and hot by the time I was done and it took a minimal amount of time to get it boiling. Once it had boiled for the crucial ten seconds I cooled it quickly with a mild freezing charm.

"Okay Megan. I need to pick her up and set her in my lap." I said as I filled the dropper full of antidote.

"Will she be okay?" asked Megan doubtfully. The cat was laying there like a limp rag and didn't look in any condition to be jostled.

"If I get the potion down her she should be fine." Putting the dropper in the pocket of my robe, I lifted the cat from the box. She was a dead weight, her head lolling drunkenly as I carried her to the sofa and set her in my lap. She was completely unresponsive which actually made my job easier as I've never seen a cat that likes to take potions.

It took affect almost immediately. Her breathing slowed to the point that Megan began to look slightly panicked. "Is she breathing?"

"It's slowing to normal. We don't want her to be breathing as hard as she was a minute ago. This is a good sign."

"Is she sleeping?"

"Yes. Don't worry -- she's alive." I assured her, recognizing her unvoiced fear. "Want to carry her back to the box?"

"Yes."

"Be careful."

"I will."

Beside me, Royal let out a sigh of relief as we watched Megan walk off with her charge.

"I'd like to keep her for a few days." I told him "I want to be sure all her organs are still functioning."

"Sure. Whatever you think is best."

"Does she have a name? I 'd like to have something to call her while she's living here."

Royal hesitated for a moment, looking slightly sheepish. "Fuzzy Wuzzy." he said in a low voice.

It sounded so funny coming from a great big man like Royal that I couldn't help but laugh. "That's a cute name. So....do you have any idea who did this?"

"There's a wizard family that lives on the other side of the complex. They don't like us much. We've had threats...some vandalism. It's a pair of brothers. I think their father died about a year ago so they're there alone now. The older one works for the Department for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures and he's an advocate for having all werewolves classified as dangerous creatures and put down." Royal smiled grimly. "I should go over there and snap him in two. How much do I owe you?"

"Owe me? Do you honestly think I'd charge? I was glad to do it. It isn't like I have a practice or anything --- I'm just a student. Besides, we know each other."

"She's okay?" asked Tonks, covered in flour as she returned to the room and looked into Fuzzy Wuzzy's box.

"Sleeping."

"Come and see." said Tonks, beckoning the girls back into the room. They crowded around the box and reached in to pet the cat, looking immensely relieved.

"Not too much." I warned them. "She shouldn't be crowded. She needs a good air flow."

"What was wrong with her?" asked Megan, withdrawing her hand.

"She got into poison." I answered delicately.

"She's okay though?"

"Yes. But I want to keep her for a few days until she's completely well."

"Can we visit?" asked Melissa.

"Sure."

"Thank you." said Megan.

"Yeah, thanks. " Melissa agreed. "And for the pancakes too. Dad -- come see. They have happy faces."

Royal took her hand and followed her to the kitchen. Megan remained where she was, looking at me with sober blue eyes. "Someone did it didn't they?" she said in a challenging sort of tone as though daring me to tell the truth.

"Yes." I admitted. "You need to keep her inside from now on."

"It's because we have....you know....we're sick."

"Fuzzy Wuzzy?" I asked, deciding it might be best to change the subject.

Megan smiled. "Melissa calls me and Michael that when we change into wolves. He and I both have it."

"And what do you call her?"

"Baldy. Well....next to us during the full moon, she is pretty bald."

"Did you finish breakfast?"

"I didn't feel like eating. I was too worried." she said solemnly.

"Well, she'll be fine. Go on and finish."

"Okay."

She entered the kitchen just as Royal emerged. "Do these neighbors of yours have a name?" I asked.

"MacNair."

"That doesn't surprise me somehow. I've met the younger one. He showed up here at a party once and called us all mudbloods and werewolves. We had to pull Mel off him."

"Oh really? And to think I usually discourage him from fighting. I'll have Celestia send him over some cookies -- some to you too. Seems like we ought to do something for you."

"Oh no!" came Tonks's voice from the other room. "Whoops....well that's okay."

"It's wall to wall flour and syrup in there." Royal warned me.

"It wasn't your girls --- I'm sure it was all Tonks. She's good at messes but not cleaning spells."

So that was the way my day started. I think I'm going to find out all I can about the MacNair brothers. It just seems that there's no justice in the world. Here's this nice little family, not bothering anyone, and these people try to hurt them for no reason. It just seems like something should be done.

Maybe it's my father's insanity coming out in me....but I got back at Gustav Goyle with the flesh eating slugs....I wonder if I could even the score with the MacNair brothers too?

Author's Note : Last week this story reached the 200 review mark. Thanks to everyone who helped get it there.

