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Chapter 36 : Optimism and Practicality
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To My Love,
Happy Valentine's Day, a natural time to take a moment to tell you just how much you mean to me. Over the last few years of my life, much has changed for the better and I can trace those changes directly to the moment I met you. Most obviously I now have the career I always wanted, a clean place to live, and a respectable income. I know I would have none of them if you hadn't suggested me to Professor Dumbledore when he was looking for someone to fill the Defense Against the Dark Arts post.
There are other changes you have made in my life, of course. Places you have filled that have been empty for nearly a decade and others that have never before been filled at all. This is the first time I have ever truly been in love. The best changes you've been in my life are not necessarily concrete, but much more profound. You make me feel more confident, more normal...less a monster. I know I should feel grateful, and I certainly do, but I also feel pride in the fact that you can love me in spite of what I am.
For whatever reason, you love me and want to spend your life with me, damaged as I am. Though I know it's selfish of me, I want that too. So much has been changing in my life lately that I suddenly see a future within my grasp that I would never have thought possible. I've never had much hope for a pleasant future. The most I could aspire to was being able to calmly endure whatever the years brought. Now I feel hope, that there are good things yet to come --- again because of you.
The practical part of my mind knows that all of this is much too good to last, but you can have my heart for as long as you want it. Forever if you like.
Happy Valentine's Day,
This morning I woke up to find a love letter beside my pillow and then Remus met me by the doors of the Great Hall with an armload of roses and a box of candy from Honeyduke's. Lots of students on their way to breakfast either giggled, whistled, or sighed romantically. The first and last would be random girls, the second one would be Fred and George Weasley of course. All of them scrambled out of the way as Snape walked through, threatening them all with death and detention for no apparent reason.
"He's just jealous that he can't get a woman." I whispered to Remus who was frowning at Snape's behavior. "And in response to the last line in your letter, forever is not enough."
The school was under a general blanket of what they call in the movie "Bambi," "twitterpation." Couples trying to sneak off into broom closets, couples passing notes, couples making out blatantly in the castle corridors. Filch says that next Valentine's Day he's going to outlaw kissing altogether. Snape agreed with him and hinted that we should ban dogs too, shooting Remus a malevolent expressions as he did so.
Dogs. Clever. Can't he come up with new material?
Professor Dumbledore gave Remus and me a little time off today to go attend Brand and Jennifer's wedding. It was a quick, civil ceremony. Both of them came from work and she only stopped along the way to change into her best robes which are deep green velvet with a low cut back embellished with a satin bow. Brand's method of dressing for the occasion was to brush dust and grease off of himself and to straighten his hair. The ceremony lasted about five minutes. It's incredible to think that in the space of five short minutes, you can tie your whole existence up with someone else's for all eternity. While watching the ceremony I couldn't help hoping that Remus and I will be next.
After the wedding we all went to the Leaky Cauldron for drinks and snacks. At the end of the hour we all went back to work, the bride and groom included. It's a miracle that the Goyles allowed Brand to have time off at all, even to attend his own wedding. They must be feeling generous.
Tonight there were no practices or concerts so that Brand and Jennifer could have something of a honeymoon....assuming Mel and Streak leave them alone, which I'm not too sure about. So tonight I slipped out and went to Sophia's to make Remus a batch of shortbread cookies. It seemed like I ought to do something for him and I never get to cook for him anymore since moving to Hogwarts. The house elves have a thing against teachers going near ovens, but Sophia always encourages anything nice that anyone wants to do for Remus, so she allowed me the use of her oven as well as flour, sugar, and butter.
We spent a happy hour speculating about my future hypothetical wedding which may or may not take place sometime between this school year and the next. I'll invite all of the staff, the Weasleys, Tonks, the Howards, and my various werewolf friends. If Dumbledore lets us have the wedding at Hogwarts I'm sure we'd be able to have the house elves provide food, and then Hybrid can provide music. Maybe I can sell off another gemstone to buy a dress. I wouldn't go crazy and buy some hugely expensive one, but it would be nice to have a real wedding gown and I think Remus would like it. I can put away the leftover galleons or put them toward a house, depending on what we decide to do about our living arrangements. Sophia knows of a little place for sale not too far from where she lives. "It would be almost as good as having you live right here with me." she said hopefully.
