Chapter 65 : Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, Early June 1994
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“Sirius,” she murmured, rubbing her forehead. “God, what am I to do?” she lamented, throwing her head back.
I don’t want to know what he’d do if he discovered the truth, she thought, staring at her ceiling. I was so awful to him in Azkaban. Every day, describing in detail how I supposedly died, and I wouldn’t stop until he lost it, she thought and shuddered. I wanted him to think I was dead …and I still want him to think that I’m dead. Althea slowly spun her chair from side to side. She swallowed at the thought of Sirius’s weeping. Good God! When had he wept for her prior to Azkaban? Never. Azkaban brought despair and humiliation. It made one raw. Her belly became tight—those tears were honest.
“And I laughed at him,” she whispered.
How else should I feel, she questioned and closed her eyes. ‘Oh Sirius, I should never have doubted you! I’m so sorry! Oh, take me back, please! Let me shag you repeatedly!’ She let out a mournful laugh. I’d throw myself off the Astronomy Tower before that, she thought and imagined herself—her thin nightgown swirling around her ankles and her hair swept into the air in dramatic fashion—upon the Tower’s edge, her bare feet inching toward the precipice. The fortuitous crack of lightening illuminated Sirius’s form upon the tower. And I reckon he’d help push me. He can think I’m dead and I’d be happy…it’s better for all of us. Althea opened her eyes as Sirius gave her that good push over the Tower’s edge.
The morning Daily Prophet rested upon a stack of papers upon her desk. She considered the paper for a moment, her finger flicked at the bent edge. Why hadn’t the Ministry exonerated Sirius? There were witnesses and Dumbledore, and wasn’t Pettigrew into custody? Unless…Althea remembered the brief conversation she witnessed between Dumbledore and Sirius. Sirius had mentioned that Pettigrew had bested him again. Althea’s eyes widened. Pettigrew had escaped. She quickly lifted her feet from the floor and forced herself back into her chair. He could be in her very office.
Althea slipped her wand from her robe pocket. “Homenum revelio,” she whispered, and satisfied that Pettigrew was not in her office, she exhaled.
She reached for the newspaper and unrolled the parchment. Underneath the bold titled headline was Sirius’s portrait. Althea smoothed the parchment and leaned forward, peering at the prison photograph. Did the knowledge it was Pettigrew that had betrayed her friends bring her relief? She thought to the moment as each faced Voldemort—that brief recognition of betrayal. Did she find comfort that their shock was directed at Pettigrew and not Sirius? No, it did not. What would James think of her? She could almost feel his head upon her knees, begging her to help Sirius survive the bastardized Thyran potion. She thought of Lily and tightly shut and then widened her eyes to suppress her tears. Of the three, she was the last to survive—the one that could fight for his innocence, but she did not. He won’t forgive me, she thought as Sirius’s photograph seemed to mouth something.
The urge too great, Althea opened the desk drawer. Shuffling underneath papers and envelopes, she pulled out a silver picture frame. She frowned—she did not do the best job of repairing it after throwing it across her office. Taking one last look at the prison photograph, she lifted the silver picture frame close to her. Beneath the mended glass, Sirius hoisted a jubilant Althea into the air and spun her around. The young Althea buried her face against Sirius’s neck and he twirled her at greater speed. He stopped, and the two staggered as they parted, but Sirius’s eyes—his lively grey eyes filled with devotion—remained upon her. His gaze—hopeful and proud—lingered upon her as Althea pointed to her stomach. Althea’s fingers caressed his face as he pulled the young Althea back into his embrace. The scene began to replay again, but Althea allowed herself to remember his words, “I never wanted something so much. I love you.” Those words that had gnawed at her, which she forced herself to believe were lies, were the truth. She groaned quietly at the sick feeling in her stomach despite its emptiness.
A knock at the door prompted Althea to sit up. She hurriedly stuffed the picture frame into the desk drawer. “Yes? Come in,” she replied and sniffed as she smoothed her hair and bodice.
Althea caught her breath as she saw the face of Prudence peek through the door. Come on, God, one more. Have her tell me she knows and she hates me, she thought as she forced a smile. It’ll be a brilliant way to finish the week.