Next Chapter : A confrontation with Fenrir Grayback at "The Lair".

Excerpt :

Streak and Mel whipped around like lightning and launched themselves at Fenrir so fast that I barely had time to react with a shield charm. The boys hit the spell instead of Fenrir, rebounding off so violently that they were thrown backwards.

"What did you do that for?" Mel thundered at me, jumping to his feet.

"She saved your lives." Fenrir growled at him. "You be glad she stopped you, boy. If you'd touched me you'd be dead by now."

"Let's go." said Remus, his voice sharp with authority.

"Oh that's right." said Fenrir, who seemed hugely amused by the entire scene. "You never liked confrontation. I still remember you squalling and bawling for your Mummy."

This time it was me that got angry. "You know it takes a lot of courage to be able to attack a seven year old !" I snapped at him.

"How do you do that shield charm thing?" asked Mel of no one in particular. "I think we might ought to separate her from him this time."










Chapter 37: Chapter 37
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Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : February 22, 1992
Dear Severus,

I'm glad you were in such a good mood when you wrote your last letter...although the source of your happiness is a bit questionable.

I agree with you about the Quidditch thing. I've always said that too much emphasis is put on it and that game results shouldn't count toward the house cup. Only team members can contribute those points and that isn't fair. If not for Quidditch, Ravenclaw would have beaten Slytherin during my senior year.

I'm sorry to hear that the other teachers are giving you a hard time. You have to figure that some of them are jealous of your winning streak though, so that's part of it. Still, you'd think that they'd put all that aside in favor of a student's safety. Didn't they recognize the accident during the last match as an assassination attempt? What does Dumbledore say?

I honestly can't imagine what Aedennnan could be after around the forest. I'll write Hagrid and casually ask him if he's seen anything out of place. Maybe he knows something.

Now...do you mind if I ask you some questions? There have been some things bothering me lately. There are things going on around here lately that have made me really start questioning myself and my sanity. Questions keep popping into my head and I think : 'I should ask Severus that' so here goes.

How old was my father when he went insane? Do you think I could end up like that? If someone does something cruel to someone else for sport, and you have the means to get revenge on them, is it wrong to do? Why did Dumbledore single me out and bring me here? Do you mind if I visit over Easter?

I have all these ideas and questions and issues that I can't talk to my friends about, so I'm shoving them all off on you. Sorry.

Now I'm getting into a bad mood so I'd better close this off. I've just been in a funk ever since Valentine's Day. Next year I'm going to knock myself out with a sleeping potion and just sleep through it. Care to join me?

Kerri




Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : February 22, 1992
Dear Hagrid,

Sorry you haven't been well but I'm glad you're better.

I've never once thought of working my way up to headmistress. I don't have ambitions like that. I'd be happy working in the kitchens if it meant I could live at Hogwarts which is all I really want anyway. I'll probably end up like Professor Binns someday.

Yes, I've been thinking about Easter already too. I'm really missing Hogwarts but I don't have time even to pop over there via apparition with the stress of my classes and concerts and things. My new job freed up a lot of time during the day but I've already filled it all up again.

Once I'm out of school for Easter though, I should be by. Maybe I can help with the spring garden. Weirdly enough there's something cleansing about getting into good, honest, dirt.

Sounds like you have a full house right now. I had a cat to take care of this week because someone poisoned it and left it to die simply because they dislike the cat's owner. Why are people so horrible? I know that some people think 'it's just a cat', but that cat has feelings and people who love it. There's something wrong with anyone who tortures animals for sport. People like that will do the same thing to other human beings if they get the chance. I'd like to force feed this particular person some poison and see how he likes it.

I feel much better for having voiced that rant.

I have a question for you, Hagrid. How is Aedennan doing? Do you see much of him? Does he seem alright? Please let me know.

Thanks a lot,

Love, Kerri


Today I stalked Franklin and Walden McNair. Am I finally starting to go insane like my father? But his cruelty focused on innocent people and these two deserve it. Not that I did anything horrible --- I just thought about it.

I bundled up against the cold and took a hike through the woods. The snow has pretty much stopped and I knew Fenrir wasn't around so I didn't mind much. Actually, I enjoyed the walk.

I didn't run into any problems as I crossed the wood, skirting the commune, heading through the trees on the far side. I knew from Royal's description approximately where the McNair brothers lived. Sure enough, I didn't have to walk far before I reached the edge of their land.

From the woods the ground sloped downward into an open area that I could look down on. I laid down flat on the frozen ground to prevent being spotted and spent some time observing the property below.

It was a nice, neat little homestead, the sort of place I wouldn't mind living if I couldn't live at Hogwarts. It had the look of a hobby farm. There was a modest sized house, several outbuildings, and many fences. There were stone walls and wooden fences and wire fences. I didn't care to test it, but I'm certain that there were plenty of magical trespass deterrents as well.

