Chapter 14 : 13 - Trials and Errors
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I sat vigil until the early hours of morning, curled up against the headboard beside the sleeping man, gently stroking the sandy brown hair from his face. At some point during the night, Remus had awakened and vomited violently over the edge of the bed, then quickly went back to sleep. I absently cleaned it up with a flip of my hand, and by the time he woke in the morning, the colour had returned to his drawn face, and he smiled at me from the warm confines of the comforter.
“What on earth could you be smiling about?” I asked in exhausted exasperation. “I poisoned you!”
“I didn’t change on a full moon,” he grinned. “I don’t care how ill I became. I didn’t change, and you’re still here.”
“Gods, how could you even think that I would leave you? I’ve been up all night. I think I may have figured out what went wrong, but I doubt you would…”
Remus rolled onto his side and reached up, grabbing my hips, and sliding me down the headboard onto my back to face him.
“If there’s even a chance that this could work, I’ll take it. You trusted me not to hurt you. I trust you to make the potion.” His thumb gently stroked my scraped cheek as he spoke.
We talked until I could no longer string a coherent sentence together, then Remus pulled the comforter up, and I rolled over in his arms, feeling him spoon me from behind. It was a comfortable feeling, one I had missed, and in the warmth of strong arms and a down-filler comforter, I fell asleep.
Waking in the mid-afternoon, I found Remus reading an old book on the lounge, a low fire crackling on the grate. He still looked tired but no worse for wear. I ran my tongue around my mouth tasting the sourness of not having brushed my teeth in over twenty-four hours. Rolling onto my side and carefully swinging my legs over the edge of the bed, I winced as I felt the soreness of yesterday afternoon’s activities throb through my body. He looked over and smiled an uncertain smile.
“I didn’t want to leave and have you wake up alone,” he said awkwardly as he watched me shift tenderly from foot to foot, trying to relieve the stiffness from my hips.
My lips twitched, not sure what to say. “What time is it?” I finally asked, feeling like I had been beaten, but trying to ignore the condition.
“Nearly three o’clock,” he replied, a light flush beginning to creep up his neck as he watched me gingerly walk across the room. “How do you feel?”
“I should be asking you that,” I responded, reaching for my wand. “Any side effects that I should know about?”
“I’m actually fine,” he twitched a smile, relieved that the conversation was going in a different direction. “What do you think went wrong?” He placed the book onto his lap and turned to face me.
“Two possibilities,” I began, pulling up a small wooden chair and sitting near the end of the lounge, close to the fire. “Either there was too much aconite in the potion or it wasn’t simmered at a high enough heat to steam off the most potent effects of the poison. My guess is on the heat. You seemed coherent, and the potion was effective in stopping the change. Were you aware of what was going on?”
“Yes, it was very clear, but then I felt a rush of heat, and my heart started to pound in my ears. A wave of nausea came over me, and I don’t remember anything after that.”
“The poison began to take affect,” I confirmed. “I gave you a bezoar and levitated you to bed. May I?” I asked, indicating to my wand. He nodded. The diagnostic showed that his isotone levels were nearly normal, and the glands had shrunk to their usual size. The potion seemed to be out of his system, but he was tired from the ordeal and needed his rest.
“The potion obviously needs some work. I didn’t expect it to be so effective the first time, but it was a good trial.”
“Short of poisoning me,” Remus smirked.
I slapped at his foot playfully and got up to leave.
“Shall we meet next week at Belby’s?” I asked as I put on my coat. “I’ll be letting him know how the trial went. Shall I send an owl?”
Remus nodded as he watched me gather my things. He looked uncomfortable. Yesterday should not have happened. It was an awkward situation that both of us seemed content in ignoring at the moment.
Reaching to touch his shoulder, we bid each other “good bye”, and I left the Shrieking Shack, carefully walking the trail to Hogsmeade. I was pleased with the initial results, but there was still work to do. Now, it was a matter of perfecting it.
The path to Hogsmeade was still icy, but the sun shining in the cloudless, blue sky made the walk pleasant. I wasn’t paying much attention as I approached the village, my mind formulating possible changes to the potion, and as I came around the corner of the bookshop, on to the main street, I was struck hard in the shoulder by a large, wet snowball. Startling back to reality, I looked up to find the street crowded with teenagers of various ages. The snowball culprits stood in shock as we heard a baritone voice boom from the bookshop doorway.
