Chapter 32 : Remus Lupin
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Title: Hunting Tea Leaves
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Beta Read By: sauerkraut_poet and Arithmancy_Wiz
Rating/Warnings: 15+ (mild language)
For the Staff: Thank you for giving us a safe playground to have fun with the characters we all love to decanonize. Thank you for all your hard work. Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for being who you are. *hugs*
Numbly, Professor Lupin flopped into the chair behind his desk. He had no real desire for anything, but a part of him wished he had bought some spicy tea leaves, instead of those horrible tasteless tea bags which only made hot water change colour. He really needed a nice cup of tea to relieve the throbbing ache in his temples.
Halloween was finally over and Professor Snape was for once doing something else other than breathing down his neck. The man should just brew his potions and leave the rest for the capable and the considerate. The nerve of the man. Like he, Remus, would ever let Sirius Black inside the Hogwarts castle. It made him want to growl. Stupid little man with a brain the size of a nugget.
Of course, Snape hadn't said anything to him. No, he had to overhear it, when the hook-nose revealed his suspicions to Headmaster Dumbledore. Cursed wolf-hearing. Cursed life. Cursed tea bags.
In a flare of anger, he pushed all the books, quills and vials off the table with a long sweep of his right arm. Glass shattered, shards flying in all corners of the room. Miraculously he was left untouched.
The rational part of him knew that his rage was directed at the most convenient target imaginable. He wasn't feeling very rational at the moment, though.
Pushing his chair back, he stood and charged at the door. He would find those damned tea leaves.
He strolled down the stairs to the Entrance Hall, listening intently for any sound of closing steps or a whoosh of a ghost. He was a man on a mission, feeling determined and extremely focused. He wasn't Remus Lupin, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, or a vicious werewolf. He was a man in need of a cup of tea.
For some odd reason, Sybill Trelawney came to his mind, and he changed his course from the kitchens to the North Tower. Sybill had tea leaves and sherry, he reasoned to himself.
It never occurred to him that it might be dangerous to visit a colleague's class room in the middle of the night.
Climbing stairs wasn't the ideal way of spending the night, but at least it kept him preoccupied. Each step meant that he was a bit closer to his goal - the steaming relaxation.
He was tired, beyond exhausted actually. Seeing that ripped painting had made him want to throw up the entire Halloween feast. Why didn't he tell them that Sirius was an Animagus? Maybe because he wanted to keep one part of their friendship alive. They had done it for him, the Marauders. It was his debt to Sirius.
What a rotten debt.
Remus had to hide his fists in his pockets to prevent himself from hitting the wall and breaking his knuckles. It was sad how little age did to one’s violent urges. One just learned to hide them better.
Finally, he reached the tiny landing and the circular trapdoor in the ceiling which led to Sybill's classroom. Now, he only needed to figure out how to get up.
As he thought of ways to get in, the trapdoor suddenly opened and a silvery ladder descended at his feet. How convenient. Was the Seer still awake?
He climbed up with such grace and agility that an outsider might have thought he was ten years younger and not at all exhausted. Being a wolf had its perks.
The room looked like a cross between an old-fashioned brothel and a teashop, with dark red scarves covering the lamps and red velvety curtains pulled in front of the windows. It was unbelievably tasteless and tacky. Remus felt a shudder move up his spine and travel through his long arms to each finger. Yuck!
Suddenly, he felt most unsure of his chosen actions. Why on earth had he come here of all places? He must have lost his mind.
Remus was about to hurry down and leave, before someone - namely one skinny and bug-like Divination teacher – could find him there, when he felt cold fingers curl around his wrist and pull him into an embrace he most definitely did not want to receive.
"Oh dear Herbert, I've missed you so," the woman said mistily. "You should have come earlier. I'm old, too old for you now. You should have come when you promised."
Um, Herbert? Remus tried to get his arms free from the embrace, but the woman was stronger than she looked. His arms were locked on his sides and Professor Trelawney's iron grip seemed only to tighten when he wiggled in her arms.
Impossible situation. What was wrong with the woman? He decided to inquire the matter.
"Professor Trelawney, could you please let me go? I'm not Herbert. I'm Remus Lupin and I'm only looking for some tea leaves."
None of this seemed to have any effect on the Seer-lady. Was she in some kind of a trance? Had someone cursed her? Or him, for that matter? Oh bugger.
The woman started to sob openly, wetting his tattered robes just under his collar bone. "I-I-I've m-missed you a-all these y-years," she stuttered between tears, but then seemed to gather her remaining wits, sounding quite like her melodramatic old self, “Why… oh, why didn’t my Inner Eye reveal this tragedy? I should have Seen it all. I should have...” After that she just continued to murmur incomprehensible things into his chest.
It occurred to him that she might be sleepwalking. How should one handle a sleepwalker? He really didn't know. But this Herbert guy seemed like a complete bastard, leaving poor young Sybill waiting all alone. He wanted to strangle the man for putting him in his current predicament.