I've never seen a private home that well protected. A wall ran around the perimeter of the property, reinforced with some nasty looking barbed wire. More fences of varying heights and thicknesses cordoned off outbuildings, the front and back gardens, and every other conceivable patch of ground. Some of them even had double fences around them.

In the front garden were two massive dogs. For a few minutes they sniffed the air curiously, perhaps catching a brief scent of me. After a while they seemed to decide they'd imagined it and went about their business, though their body language was still wary.

I watched as Franklin emerged from the front door. Instead of running to him with wagging tails, the dogs cowered away. He didn't spare them a glance as he apparated out.
Apparently he abuses his own animals too.

But why so much security? Okay...some wizards are still cautious considering the horrors they lived through during Voldemort's reign of terror. This however, seemed a bit excessive. Besides....I think the McNairs seem more the type to have helped Voldemort do the terrorizing rather than to have been among the terrorized. According to Tonks the elder brother had been accused of being a Death Eater.

So was the extra security a precaution against the werewolves? Maybe Fenrir has caused problems in the past, but if the elder brother works for the Department for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures you'd think he'd have had that taken care of.

I watched for some time and then walked back home with more questions than answers. Well, what did I really expect to accomplish anyway? I'd love to take Frankin MacNair down and shove some poison down his throat -- not a fatal one --- just one that would make him sick. Let him find out what it feels like to suffer and then maybe he won't be so anxious to dole out pain to other living things.

Isn't that a horrible, sick, evil, twisted thought to have? By most people's standards it is, but I think he deserves it. The Ministry wouldn't care if he went from poisoning cats to poisoning werewolves and they'd probably be grateful for it. Why is it so horrible for someone like me to give him a taste of his own medicine?

It's a bit scary how rational poisoning someone sounds to me. Maybe I'm starting to go nuts like my father. I sort of wish I had someone to talk it through with, but Remus and Tonks, who are my two closest friends, think I'm a nice, normal person. I want them to keep thinking that. I especially don't want Remus to know how horrible I am.

I wonder how old my father was when he went off the deep end? Is it hereditary? Did he find a way to rationalize the horrible things he did?

I wonder what my brother would think of all this? Would he be horrified or pleased? Knowing him it could go either way.



Tonight was our final concert at The Lair. Final, because we walked out after Fenrir got a little too obnoxious. I'm beginning to see what Remus means about him being out of his mind, but there's also a cruel, diabolical intelligence behind it too.

The place had an unmistakable lived in air when we arrived. We got there early before the place opened but there were dirty plates and cups laying around and a few pieces of laundry draped over chairs or thrown on the floor. The room had the sour, unwashed smell to it that I've come to associate with Fenrir Grayback.

Brand wrinkled his nose in disgust. "What a dump."

"Maybe with the spot Lorcan gave us we can afford to pass up offers from here." Basil hopefully suggested.

"I don't know." said Augustus thoughtfully. "We don't want to go turning down werewolf clubs in favor of vampire ones. There's already enough whining that we don't qualify for the Howl Off."

"He starts any shit tonight, I'm walking out." Streak declared.

"I think I have an eyelash in my eye." I complained, setting down my guitar. "Watch this for me while I go to the ladies room."

"I'll go with you." said Streak.

"No. I really doubt Fenrir will be hanging out in the ladies room." I pointed out.

Remus sat down on a stool at the bar, his jaw clenched tight. Ever since our little spat outside of Royal's apartment he seems to be trying to give me space. Probably just as well. He crossed his arms over his chest and stared at a burn hole in the carpet as though it were something very interesting.

I knew he didn't want me walking around the place alone but I did not need someone to hold my hand while I went to the restroom. "I'll be back in a bit." I told them, and headed through the door just behind the stage, ignoring their dubious expressions.

I found myself in a narrow, dimly lit hall with closed doors on either side. It looked as though someone had thrown up in the middle of the floor. Carefully stepping around it, I headed for the ladies room which was at the very end of the hall. I didn't run into anyone but I did hear low voices talking behind a door that was slightly ajar.

The restroom was simply horrendous. I've never seen anything so nasty in my life -- I didn't even want to use the water. The sink was yellow with filth and there were clots of hair mingled with food where someone had seemingly washed dishes in the basin. Paper towels littered the floor and there were pools of standing liquid that I don't even want to think about.

I gingerly flushed out my eye at the sink and then decided to use the toilet before going back out. One was overflowing and another had diarrhea smeared all over the seat and outer bowl. The last one had a dirty seat too, but not as bad so I cleaned it with a well placed "Scourgify" charm.

