Chapter 37 : Chapter 37
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Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : February 22, 1992
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?
Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : February 22, 1992
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,
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."
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.
"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?"
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