Chapter 28 : Chapter 28
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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.
Letter from Rubeus Hagrid to Cerridwyn Howard : January 7th, 1992
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.
Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard : January 3rd, 1992
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.
Letter from Severus Snape to Cerridwyn Howard : January 11, 1992
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?”
“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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.
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