I was still inside the stall when I heard the door creak open and someone enter. I could tell it wasn't a woman. The footsteps were heavy and it sounded like the person was wearing boots. The interconnected stalls groaned as the newcomer leaned against them.

Thinking that Remus would never let me hear the end of it if Fenrir jumped me in the ladies room, I emerged from the stall to find my suspicious correct. There he was, leaning against the door of the furthest stall, arms crossed over his barrel chest, smiling at me in a knowing sort of way.

"Miss you at work, Sweetie." he said in that rasping voice of his.

"I was having problems with Goyle." I answered shortly as I turned to wash my hands, keeping a wary eye on him in the mirror. "I thought this was the ladies room." I added pointedly.

"It is. Knew you were in here and thought I'd say hello."

"Well hello."

The door opened again and a tall, very skinny woman entered. She had scraggly reddish hair streaked with gray and a black eye. She glanced briefly at Fenrir, quickly dropped her eyes, and disappeared into a stall. Fenrir smirked at the closed door before turning back to me. "Lupin here?"

There was no point lying about it but I didn't like the question. "Yes." I answered as I dried my hands.

"I'll walk back with you. There are some dangerous characters around this place and he'll want to see you protected. We wouldn't want anything to happen to you." Despite his pleasant words there was an ominous chill to his tone.

"I can take care of myself." I said flatly, raising my arm to let him see my wand thrust through my sash.

"Well that's good. See, most people in this place don't use wands -- can't afford 'em and wouldn't know how to use 'em if they did. Puts you at an advantage....unless someone slips up on you from behind."

For a moment we stared each other down. It wasn't a threat, not directly, but the feeling of malice in the air was palpable. He has no call to be giving me that kind of crap. I've never done anything to him other than befriend Remus and the boys and be what werewolves call ''normal''. I think Remus is right that I need to be careful around him....I'm just not going to tell Remus that.

Disgusted, I stalked past Fenrir toward the door, determined not to let him see that I was unnerved. Aggravatingly, he followed close behind, his footsteps heavy on the bare floor. I was glad to get back into the bar where other people were around. As we entered the room, Fenrir caught up to me and threw an arm around my shoulders in a sudden show of mock friendliness. "Well hello there everyone." he said to the room. "Sweetie here and me have been having a chat."

"Get your hands off her before I tear them off." said Mel, bounding forward with a face as red as his hair.

At almost the same moment the door slammed open again and about eight husky looking men swaggered into the room. It was almost as if it had been planned.

"I'm fine. See?" I said flatly, shrugging out of Fenrir's grasp. "Happy? Look -- I am not going to be the cause of a feud. You guys want to fight, you're going to have to do it without me because I'll walk out."

"Oh keep your panties on boys." said Fenrir. "I'm just making sure she's safe."

Remus had gotten to his feet with remarkable calm, the only indication of his true feelings being the fire in his eyes. "Fenrir." he said quietly. It was almost a challenge.

"Hello there Lupin." said Fenrir, instantly honing in on him. "How's your father? I hear he's in a bad way. He's not that old is he? But then I guess raising a werewolf took a lot out of him -- especially as he doesn't like werewolves much, does he?"

Remus's face was impassive but his voice was cold as he said quietly, "You're the only werewolf my father ever disliked."

"He lost that nice farm, didn't he?" continued Fenrir evilly. "That must have taken a few years off his life right there. I heard that he took you to every quack healer he could find that could offer him hope."

"We don't have to take this shit." Basil broke in angrily. "We have plenty of other places where we can perform now. What do you guys say? Should we just go?"

"Let's just go to my house and hang out." I suggested.

"Well I'm sorry to see you go, Sweetie." said Fenrir. "Tell you what -- maybe I'll stop by sometime too like I did on the last full moon."

Streak and Mel whipped around like lightning and launched themselves at Fenrir so fast that I barely had time to react with a shield charm. The boys hit the spell instead of Fenrir, rebounding off so violently that they were thrown backwards.

"What did you do that for?" Mel thundered at me, jumping to his feet.

"She saved your lives." Fenrir growled at him. "You be glad she stopped you, boy. If you'd touched me you'd be dead by now."

"Let's go." said Remus, his voice sharp with authority.

"Oh that's right." said Fenrir, who seemed hugely amused by the entire scene. "You never liked confrontation. I still remember you squalling and bawling for your Mummy."

This time it was me that got angry. "You know it takes a lot of courage to be able to attack a seven year old !" I snapped at him.

"How do you do that shield charm thing?" asked Mel of no one in particular. "I think we might ought to separate her from him this time."

"Oh I don't mind if she jumps on me." said Fenrir, not even trying to keep a straight face.