Of course I didn't tell Remus about that particular part of my visit with his mother. I know he's still reluctant about getting married, but only because he thinks it will end up ruining my life. I think he needs to get some new material too. Sometimes he and Snape sound like broken records.
The boys are abusing magic again. I found out firsthand what the other residents have to put up with and why they occasionally gripe about Remus and me teaching them magic. I was on my way up to Basil's room when two things detached themselves from the peeling wallpaper and jumped at me.
Instinctively, I fired off a stunning spell. They're lucky they didn't get worse.
"Hey ! It's us!" shouted Mel as the other object that had jumped at me thudded heavily to the floor.
It took a few seconds for me to realize exactly what I was looking at. It was as though the wall had taken on Mel's features. He was under a disillusionment charm and I was virtually looking through him to the wall he was blended with. I noted that a ragged patch of carpet on the floor seemed to resemble Streak.
"I ought to knock you out too." I snapped at Mel as I knelt down beside his partner in crime.
"Please do!" called a voice from the landing above. "Push them over the banister while you're at it !"
A planter came zooming from another floor, swung wide, wheeled ominously, and crashed with incredible accuracy just beside Mel with a loud smashing sound.
"I hope that was one of your thick skulls!" shouted Vashti.
"She is getting way too good at summoning and banishing." Mel complained.
"Merry St. Patrick's Day." Streak mumbled as he came around.
"Valentine's, man. Valentine's." Mel corrected. "And it was yesterday. Not that it matters because I think Brand was the only one who got any action so I guess it pays to get married after all."
"Will you take the disillusionment charm off yourself?" I asked, wanting to be able to glare at him face to face.
"Oh sure. Finite incanteum." said Mel confidently.
Half of him...the top half....came into view. The bottom half remained camouflaged. "Oh damn. Everything had better still be there." he said, patting himself to be sure.
"Kerri...can I have a kiss to make it better?" Streak asked. "My head hurts."
"Actually, I'm thinking of stunning you again."
I could make out the movement as he sat up and pointed his wand at himself. "Finite incanteum."
Mel looked at the result of Streak's spell and laughed uproariously. Understandable considering that all of his body had appeared except for his head.
"What?" Streak asked, confused. I could see enough of his head to tell that he was looking down at himself. "Everything looks like it's there."
"Yes. The parts that you think with are all intact." I agreed, turning my back on them and heading up the stairs.
"Hey, can you fix us?" Mel asked as the pair of them followed. "Shut up!" he demanded of a pair of girls who were laughing at him from their open doorway. "See if I take you out again."
"You took them to 'The Bottom of the Barrel and made them pay." Streak reminded him. "I don't think they're going to be too fussed."
"You have got to get them under control." Vashti demanded as we passed her door.
"They're adults...sort of. I can't put them in detention."
"You useless...." Vashti's hands were clenched and she looked like she was going to explode as she cast about for a word bad enough to describe me. "...if you don't do something, I will." she threatened, giving up.
"I will stun you both." I threatened without turning. I had heard the distinct sound of Mel and Streak getting ready to attack.
"Okay, we're being good. Will you please fix us?" Streak asked as we ascended to the next floor.
"What was it Remus told you when we started teaching you some of these more defensive spells? That if you abused it we'd quit teaching them to you until you grew a brain." This was not precisely what Remus had said, but I was annoyed enough to tack on the last part. "Tonight's lesson is just going to be you two trying to undo what you did to yourselves while I teach new material to the rest of them."
"Being a professor is going to your head." Streak accused.
"It's probably PMS." Mel suggested.
"Not the best way to soften me up." I told him as we rounded Basil's doorway.
"Hey Kerri --- do you think Remus could loan me a hundred galleons?" Basil asked before I'd hardly gotten into the room.
"Bad bet?" I guessed.
"You can't win them all. If I can just get a hundred from him, I can get the rest elsewhere."
"How much did you lose? Never mind, I don't want to know. Ask Remus when you see him tomorrow."
"Yeah, and don't tick her off." Mel added. "She has PMS. Kidding!" he said quickly when I raised my wand at him.