"Sybill, dear? Can you hear me? I'm not Herbert." He tried to reason with the woman again. "Please wake up. Just wake up." Part of him was getting angry. This was the way he finally got a woman in his arms? Oh, the irony of existence.
Suddenly the woman jerked away, wide-eyed and screaming. “Who are you? What are you doing here?" Then she turned around and screamed even louder than before, "Sexual harassment! Help!"
It took him a moment to realize the unexpected change in his situation, and in that moment he managed to grab the woman's hand to try to calm her with his words. A big mistake.
She slapped him with her free hand and kicked him hard on his left leg. She was insufferable, crazy even. And then she was screaming again, filling the dark room with words like rapist, animal, and Azkaban.
Remus was losing all control of the wolf inside. He wanted to throw the woman out of the window, make her silent somehow, make her stop creating those horrible noises. Make her stop. The man in him took a step back and released the insane witch.
"Look, Sybill, I haven't done anything. I'd never hurt you. I only came here to find some tea leaves so I could make myself a hot cup of tea. But if that's not possible, I'll just leave you alone." He took another step back, but kept his eyes locked in hers.
Professor Trelawney looked at him under her brows suspiciously and then came rushing towards him. "Out! Get out, you animal!" She pushed him out with all her strength and with pure luck he managed to catch the ladder before he cracked his skull while falling to the ground.
"Get out and never come back!" She banged the trapdoor shut.
Heart pounding in his ears, he jumped down. The smell of sherry was strong in the air and he marvelled at himself for not noticing it earlier. He really was tired.
Limping slightly and holding his aching cheek, he descended the stairs. What a splendid turn of events. A growl escaped his lips.
Some other man might have lost the courage to continue his mission, but not Remus John Lupin. He was more determined than ever. If the fates wanted to play with him, he could play along. And he had never had any difficulties changing the rules to his benefit in the middle of the game. Hah, little setbacks could not stop him. Had they ever?
Kitchens it was, then.
When he reached the painting with the bowl of fruit that protected the entry to the Hogwarts kitchens, his limp was gone and so was his earlier irritation. Kitchen meant normality in its purest sense. Kitchen meant intensive but delicious smells, full stomach, and definitely hundreds of different tea flavours. He grinned wickedly as he tickled the pear on the painting and then entered the house-elves' kingdom - or so he thought.
What he saw made him question his sanity for the second time that day. Cows? And chickens? But how? He was in a cowshed and it certainly didn't smell delicious. He couldn't even see the end of the long room and all the mooing and shifting of hooves made him feel rather dizzy.
A chicken started to peck at his right foot, and soon the others followed in hope of finding grains.
Remus let out a strangled scream and rushed out of the shed, chickens at his heels.
Leaning against the wall and breathing heavily, he thought about his next move. He could go to sleep. He could forget about the whole thing and act maturely. He could. Really. Nobody knew about his sidesteps.
But giving up now would mean that all this had been for nothing.
He stared at his feet, noticing that something brown had stuck to his right shoe. Oh great. He could feel the tears of frustration begin to gather in the corners of his eyes. Bloody hell, he would find the tea leaves even if it was the last thing he did.
Dragging his right leg behind him, he headed to the closest possible place to find the tea he was looking for, Snape's office.
Remus knocked on the door out of habitual politeness, but then barged in without waiting for an answer. He might have been born a gentleman, but there was a limit for his good manners, too. He would not be polite to that oaf of a Potions teacher, not after all he had been through.
To his mild amusement, the dimly lit room was rather messy and completely void of the pompous Severus Snape. Remus smiled to himself as he started searching through the jars that were lying here and there, instead of being neatly lined on the shadowed walls as usual.
It looked like the Potions Master had been searching for something, too. Or had someone stolen something from him? Maybe Peeves had finally decided to drive the Professor insane. He should probably thank the poltergeist the next time he saw him.
After ten tedious minutes of frantic searching, Remus finally discovered a small bag of what looked like bona-fide tea leaves. He felt like dancing a victory dance, and after looking from side to side, he made a little twist with his right leg while lifting his left hand up, forefinger pointing at the low ceiling. Who's the wizard now, fate?
His gleeful and worry-free attitude continued till he reached the second floor corridor and just happened to look into a mirror. Where had the mirror come from? He hadn't seen a mirror there before. And just what the hell was growing on his face?
His skin was covered with dragon scales.
He whimpered in agony. Bloody Snivellus. Somebody had been snooping around his office and he must have put a charm somewhere in the room to find out who. Damn him for being so untrusting. Damn him to premature baldness.
Remus touched his mangled skin with a shaking fingertip. Oh god, oh god, oh god. He couldn't teach the kids looking like this. He couldn't face the Potions Master either. He would know. What a humiliation.
Just as he was sinking into desperation deeper than the old lake on the Hogwarts grounds, a shriek echoed through the walls. Peeves. Fate was a tricky little woman-creature. She was really trying to smoke him out of the castle.