"Kiss my ass." said Streak, glaring at him before pulling me away. "Let's go, Kerri. That piece of scum isn't worth the effort."

Probably the only reason Fenrir let us go is that he had found us so entertaining. We left without further incident and found Tonks sitting on the sofa by the fire, looking up at us in surprise when we showed up hours ahead of schedule. "What are you doing back?"

By now, Streak was laughing riotously, apparently finding the situation humorous now that we were out of it.

"It isn't funny." said Brand darkly.

"I know it isn't." Streak gasped, clutching his sides.

"So you have a televison?" asked Brand, sitting down in front of it. "I see them in store windows but never up close."

"I love the television." said Tonks firmly. "I don't know how I ever lived without it".

Basil dropped into the seat beside her. "Make us some popcorn Kerri." he directed over his shoulder.

The rest of them, except for Remus all sat down around the television, the argument with Fenrir apparently forgotten. They were eagerly leaning toward Tonks who was showing them the remote control.

"Short attention spans." said Remus wryly.

"They do switch gears quickly, don't they?" I agreed as I headed for the kitchen.

Remus followed me, sitting down at the counter. "Don't let them fool you though. They don't forget...neither does Fenrir."

"None of us should have to take that from him. There's no excuse for the way he was acting...he was trying to stir things up on purpose." I fumed as I got out a box of microwave popcorn "I wonder what would happen if I used magic on this? Maybe the whole thing would blow up....it might be a fun experiment some time but not right now. Next time I get really bored I 'll take a bag of this out in the yard, try heating it with magic, and see if it blows up."

"You sound surprised about Fenrir." Remus returned to the subject at hand. "I did warn you."

"I know, but he's never once been hostile to me or around me. Why is does he act like that anyway?"

"Tonight he was trying to get under my skin. Because I've tried to pass myself off as normal he gets especial delight in giving me grief. Some people are just that way. Would you like some help?"

"No. All I have to do is stick it in the microwave and enter the time. See? Easy."

Easy. The recent altercation had somehow renewed our old camaraderie. The stiffness and awkwardness of the last couple of weeks was suddenly gone.

"I'm just sitting here minding my own business and suddenly I'm up to my neck in werewolves." I heard Tonks say, but she didn't look as though she really minded.

While I waited for the popcorn to pop I leaned across the counter toward Remus and asked quietly, "How much of what he said was true? Is everything okay at home? I mean, your father is alright?"

"My parents are aging. Neither of them is in the best of health. My father had a bad bout of flu last year but Fenrir doesn't know half of what he thinks he does. He was just trying to get under my skin."

"What made him like that?" I asked, tossing a bag of popcorn toward the sofa and putting another in the microwave. "People aren't really born like that...I don't think....are they?"

"No no one is born evil."

"Not even Voldemort?" I asked, trying not to sound as though the question was very important.

"I suppose even he was a baby once although it's hard to imagine. Even Fenrir was at one time. He was born at a time when werewolves were classified as "dark creatures" and it was illegal to marry one. Well, his mother was a perfectly healthy person who fell in love with a werewolf. It was a teenage affair...she was only sixteen when he was born. Her parents were furious. She wasn't able to care for him without help and her parents refused."

"Where was his father?"

"Arrested for impregnating a normal person. It was illegal then. He was hauled off to Azkaban and never seen again. Fenrir was given up to the commune before he was a week old.

You can imagine that he had a pretty rough life. As a teenager he started picking pockets and eventually graduated to burglary. He's been in and out of prison but they never hold him long. The thing with our justice system is that the magical crimes are those that get the most attention. People like Fenrir just slip through the cracks. By the age of seventeen he'd committed his first murder. He was already mauling people for sport and by the age of twenty he was doing it for hire."

"Well, that explains a lot." I said, tossing another bag of popcorn toward the sofa.

"Don't feel too sorry for him." Remus warned. "No one forced him to be the way he is. And by the way.....impressive shield charm. Very good reflexes. It would have been very ugly if they'd reached him."

"Thanks." I said, and then cautiously added. "I did tell you I can take care of myself."

"So you did." he agreed.

"Do you know the McNair brothers?" I asked

"I know of them. The eldest was accused of being a Death Eater but was cleared. He's working for the Ministry now I hear. I also know that Royal thinks either he or his brother poisoned their cat."

"Fuzzy Wuzzy." I laughed. You can't possibly say that name and not laugh. I decided to let the subject drop for fear that Remus might suspect I was up to something. I'm not sure he would though -- he thinks I'm a nice person.

Tonks glanced over the back of the sofa at us and did a double take as she realized what she was seeing. Bringing along a mostly empty bag of popcorn she came to join us, pointedly hopping up on the edge of the counter between us. "Have some popcorn you two." she said cheerfully.