To the best of my knowledge, Mel and Streak never did set themselves straight and I don't especially feel sorry for them. This is a bad time for them to be stirring trouble in the building when Remus and I are about to present our offer to give wands and teach magic to anyone who wants to learn. On the other hand, it might make them even more anxious to be armed. By the time all is said and done, Remus and I might be responsible for the start of WW3.
Buckbeak's trial is coming up in a few days and Dumbledore has given both Hagrid and me permission to go. Hagrid, because he received the summons, me for moral support.
Hermione and I have been coaching Hagrid, though I'm not very optimistic on how it will actually go on the day of the trial when he stands up in a courtroom. Nearly every day when I go over there to see Hagrid now, Hermione is already at the cabin, showing him research, all but telling him what to say. She seems very determined but also tired and depressed underneath it all. Hagrid and I coaxed her into admitting that Ron isn't speaking to her. I'd like to have a talk with him about it but I'm not sure if that would cross the line from teacher to older brother's friend or not. There's just too much to think about now. I'll worry about it after the hearing.
I'm a little irritated with August Day. Hermione has been more help than he has. I've only seen him once since the first time when he came to give us a quick overview of exactly what to expect in court. I know he's busy saving porlocks and maybe it's selfish of me, but I'm a bit more concerned about Buckbeak at the moment. If he didn't really want to help, he shouldn't have offered to do it.
Cedric Diggory is also coming to the trial so I'll be responsible for him too. He's going to do his essay on Buckbeak and has already thrown himself into it with enthusiasm. So far he's interviewed Hagrid, Hermione, and Draco Malfoy.
Hermione was present when the incident happened, and was also conveniently there while Cedric interviewed Hagrid so he decided to go ahead and include her too as a witness to the event. It was fun watching the two of them interact with each other, McGonagall's prize student and Sprout's. They were so deadly sober and serious that it was almost funny. They'll probably grow up to run against each other for Minister of Magic.
I've read the transcript of the Draco Malfoy interview. Draco's version is heavy on the part where Buckbeak attacked him, but a bit fuzzy about why. He's been summoned to court to bear witness so I expect that his account there will be similar to the one he gave Cedric. "Unless he makes it sound even worse." said Hermione bitterly as she listened to me reading it to Hagrid to give him some idea of what to expect. Privately I agreed, but I wasn't going to say it in front of Hagrid.
"He's a horrible little monster!" I told Remus when he walked into my sitting room tonight. I thrust the transcript at him.
"Hagrid will get a chance to tell his side of the story." he answered, glancing over the page. "I don't suppose you know anything about Mel walking around without his bottom half and Streak walking around without a head."
"Were they still like that tonight?" I giggled.
"They even went to work that way. It wasn't very nice of you."
"Well just like Draco did, I'm sure they've left out a few key points of the story." I said, and told him about the disillusionment charm prank and the complaints I'd heard from the other residents.
Remus sighed. "I sorted them out. Not that it seemed to slow them down that much. When I walked in, Mel was standing in the entry telling a girl..." and here his expression lightened,"...'everything still works, even if you can't see it.' "
We both laughed, which indicated that he wasn't too annoyed with me for having left them missing vital body parts. It's so much easier at Hogwarts. All you have to do is threaten students with detention or loss of points. What can you do with a bunch of maniac werewolves?
"There's a meeting set up for tomorrow night." Remus told me reluctantly.
"Do you think everyone will come?"
"Most of them will out of curiosity if nothing else."
"I think we could have done this without Royal." I said.
"They all like him."
"I think they like us too. They don't outright dislike us....except for Vashti and we all know that she's nuts."
"They aren't trustful of non werewolves -- which is you." Remus contradicted. "And they aren't trustful of werewolves who have tried to live among normal wizards --- which is me."
"No one has been a problem since Yestin Plunkett got tossed out. I think you underestimate yourself."
"You and my mother both."
"It's our job to do that." I informed him.
"Sometimes I think you two have some sort of conspiracy between you. What do you do when you sneak off to the kitchen?" asked Remus suspiciously.
"We wash dishes." I shrugged.