“Five points from Gryffindor, Mr. Latch. I suggest you and your classmates head back to school immediately. Detention with me, Monday evening, seven o’clock. Be prompt.”
The boys said nothing as they ducked their heads and scurried off in a hurry, avoiding the dark clad professor. My hat concealed most of my face but as the man approached, I heard a sharp intake of breath.
“What are you doing here?” he whispered brusquely.
I swallowed hard and peeked out from under the rim as he eyed the scrape on my face.
“Did the snowball do that?” he looked angrily after the retreating boys.
“No,” I managed to utter. “This wasn’t their fault.”
Severus’ eyes narrowed.
“It was a full moon last night,” I clarified.
Severus drew a long, deep breath. “Did Lupin do this?” he hissed through gritted teeth.
I avoided his eyes and quickly cast “Occlumens”. Even though we agreed that we couldn’t be together, I felt guilty about what had happened yesterday afternoon.
“The potion worked,” said I quietly looking up, “but there were some problems, some kinks to be worked out.”
“If he ever harms you, I’ll kill him,” Severus threatened lowly, stygian eyes boring down on me. I could see his jaw flex as he ground his teeth. I believed him.
Before I could reply, he turned on his heel and strode off, the students parting before him like the Red Sea.
I headed for the town centre and hurriedly Appartated back to the campus. I was tired and sore and needed a good hot soak. I’d talk to Belby tomorrow.
For the following weeks, Belby and I analysed the potion and agreed on improvements to be made. A new formula was begun during the waning moon and when the new moon emerged, lavender was added to take the edge off of the anxiety. After simmering for another week, the concoction was removed from the heat and set aside to cool. It was a fiddly potion. Precise ingredients, measures and timing had to be made. This would be another “trial”.
February thirteenth saw the arrival of the next full moon and, armed with a new potion, both Belby and I made our way from Hogsmeade to the Shrieking Shack. It was mid-afternoon, and we had arranged to meet Remus there. We had a plan. This potion was a bit different. The addition of the lavender meant that Remus could take it in the daylight, thus taking the edge off of the agitation he felt in the preliminary stage.
Entering the ramshackle structure and climbing the stair to the second floor, Belby called out and entered the room first. I followed. Remus was pacing by the unlit fireplace. His breathing was already heavy and rapid. As we entered the chamber, his grey eyes darted from Belby to me, and then back. A look crossed his strained face that was almost disappointment. Although, we had met and worked together over the past month, nothing had been said about the tryst and nothing further had happened.
Belby set to work immediately, taking Remus’ vitals and registering the information in the notebook. I prepared the potion and offered it to Remus’ trembling hand. As the vial passed from my hand to his, his fingers brushed against mine, and a feral growl rumbled in his chest. Our eyes locked for a moment, and I felt a shiver run up my spine. Belby was oblivious to the byplay as he pulled out a Wizarding chessboard and set it up on an overturned crate by the fireplace.
“Well,” he said clapping his hands together, “this will pass the time and
determine whether you can retain clear thought.” He grinned like a schoolboy at Remus who glanced helplessly at me.
The afternoon passed slowly and as night began to fall, I noted that the lavender seemed to be working. I would have knocked Belby senseless for some of the thoughtless things that he did and said. Yet, Remus sat quietly in control, although he was beginning to look very tired. Casting “Lumos” on the candles on the mantel as the sun set and the moon rose, I carefully watched for any sign of change.
As darkness began to cast long shadows in the room, Remus began to tremble faintly, stretching the muscles along his shoulders, back and neck and rotating his head, tipping it backward and sniffing the air. Belby jumped from his seat, startled, having been absorbed in the game and not noting the time. The change was slight, more instinct than physical. Remus’ upper body broadened, and his eyes fully dilated, but he remained calm, almost sleepy. Hearing a howl resound from the woods, Remus’ head spun around, and he strode to the window, gazing out as if he wanted to leave. This would be the second full moon where he had not ventured into the Forbidden Forest.