I understood what she was doing and appreciated it. She was worried that I might be getting dangerously close to Remus again and setting myself up to get hurt. She was probably right, although the major damage has long since been done. If anything, my attraction to him has only gotten worse since the Valentine's Ball. At night while I'm in bed, especially if it's cold, I think a lot about that kiss. It fills me with this horrible, aching desire for things better left unsaid.

I wonder if he ever thinks of me like that? Probably not -- he's too much of a gentleman. Gryffindor chivalry as he likes to say.

"How are Auror studies coming?" asked Remus, accepting some of the popcorn. If he saw anything strange in Tonks's arrival he didn't show it. Maybe like me, he was glad of it.

"Wonderful. I love all my classes --- especially stealth and disguises."

"I suppose you would have a definite advantage there."

"Full marks always. Still, next year I'm going to have to get serious and stop partying. What?" she asked, in response to my derisive snort. "I can be serious too. Just you wait till next year -- I'll be as boring as you."

"And after next year you'll be an Auror?" asked Remus.

"I wish. Even if I graduate from Merlin top of my class it doesn't mean the Ministry will take me. I'll have to take a year of specialized training and even then I might not get in. The Aurors are the elite, you know. They don't take just anyone."

Our attention was drawn away by Streak and Augustus getting into a wrestling match over the remote control. They were rolling around on the floor, getting dangerously close to a knick-knack shelf in the corner that had been there since we'd moved in. Some of Tonks's aunt's belongings were on it and were of sentimental importance.

"Stupify!" Tonks shouted, pointing her wand at them. Unfortunately she waved her wand a bit too energetically and she slid off of the counter, skinning her back on the edge as she fell.

Her spell went off target and hit Basil on the back of the head. He slumped over sideways, knocked out cold. Streak and Augustus thought this was so funny that they stopped fighting.

"Ooops." said Tonks, rubbing the scrape on her back she crossed the room to revive Basil.

Remus was laughing. "Free entertainment. And this evening started out so badly too."

"There won't be any problems because of what happened earlier with Fenrir, will there?" I asked.

"No. He just thought of the whole thing as a good joke. If Mel and Streak had reached him it would have been a different story, but nothing amuses Fenrir more than knowing he's gotten under someone's skin. That's no reason to let down your guard, of course."

"I know, I won't." I promised.

"Oh....I feel so dizzy...." Basil was complaining, leaning tipsily onto Tonks's lap. I knew he was faking and she probably did too, but she also seemed amused. Come to think of it, what was she doing home alone on a Saturday night anyhow? Apparently things have continued to cool between she and Gideon since that wretched Valentine's Ball.

Isn't Valentine's Day supposed to have the opposite effect? This whole romance thing is very confusing. I'm glad I've managed to avoid it for most of my life. My brother is right about it being overrated and I'll be very glad when I've come to my senses and gotten it out of my system.

Author's Note : Thank you so much for all the extremely flattering reviews.

Next Chapter : Another prank from Charlie via owl post presents and opportunity for Kerri to relieve some of her pent up anger toward the MacNairs. The members of Hybrid argue with Vashti, the passionate leader of Full Moon Rising.

Excerpt :

"Well I can't stand this anymore." said Tonks, making an impatient motion with her hands. "I don't have patience. You sit and look at it all day --- I'm opening it."

I retreated to the far side of the room, having seen enough of Charlie's pranks first hand. I watched as Tonks slit open the seal and lifted the flaps. "Oh shit!" she gasped in horror, putting a hand over her nose as a putrid smell wafted from the box. Gagging slightly, she hastily put the flaps back down and resealed them.

"What was it?" I laughed.

"I told you --- shit." answered Tonks in a highly offended tone.

Now I was laughing so hard that I was choking. "Dragon?" I gasped out.

"I hope so. I'd hate to think that a load like that came from Charlie." Tonks huffed, but then she laughed too. "What did you do to deserve this?"













Chapter 38: Chapter 38
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Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : February 23, 1992
Dear Kerri,

I am very anxious to answer your questions but let me offer a piece of advice first. Before you give in to the urge to become involved in some feud or take the law into your own hands, ask yourself this : A year from now will it matter? If not, then let it go. Learn to choose your battles wisely.

You asked many questions in your last letter and I shall now attempt to answer them as far as in me lies.

First -- please do visit over Easter, but with caution. Things are getting sticky here with Quirrel and I don't want him to discover an alliance of any sort between us. Warn me before you come by.

On to the next question -- I wish all the others were so easy. I think you are mistaken in assuming that the Dark Lord is insane. Even you in your hatred of him must admit that his behavior, deplorable as it was, was logical, methodical, and organized. Are those the traits of a madman?