Remus didn't look as though he believed me. Which is fine. I learned through the Fenrir--Howard confrontation that he doesn't need to know the details of absolutely everything.
We had our meeting in the werewolf commune tonight, which I think was quite successful. I'm not sure Remus is as pleased as I am about it though. It's going to be a lot of hard work, but it's not as if I'm going to make him do it alone. We'll do it together and it will make things better. He'll be glad we did it in the end.
Of course the meeting didn't exactly go off without a hitch. There was an emergency with Celestia's parents so Royal couldn't make it and Remus had to do more talking than originally planned after all.
We also didn't exactly have a welcoming audience either. When we walked into the room under the stairs there were a lot of frowns, tapping feet and arms crossed over chests. Vashti was there...of course....sitting slightly off to the side, very still and silent but still furious looking. I was starting to think that maybe Remus was right about how they felt about us after all and it annoyed me. Here we were, trying to make their lives better and they were glaring at us as though our existence insulted them.
Remus rose to the occasion as he always does. Although I knew he'd have rather chewed broken glass than been stuck as spokesman, he stepped into the role with a completely unruffled attitude. His expression was a calm mask of pleasant professionalism.
"Good evening. Thank you for taking the time to hear us ou----"
"How about you hear us out?" asked a red-haired woman near the front of the group. I knew her only by name -- Marcella.
Remus looked slightly surprised at the interruption but politely said, "Certainly" and waited for her to begin.
Which completely opened the floodgates.
"You have got to do something about those....idiots. You know who I mean. Do something or we're going to kick them out."
It was very fortunate that we'd had the boys stay upstairs to practice while we handled the meeting. Otherwise things might have gotten sticky.
"I heard about the disillusionment charm pr---" Remus began.
About a dozen people interrupted him this time. I only caught snatches of what they were all saying, but still got the gist.
" ----- levitates our skirts up when we're walking on the stairs!"
" ----- sick of walking into shield charms they've cast in the halls!"
" ---- jackass put me under a full body bind and went out with my blind date !"
" ---- sealed up the door of my flat. I had to climb out on the ledge and go to my neighbor's window to get out again !"
" ---- I don't know what they did to the McNairs, but they were over here shooting their crossbows into the courtyard the other night!"
" ---- a whole entire wardrobe chased me down the hallway !"
" --- that's nothing ! I was chased down the stairs by a levitating pile of dog shit !"
'' ----- levitated a live cat into the shower with me! Have you ever taken a shower with a pissed off cat?"
Remus listened to this tirade quietly and with a very disappointed expression on his face. I'm not sure what my expression suggested. Murder most likely.
"I am so sorry about all of that." Remus apologized once they'd stopped for breath. "Especially to the girls who had their skirts levitated up."
"Yeah...they don't do that to your girlfriend, do they?" someone asked from the back of the group.
"No." I answered darkly. "Because they know I'd kill them."
"Lucky it's easy for you. We can't get close enough to kill them because they have wands. Giving them wands and teaching them magic is the worst thing that ever happened to this place."
I saw an opening and took it. "What if we evened things up? What if the rest of you were taught magic too?"
"Right. We'll just take the loads of Galleons we earn working for the Goyles and go out and buy wands. Solid gold ones if they have them." said Marcella sarcastically.
"I know someone who is willing to donate."
"Su-----re." came the general response along with a lot of skeptical laughter.
"I'm serious. I have a friend --- Griffin Howard, the guy with the Firebolt --- his mother makes wands as a hobby and has a lot of them just laying around. That's what we called this meeting for in the first place. We want to teach magic to anyone who wants to learn."
Remus stepped lightly on my foot, a movement Vashti noticed, judging by the way one of her eyebrows raised.
"We have the means to provide wands to most of you if you want them." said Remus, taking over. "What we need to decide at this meeting is whether or not we really have the means to undertake teaching you. Schedules must be synchronized, skill levels will have to be divided ----"
"It sounds like you're trying to back out." Vashti accused. "Maybe you should leash your girlfriend before she goes and opens her big mouth again and offers something you don't want to go through with."
"Feasibility is the issue at hand." said Remus, not looking at her. "The first thing we need to establish is how many of you are interested in learning magic from Kerri and myself."