Remus tried to run for cover to the only broom closet he knew to be located nearby, but Peeves was quicker and sneakier. The poltergeist whooshed past him, screaming, "Snoopy-snoopster! Snoopy-poopy! Come see our beloved Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher! Snooping! Snooping!" And then he disappeared, leaving behind only a warning, "Snape will come for you. Snape will skin you alive."
Slouching and sighing in defeat, Remus began his journey back to his own office. He should have gone to bed. Oh yes, he should have.
As he waited for his dear colleague to come and hex him, Remus fixed himself a drink. He would at least get a decent mug of proper tea before he got killed.
"Tell me, what made you do it?" Snape's quiet voice came from the door. He stood there, tall and menacing, making Remus feel uncharacteristically nervous. He was guilty. Snape knew it. Life couldn't be sweeter.
Remus sat down on a comfortable sofa by the fireplace and gestured Snape to do the same. The wizard sat down opposite him on an equally comfortable armchair, but managed to still act very stiffly. He wasn't making it any easier for the poor werewolf.
Hands shaking, Remus lifted the mug to his lips. He needed time to think.
The Potions teacher coughed. "I wouldn't drink that if I were you."
Remus lowered his hand before taking a sip from his drink and asked quite defensively, "Why? Are you going to hex me if I do?"
"Already did, didn't I?" Snape sneered, looking a bit too gleeful for Remus’ liking. "But no, that's not the reason. The bag you took from me contains leech powder that has been created in a... rather dark ritual. You will lose your eye sight most definitely if you taste that thing."
"Oh..." He paused. “Oh dear.” He put the mug on a table beside the sofa and looked Professor Snape in the eyes for the first time that night. “Thank you… I think.”
Severus Snape knew it was a bad idea to stay. He knew exactly how much he would loath himself in the morning and how very difficult it would be to face everyone in the first staff meeting of that very same morning, but still, he couldn’t leave – he blamed curiosity. Indeed, he was curious to know why Professor Lupin had stooped so low. It intrigued him, as well as made him wonder if he could use the information against the fellow wizard. Could he get him sacked? What a joyful thought.
He took two teabags from Remus' cupboard, reheated the water, filled two mugs and then sat next to the fidgeting werewolf, absolutely detesting the idea that he would have to say something nice. The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher looked like he had lost every ounce of faith and joy, like there was no tomorrow, like life was not worth breathing for. Actually, he looked every bit as guilty as he was. Snape cleared his throat, but said nothing. He offered the other mug to Remus, who took it with an accepting nod. Neither felt very talkative. Remus sipped his tea. "It's pretty good. Better than Tallie’s Finest, don’t you think?”
The silence between them wasn’t completely uncomfortable, but not even the friendliest soul would have described it as enjoyable either. They were just two English gentlemen, drinking tea very early in the morning – or late at night, whichever way one preferred.
“Did you know,” Remus began quietly as though frightened of the other man’s reaction to his words, “that the kitchens turn into a cowshed from time to time?”
Snape watched him over his mug, measuring him with his eyes. Was he serious? “Professor Dumbledore once told me about the supply rooms of Hogwarts, but I didn’t take him that literally.”
Like air had been squeezed out of a balloon, Remus relaxed, leaning back against the soft cushions. It was quite obvious that he had been worried about his mental state after the night’s events, and it might have been amusing to the Potions Master if he wasn’t the one, sitting next to the obnoxious wizard, holding his breath to prevent himself from saying something nasty. He was trying to gather information, for Merlin’s sake. He had to pull himself together.
“So…” Snape had absolutely no idea what to say.
“So…” he began again, “… why did you choose this night for strolling around the castle?” It definitely wasn’t a good question and it lacked casualty like a storm lacked opera music, but all brilliant and useful words had abandoned him. He did not sound like a master interrogator, a former Death Eater extraordinaire. The years with children had made him soft. What a shameful development for a man like Severus Snape, a high class Dark Wizard. Oh bugger.
Remus watched him curiously as though trying to figure out his possible motives. “I had nothing to do with him getting into the castle if you’re implying that.” He paused for a moment and then continued, exhaustion clear in his voice, “I just wanted to relax with a steaming cup of tea. Real tea, mind you. But this hasn’t really been my night as you can tell.” He pointed at his scaled face and then fell silent, realizing that he had already said too much.
Severus Snape disliked the unpleasant feeling that raised its head inside him. It was something between compassion and pity, and it made him feel unnaturally normal. Maybe he did have a heart after all. Maybe he owed Remus one decent night for old time's sake. For the sake of misery and betrayal and lost friendships. Maybe.
Instead of pushing his colleague any further with questions, he picked a red-covered book from the table and started making a conversation out of nothing. They talked about the old ways of binding books and their favorite authors and all their lost friends without ever mentioning names or dates.
Even with its otherworldly atmosphere, the night turned out to be quiet after all.
And somehow it was very comforting for them to know that at least the enemy was familiar and quite close indeed.
Thank you very much.
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