Also, consider that criminal insanity is the inability to understand that one's actions are wrong. I knew the Dark Lord personally and believe me -- he knew his actions were wrong and reveled in it.

The Dark Lord is evil, not insane. It is possible to be one and not the other, though I'm sure you find it hard to believe. Young people believe that the world is all black and white, but when you grow older you will find that there are far more shades of gray than anything. If everything were clear cut and simple, life would be easy.

The Dark Lord was not compelled to murder and torture by some sort of mental defect. Even Professor Dumbledore lauds his brilliance and clarity of mind. He chose the path he took of his own free will. He is power hungry, ambitious, and without conscience. To suggest that his behavior is due to some disease of the mind is to deny his culpability.

Now, I have the impression that you asked this question under the fear that if he is insane, you may somehow inherit that insanity. I admit that you have many of his traits, but fortunately, they are all the best ones. Insanity can be inherited but evil cannot, and as I have stated, the Dark Lord was evil, not insane. As long as you have a conscience and continue to make wise ethical judgments, you need not worry. Other than above average intelligence and good looks, you are perfectly normal. If only the rest of us could be so cursed.

Now for your next question. I believe that Professor Dumbledore has decided that you would be a valuable asset should the Dark Lord ever rise again. You have all of his brilliance and none of his malice --- your minds work exactly alike otherwise. I suspect it is what the headmaster hoped for when he sought you out. He has never once doubted that the day would come when the Dark Lord would return.

Between you and I, the Headmaster's reasoning is not at all to my liking. Should the Dark Lord return, I want you as far from his reach as possible. If he learned of your existence, he like Dumbledore would recognize your potential and he would try to win you over to his side. When he found he could not, he would eliminate you as a threat.

I lost enough people that I cared about the first time around --- I refuse to go through it again. If the Dark Lord returns, you must leave the country and go into hiding immediately. I will tie you up and ship you overseas myself if I have to.

I hope I have adequately answered your questions and dispelled your fears. I have other things I would like to say, but this letter is insufferably long already. I wish I could speak with you face to face, to be sure that you're well if nothing else. You sounded worried in your letter. As soon as possible I intend to go into Hogsmeade and purchase a set of two way mirrors so hopefully, I'll be talking to you soon.

Severus




Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : February 26, 1992
Dear Kerri,

How are you? I am fine.

Sure you can come help plant in spring. Never say no to an extra pair of hands. It's been a cozy winter but I'll be glad when it warms up and things start growing again.

I hope that cat is okay. People like that ought to be chucked into Azkaban with the rest of the crazies. Don't never trust anyone who's cruel to animals because they'll likely do the same to humans. Did you catch the person that did it?

Today Gryffindor and Hufflepuff had a match and we won. Harry caught the snitch pretty fast which was lucky since Professor Snape was refereeing. I don't talk bad about any teacher around the kids, but even the other teachers think he just did it because he wanted to make Gryffindor lose. Harry and Ron think he's out to get Harry now. Snape wants that cup, but he doesn't want it that much. Reckon he's hard on Harry because of Harry's father that he grew up with, but I wouldn't tell Harry that.

Professor Quirrel has been around to see me a couple times lately. Told me he's been writing you. I'm hoping he's starting to snap out of it a bit, but he still seems jumpy and sickly like. Never was one of the tough kids, though was he? I see him out and around the grounds more these days and maybe fresh air will do him good. Even seen him talking with Professor Snape a few times which is good because he's been keeping to himself so much. It's not good to be alone all the time.

Hope you're feeling well and working hard. Take care.

Love, Hagrid.





Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : February 16, 1992
Dear Kerri,

Cheers !

Lots of love, Charlie




A fair sized, rather heavy package arrived for me today. Charlie's name was boldly emblazoned on the return address and knowing that it wasn't my birthday, I felt more than a touch of apprehension.

Tonks and I set it on the coffee table, staring at it cautiously, as though we both expected it to explode. Charlie is not as big a prankster as the twins but he does have a slight practical joking streak in him. I've always suspected that Mr. Weasley was a holy terror as a boy.

"Open it." Tonks encouraged.

"You open it --- you're the Auror. Better you than me."

"I'm just in training. He might have stuffed a baby dragon in there, ready to bite our arms off. That's your field of expertise."

"Nah." I disagreed. "He'd have put holes in it so it could breathe. Whatever it is, it isn't alive."

"Well, it's addressed to you."

"He likes you too."

"Maybe we should soak it in water before we open it." Tonks suggested.

Neither of us moved. We sat and stared thoughtfully at the box for a few more minutes, the silence stretching out between us.

"Well I can't stand this anymore." said Tonks, making an impatient motion with her hands. "I don't have patience. You sit and look at it all day --- I'm opening it."