“What a surprise,” Althea standing, standing and walking to the front of her desk. “Mind the papers—I’d feel absolutely awful if you slipped,” she said as she leaned against the front of her desk.
Prudence, carrying a neatly wrapped package, nervously entered and carefully stepped over the piles of papers. She bit her bottom lip and stopped before Althea.
“It’s such a lovely day,” she added, and hopped on top of her desk. “What brings you to my office?”
Prudence sighed sadly. “It isn’t a lovely day,” she murmured, her eyes directed at the floor.
“Oh,” Althea replied thoughtfully, “why is that so?”
Here it comes, she thought, taking a deep breath.
“Professor Lupin…will he have to leave?” she asked, looking from the floor to Althea.
“Come, sit,” Althea replied softly—feeling a small amount of relief—pointing to her desk. Quickly, she shoved the papers away so that Prudence could sit next to her. “It seems so.”
Prudence frowned. “I don’t want him to leave.”
“I don’t want him to leave either,” she agreed, folding her arms. “However, it’s not our decision.”
“I wish it was,” she replied gruffly. “He was the best professor—oh, it was awful—just awful. A few of the Slytherins started to scream and one girl fainted. He was smiling the whole time—”
Prudence’s expression turned dark. “Professor Snape—oh, I wanted to curse him!” she replied, squeezing the small package in her hands.
Althea quickly placed her hands over Prudence’s hands. “Whoa, please don’t curse Professor Snape.”
Leave that to me, she thought, uncurling Prudence’s fingers from the package.
Prudence’s expression softened and Althea continued, “I would hate to see you expelled, you know.”
Prudence raised an eyebrow as she quizzically looked at Althea, and Althea realized her somewhat awkward sentence.
“Professor Lupin’s told me how well you’ve done this year.”
Althea cringed at the continued awkwardness. Why would Remus care if Althea knew of Prudence’s performance? She prayed her daughter wouldn’t catch on.
“He did?” she asked, her cheeks turning the slightest shade of pink.
Althea suppressed a smile as she nodded.
“Well, I did receive full marks on my exam—he told me so,” she replied—her demeanor hinting of arrogance. “I believe I received full marks on all my exams.”
She just sounded like her father, she thought, her mouth slightly open from surprise. Next, she’ll say that she doesn’t need to study because she knows it all.
“Studied loads, then?”
Prudence let out a girlish snort.
Althea noticed Prudence fiddling with the red and yellow bow on the package. “Did one of your friends give that to you?” she asked, pointing to the package.
Prudence blushed once more. “No,” she murmured. “Could you—could you give this to Professor Lupin?” she asked and shoved the package into Althea’s hands. “My friends and I made it.”
Althea looked down at the gift and bit her bottom lip to keep from giggling. “Right, of course,” she replied and cleared her throat. “You know, I think he would enjoy it more if you were to give him this gift,” she continued, but Prudence furiously shook her head. “Right, I see. Any more instructions?”
Prudence started to speak, but furrowed her eyebrows instead. “Professor, will Professor Lupin be all right?”
“I believe so,” she answered somewhat unsure, twirling the gold ribbon around her index finger. “He’s a wonderful teacher and he’s always been able to find work—”
“No, he won’t,” she interrupted, her lower lip trembling. “It’s very difficult for werewolves to find work. Employers use the Registry to discriminate—”
It was Althea’s turn to interrupt. “Where did you learn this?” she asked, unable to suppress a smile.
She just started to paraphrase my father’s book, she thought as Prudence clammed up.
“Don’t ever be ashamed of what you think,” Althea said as she stood and walked behind her desk to her large bookcase. “Especially when it’s the truth,” she continued, searching the middle shelf for her father’s books. “Ah, here it is,” she said, taking the much worn book from the shelf and holding it for Prudence to see. “I see you’ve read Wandering Werewolf by Daniel Morrigan…my father.”
Prudence’s eyes widened in surprise. “He’s your father?” she asked, taking hold of the book. She flipped through the pages to the dedication and nodded. “‘To my darling baby, Althea.’ Is that you?”