"For how much?" asked someone in the crowd.
"Gold?" Remus asked. "None. We aren't charging...the idiots...as Marcella calls them. We wouldn't charge the rest of you either. We're not doing this for money. We're doing it because it's right."
"What would be involved?" Marcella asked.
"We have to establish how many people want to do it and match you with wands. Then we need to decide on regular times to study and how best to divide you based on skill. I suppose we'll have to conduct some kind of diagnostic test to decide how to place you. "
"But what do we have to actually do?" Marcella pressed.
"It won't be formal school." I answered, understanding what she meant. "No essays or tests or anything like that. We don't have the time or means to teach you things like potions or care of magical creatures. We probably won't be able to focus much on theory besides what's absolutely essential. The lessons will probably be practical, and all of them will be focused on basic charms and defensive magic. It won't be formal so there won't be assignments or homework or anything like that, but it would probably be wise of you to practice what we teach in your spare time."
"And we have so much of that." someone snorted.
"I'm not saying it will be easy." I answered, "You'll have to work for it."
"But we work jobs. We're not kids who have all day to do school. Some of us have two jobs."
I was about to point out that Remus and I work too but Vashti cut in by saying, "You're being offered a free education, you dolt. I'm taking lessons despite that I work two jobs, take part in a band, and hate these two." Here she gestured at Remus and me. "But I deal with it. Sure, it's not an official education. I don't get a diploma. So? I'm learning practical magic that makes my every day life easier. You want to stop those idiots from messing with you? Arm yourselves and learn to fight back. And learn to fight anyone else that ever messes with you again...the McNairs....Grayback....maybe the Ministry even. You know we're just 'werewolves' to them. They don't even think of us as wizards, and why should they when most of us can't do basic magic? Maybe it's time we changed that. They won't respect us until we respect ourselves. Sure you'll have to work for it and give up time that you'd rather spend sleeping or whatever. But nothing worth having ever comes easy." Vashti fell silent and glared compellingly at her audience for a few moments. I have to hand it to her, she knows how to speak effectively. "How many of you are ready for a change?" she asked before falling back into her statuelike silence.
The result is that twenty-two people want to do it for certain and a about a dozen more are considering it. Not too bad. When we left they were all looking hopeful and a bit sneaky, trading ideas on what they plan to do to Basil and co. once they get the chance.
"You stepped on my foot !" I accused Remus after we'd gone home.
"You were getting ahead of yourself. We only planned to estimate numbers, not commit."
"Well....it's as much Vashti's fault as mine." I deflected the accusation.
"I have to respect her ability to persuade."
"Her method of making a difference for werewolves is better than Fenrir's."
"Yes. And everything she said tonight was correct." Remus answered, "But we've let ourselves in for it now, Kerri. There's no going back."
"Do you realize that we're essentially staring a school for werewolves?" I asked in awe.
"Yes." answered Remus wearily.
"It will work out. You'll see. Maybe this is the start of something big. Maybe this really can somehow snowball and improve conditions for werewolves."
"Ah...the energy and optimism of the young."
"You are not old." I said, irritated.
"Kerri, I started going gray in my twenties. Werewolves don't age normally."
"Which is partly due to the horrendous conditions they're forced to live under."
Remus sighed. "Maybe I'll feel more optimistic in the morning." he yawned.
"Don't worry about it. Like I told Hermione -- you just have to be strategic about how you balance your workload."
"Snape is going to have heart failure when he hears about your latest project."
"Yes." I agreed. "I can't wait to tell him."
Next Chapter : Buckbeak's trial.
We went on the Knight Bus. That was a fun experience. Incredibly enough, going on the Knight Bus with Hagrid and Buckbeak made more sense than trying side along apparition with an underage student, an anxious half giant, and a hippogriff with legal problems. Luckily I'm used to people staring at me strangely on the Knight Bus, considering that I'm usually accompanied by a pack of hyperactive werewolves when I go on it. Today was no exception. Hagrid took up two seats by himself and kept nervously jiggling his foot until the entire floor of the bus trembled with the motion, and Buckbeak pulled dead ferrets out of his pockets and spit the bones on the floor.
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