I retreated to the far side of the room, having seen enough of Charlie's pranks first hand. I watched as Tonks slit open the seal and lifted the flaps. "Oh shit!" she gasped in horror, putting a hand over her nose as a putrid smell wafted from the box. Gagging slightly, she hastily put the flaps back down and resealed them.

"What was it?" I laughed.

"I told you --- shit." answered Tonks in a highly offended tone.

Now I was laughing so hard that I was choking. "Dragon?" I gasped out.

"I hope so. I'd hate to think that a load like that came from Charlie." Tonks huffed, but then she laughed too. "What did you do to deserve this?"

"I don't know. I think I may have made a comment about dragon doo affecting his brains."

"Tell you what." said Tonks excitedly. "Let's send it to his mother so she can see what a prat he is."

"No!" I answered, suddenly inspired. "Forget Charlie --- let's send it to the MacNair brothers !"

"Yes!" laughed Tonks, clapping her hands. "Oh I'd love to see Franklin's face when he opens it. That's what he gets for calling people 'mudblood' and poisoning cats."

So that 's what we did. I don't think it evens the score but it does make me feel a bit better. Silly as it is, once they realize that a friend didn't send it as a prank, they'll know that someone somewhere doesn't like them much.

And hearing Tonks shout "Oh shit!" was priceless. I'll have to send Charlie a thank you note.





I'm finding that it isn't very nice to be the target of prejudice. Well obviously not, but you really don't understand it until you've been there. When you're not a prejudiced person yourself, sometimes you forget that it's alive and well so it really can take you by surprise when you find yourself at the receiving end. Now I know what Remus goes through every day of his life.

It happened tonight at Canis Minor when Vashti of the band "Full Moon Rising" came sailing in. I spotted her out of the corner of my eye while we were performing as she approached Remus backstage. From what I could see she was laying it on pretty thick, and I felt a surge of anger and jealously so strong that it almost made me dizzy. He was listening to her, but his face was coolly impassive, apparently unmoved by her flirting.

I watched them out of the tail of my eye for quite some time, satisfied to see Vashti becoming redder and more ruffled by the moment. I had the impression that she was used to men melting at her slightest glance and was angry that Remus wasn't. I guess it's the feminine part of my nature that was glad to see her arguing with him instead of flirting.

A subtle glance in Basil's direction was met with an understanding flash of blue eyes. He had spotted the altercation too.

I was glad when we were done and free to crowd around Remus to find out what was going on, though I was pretty sure I knew. I was forcefully reminded of the scene back at The Lair with Fenrir by the way we were grouped defensively around Remus, facing Vashti whose bandmates were grouped around her too.

"You!" she snapped, pointing a finger past Remus's ear at me. "You don't belong here. I don't know what you're playing at, but you need to leave."

"Screw you." said Streak, bristling. "She can go anywhere she wants."

"You're afraid of her -- you think she raises our chances of beating you at the Howl Off." said Basil hotly.

"And you know you can't win without her." Vashti shot back. "You and all your talk of werewolf rights and werewolf pride. Shows how much it really means to you that you have to get an outsider to get you into running for the Howl Off."

"Could I say something?" I asked, getting annoyed with people talking back and forth over my head.

"Certainly Kerri." said Remus in a cheerful tone much at odds with the situation.

Surprisingly, everyone stopped arguing and looked at me.

"Vashti, the reason I'm here is because I'm friends with these guys. I don't care about our differences, we like to play music and hang out together. I understand if you don't trust me because I know how outsiders can be, but I'm not like that."

Before Vashti could reply, Remus swiftly cut in. "If you'd like to talk about Hyrbid's qualification for the Howl Off we could set up a meeting in a neutral location. You know that I'm the manager so feel free to contact me at any time to set up the time and place."

Vashti looked like she wanted to say something rude but couldn't bring herself to do it when faced with such unexpected civility. Fortunately, she realized that her band was due on stage and swept past us with one final frosty glare, bandmates in tow.

"Bitch." said Streak.

"Let's go around and heckle her." Augustus suggested.

"Not if you want me to continue as your manager." said Remus quickly. "I'm not going to be in the center of a feud."

"Is your manager's fee really worth putting up with us?" I asked as the boys walked off grumbling among themselves.

"I don't get extra for managing, it's an equal split. Though if they do start a feud I could ask for more....Listen, do you have time to come sit with me for a while?"

"Why?" I asked cautiously.

"I wanted to talk business."

"Oh sure." I said, not certain if I was relieved or disappointed that he didn't have more in mind.

Around front, Basil and the others were standing directly in front of the stage, glaring at Vashti like they were trying to bore holes through her with their eyes. At least they weren't heckling her.

"Feuds between