Althea nodded. “And I wasn’t a baby—I was thirteen,” she explained and Prudence giggled. “When I was sixteen, we had an extended werewolf essay and a few of us quoted my father’s book,” she continued and laughed. “My professor didn’t like that at all. We were considered subversive and given detentions.”
“Did you fight back?” she asked, closing the book.
“In our own way,” she replied, smiling wryly. “Anyway, have you read his other books?” she asked, taking the book from Prudence.
“Oh—oh no,” she replied and bit her bottom lip. “It is the only book in the library.”
“Would you like to read the others?” Althea asked and stood. “I have all of his books and I think you’d enjoy them,” she continued as she walked toward her bookcase and waved for Prudence to join her. “Now, you’ve read one of his books on werewolves—”
“There is more than one?” Prudence asked—her eyes scanning Althea’s books.
“You read the second book,” she explained as she held up the first book. “He wrote this when I was five…but I believe you’d enjoy this book more,” she continued and presented Prudence with the book. “Muggles and Magic Demystified.”
Prudence mouthed the title as she opened the book. “What is it about?” she asked as she flipped through the pages.
“How Muggle cultures perceive magic,” she answered, watching her daughter eagerly flip through the pages.
Your grandfather would be unbelievably proud, she thought as Prudence stopped to read a passage.
“In some areas, the secrecy isn’t as strict as it is here,” she continued and winked.
Prudence’s eyes widened. “Really,” she breathed as she turned the page.
Althea gasped and bit her lip as Prudence gazed at a photograph of Althea and Sirius. She had not read the books in years and must have placed a photograph of the couple in the book as a bookmark. Althea’s mind and body buzzed and hummed—how she wished she could grab the photograph from Prudence. She would have to play it cool as not to arouse suspicion. The mischievous, handsome teenage Sirius did not resemble the corpse of Azkaban.
Prudence looked from the photograph of the couple to Althea and smiled. “I didn’t know you played Quidditch,” she commented and returned to looking at the photograph.
Althea nervously cleared her throat. “I did,” she replied, tapping her index finger against the photograph. “I was the Seeker.”
“Seeker,” she murmured, not taking her eyes from the picture, “you’re too pretty to play Quidditch.”
“Is that so?” she asked as she leaned against the bookcase.
“It’s true,” she remarked, smiling, “you’re not the least bit sporty.”
“I’ll have you know I played Quidditch starting in my fourth-year—yeah, fourth-year. I was in my seventh-year, then,” she replied and Prudence produced a feminine, bark-like laugh.
“Your wearing pink lip gloss, lilac eye shadow, and mascara,” she remarked, pointing to Althea’s face in the photograph. “You’re not sporty.” Prudence continued to examine the photograph, and gasped and giggled as Sirius kissed Althea. “Oh, he fancies you,” she commented as Sirius kissed and tickled a squirming Althea. “Was he your boyfriend?”
Althea, very uncomfortable, sat atop her desk. “He—you’re a very inquisitive young lady,” she replied, folding her arms and crossing her legs at her ankles. “I could ask if you have a boyfriend.”
Prudence sighed forlornly and frowned. “You don’t need to, it’s my sorry lot not to have one,” she lamented and sighed again as Sirius kissed Althea’s cheek.
“You’re twelve—you have ages ahead of you,” she laughed, shaking her head in amusement. “Anyway, boys are very stupid at twelve.”
“He probably wasn’t very stupid,” she muttered and Althea continued to laugh.
“Oh, he was the worst!” she replied, throwing her head back. “He was very stupid and absolutely horrible to me,” she explained, lifting her head to see Prudence slightly smile. “But he did mature a bit…a bit.”
“Where is he now?”
Althea caught her breath. “I—I don’t know,” she answered, resting her hands behind her on the desk.
“You should find out and look for him,” she said steadfastly, handing Althea the photograph.
“Yes,” Prudence replied. “He could be searching for you.”
Let’s hope not.
“Oh, I don’t think—it’s been ages—”
Prudence sighed with mild annoyance.