Noting him rock slightly as he stood, I came up behind him and wrapped my arm around his waist to help him balance. He looked down at me with a tender smile, his eyes beginning to close. Silently, I led him to the bed and tucked him in, almost motherly. Belby watched the silent scene from across the room. I had agreed to stay the night to keep an eye on things while Belby returned home. Belby wasn’t pleased with leaving me there but as another howl sounded from the forest, he quickly agreed, making a hasty exit while he still could before the moon rose too high and the werewolves became too active. I curled up in the lounge, a warm fire glowing on the hearth, and sat watching the sleeping man. He stirred a few times but generally slept peacefully.
The dim glow of dawn sat on the horizon, and Remus stirred from under the covers. He was still fully clothed, and the side of his face was creased from where it had lain on his arm.
“How do you feel?” I asked sleepily.
“Strange,” he replied lifting his head from the pillow. “I feel itchy, but it’s like I don’t know where to scratch.”
“Hmm, mental irritation. The potion stimulated the frontal lobe to produce the calming effect and control your motor activities. It’s probably like a mental itch,” I said moving from the lounge to the edge of the bed. Tousling his hair playfully as he lay on his stomach, I asked, “Want me to scratch it?”
He grinned mischievously as he rolled onto his back. Reaching up and grabbing my wrist, he knocked me off balance, pulling me onto the bed, laughing. We wrestled as we rolled, becoming tangled in the sheets. Finally, he pinned me on my back, my arms above my head.
“Well, you seem in fine spirits,” I sniggered from beneath him. “It would seem that the potion worked for the most part. Still a few bugs to work out, but at least I didn’t poison you this time,” I laughed.
“It made me very sleepy, which when you think about it, could be a good thing because if Belby hadn’t been there, I’m not sure what I would have controlled myself.”
“Ooooo, those inhibitions?” I teased.
He blushed and released my arms. “We never did talk about that,” he said as he sat up against the headboard.
“It was awkward, and I thought it best left alone. It was the situation. Not something that should have happened.” I joined him on the headboard, our feet stretched out in front of us over the rumpled covers.
Remus lowered his head and fidgeted with his fingers. “The change takes away the inhibitions, not the emotion.” I could see a flush creep up his neck and into his cheeks as he continued talking to his hands. “I’ve always shied away from becoming personal with someone. I was always afraid that I would hurt them, or not be able to control myself and accidentally bite them. You trusted me. You were so confident that I wouldn’t hurt you, but I did hurt you. I saw how you moved afterward, but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t help myself,” he rambled.
I sat beside him on the bed and took his hand in mine. “I still do trust you. It was my fault, too. I could have stopped you, but I didn’t want to.”
“I don’t have a lot of experience with this,” he said guardedly playing with my fingers. “I’m nearly twenty seven years old and can count on one hand how often I’ve…”
I gave his hand a squeeze. “You don’t have to explain anything.”
He squeezed my hand in return and smiled shyly as he leaned over the edge of the bed and pulled a small package from a drawer in the bedside table.
I gave him a puzzled look as he handed it to me. “What’s this?” I asked.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” his lips twitched in an uncertain smile as I took the brightly wrapped box.
Untying the ribbon and pulling off the paper, I tugged the lid off the box. Nestled in a scrap of red velvet, lay a silver goddess pendant attached to a simple fine-link chain.
“Remus,” I gasped. “It’s silver. You shouldn’t be handling this.”
“It’s pewter and perfectly safe. Do you like it?”
I nodded as I lifted the gift from its wrapping. “You shouldn’t have. I …”
He lifted his hand to stop me. “Consider it a thank you gift for all you have done for me. Not just the potion but your trust and friendship. I know how important your Goddess is to you. I’ve grown to care very much for you. Last month the “beast” may have taken over, but that doesn’t lessen the feelings that seem to be developing.” He was examining his hands again.
I turned on the mattress and sat on my knees facing him, running the tips of my fingers across his creased brow, past his temple and to cup his stubbled cheek. “Thank you,” I whispered as I leaned to tenderly kiss his lips. He drew a deep breath and timidly wrapped his hand around my waist, lowering me back down beside him. The kiss deepened, and I felt his tongue flick tentatively over my lower lip, as if asking for permission to enter. As I gingerly wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed my body against his, feeling his response, permission was granted, and we melted into the soft covers, letting nature take its course.
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