Althea gave in to her daughter’s romantic whims. “Then what should I say when I find him?”
Prudence frowned thoughtfully, looking from Althea to the photograph in Althea’s hand. “I believe you should say, ‘I forgive you for whatever horrible thing you did in the past that made me think you stupid. I love you.’ There,” she said and Althea found it difficult to stifle her laughter.
Whatever he did that was stupid, she thought—the muscles around her mouth aching as she suppressed her smile. I think I actually might have said that to him at one time…but oh, how I don’t want him back! He’ll hate me more than you’ll ever know.
“I have a question though,” she began to ask as Prudence leaned against the bookcase, “what if he doesn’t accept my plea?”
“It isn’t a plea,” she answered quickly, kicking her heel against the floor. “How could he not accept? He’s probably spent all these years longing for you, too—”
I think the proper word would be mourning, she thought, uncrossing her legs at her ankles.
“Yes, longing,” she replied, narrowing her eyes. “Am I the only girl that reads?”
Althea could no longer hide her laughter. “Life and books are very different—”
Prudence shook her head. “I don’t believe so.”
Althea smiled thoughtfully at Prudence. “Maybe I’ll find him,” she said and Prudence’s pink lips upturned into a smile, “and maybe I’ll utter those words you told me to…” Althea playfully narrowed her eyes, “but no promises.”
Prudence sighed happily. “Brilliant, it’s settled then.”
“Indeed, it is.”
Prudence looked to the book in her hands and bit her bottom lip.
“It’s such a beautiful day,” Althea said, folding her arms. “I’d spend my entire day outside underneath that beech tree on the grounds. Unfortunately, I have to mark exams or else I won’t make it to Bermuda.”
“Bermuda?” she replied, her eyes widened with interest.
Althea nodded. “I spend most of my holiday there,” she explained. “I lived there as a small girl.”
“Really?” she breathed. “I would like to go to such a place.”
You almost did, she thought and sighed uncomfortably.
Prudence wrinkled her nose at the stacks of papers. “Well, I must be off. It is a lovely day after all,” she continued, and patted the book. “Thank you for the book. I’ll return it before holiday.”
“Wonderful,” she replied, standing from her desk. “If you’d like, you could borrow the other books as well.”
I’ll just have to make sure there are no more pictures of ex-boyfriends or your father in them, she thought, watching Prudence as she walked toward the door. That would be bloody fantastic for you to find one of me pregnant with you. Be more careful, Althea! Especially with your daughter!
“Right,” Prudence replied, smiling. “Thank you, Professor.”
“You’re welcome. Happy reading.”
“Right,” Prudence replied, opening the door. “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” she replied as Prudence exited.
Althea watched the door close and sighed deeply.
“I have given birth to the silliest girl in all of Britain,” she said with disbelief, rubbing her forehead.
Althea spotted Remus carrying his crumbling suitcase and the empty grindylow tank.
“Remus!” she shouted, out of breath as she continued to run at full speed. “Remus!”
Remus continued to walk the platform, ignoring her shouting as other bystanders turned to look. He’s not stopping, she thought as she almost collided with a very old witch. He is not getting on that train without saying goodbye!
“Remus! Remus, wait!” she shouted and stumbled over a pile of suitcases. “Bloody hell!”
Remus continued to walk the platform, turning to board his carriage. If this doesn’t stop him, she thought, looking at her audience.
“Remus Lupin, you can’t leave! I’m pregnant!” she shouted and cringed as a few witches and wizards turned to see who had shouted.
Remus stopped. The grindylow tank slipped from his arm, fell to the ground, and shattered—littering the platform with small shards of glass and powder. Althea covered her mouth as she let out a laugh of surprise. Quickly, she ran to Remus, who stood over his suitcase and the shattered grindylow tank.
“Couldn’t you have yelled something different?” he asked quietly, not looking away from the broken tank. “Maybe, ‘Remus Lupin, you forgot your lunch’?”
“You wouldn’t have stopped for that,” she replied, stooping to collect the shards of glass.
“Here, I’ll mend this,” he replied, taking his wand from his robe pocket and pointing it at the shattered tank.
Althea stood and felt pangs of guilt as she stared at Remus—he was visibly upset.
“Look, I’m sorry I shouted,” she apologized, resting her hand on his upper arm.
Remus shook his head and then looked into her eyes. “You just don’t joke about those things, right?” he reprimanded, removing her hand from his upper arm. “Especially when you’re me.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she replied quietly and bit her lip. “Anyway, you know I can’t get pregnant.”
“I know, as you so eloquently moaned the other night. ‘Don’t worry, I can’t—oh, Remus, oh, oh—’ you, of course, know the rest,” he spoke plainly and Althea giggled.
“It sounded like you were reading a textbook,” she remarked and sighed. “Please, don’t be cross with me,” she added and kissed his cheek.
“I won’t,” he muttered and smiled hollowly.
“Anyway, why would you leave without saying goodbye? I walked to your office and it was completely empty,” she replied, frowning slightly. “I hate when you leave without a goodbye.”
“You know I’m terrible with goodbyes,” he reminded, resting his hands on her shoulders.
Althea rested her hands against his chest—her fingers playing with the buttons of his robes. “I know, but I had to see you off.”
“Then you’ll start crying and that won’t be good for the both of us,” he replied, stroking the hair away from her face.
“I can’t help it if I do,” she replied, smiling sheepishly. “Anyway, I have a question.”
“Was I very silly at twelve?” she asked, pulling a loose string off his collar.
“Why do you ask?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“No, just answer,” she replied, tugging at his collar.
Remus furrowed his eyebrows in thought. “I suppose you were,” he answered with a crooked smile. “You did enjoy acting out your one-woman plays in the Gryffindor common room—most of them involving dramatic death scenes where you’d fall off one of the sofas.”
Althea sighed fondly. “I enjoyed that. Lily enjoyed that.”
“Lily was the only one watching,” he remarked and Althea playfully nudged him.
“Then how would you know about my one-woman plays?”
“In our dormitory, Sirius would reenact them for our amusement. He did a spot on impersonation of you,” he explained and Althea frowned. “Once he broke is collar bone.”
“Is that how he broke it?” she breathed and remembered the gift in her robe pocket. “Oh, I have something for you,” she added, taking the gift from her pocket.
“You do? Thank you,” he replied as Althea handed him the gift. “Did you do this?” he asked, examining the gift.
Althea shook her head. “Just open it,” she demanded and bit her lip.
What could Prudence and her friends give to him, she thought as Remus slowly untied the ribbon.
“Stop being so bloody methodical and tear into it!” she encouraged, reaching for the package.
Remus pulled the package away from her and tore the paper from the gift. Letting the paper fall to the ground, he unfolded a small card addressed to him.
“‘To Professor Lupin, from’—Althea, would you stop humming Lulu,” he demanded—his lips twitching into a smile. “Althea, please.”
“What? ‘What can I give you in return,’ Remus?” she replied as she laughed. “I’m sorry. I’ll stop now. I won’t sing, ‘Shout.’”
“Good,” he replied, smiling. “You knew this was from Prudence, then? And you didn’t open it? Didn’t peak inside to see what she could be giving me?”
“I would never do that; I would never break her trust,” she said and reached for the gift. “I thought it was from Prudence and her friends.”
Remus held the gift from her. “It is,” he replied, folding the card.
“Then open it,” she demanded, eagerly waiting for him to unwrap the tissue paper.
Remus unwrapped the tissue paper and laughed.
“What is it?”
“Here,” he said and handed her the hand-painted red and gold picture frame.
“Oh, a photograph of the four,” she gushed, smiling at Prudence who—with her arms around two of her friends, stood at the center, smiling. “Look at how beautiful she is,” she said and affectionately caressed the photograph.
“She is very beautiful,” he replied, slipping his arm around her waist. Althea rested her head against his shoulder as he continued, “How they make me laugh, too. I shouldn’t tell you this, but Prudence is the worst of the four.”
“No, today I realized that I gave birth to the silliest girl in all of Britain,” she replied, her eyes transfixed on the photograph.
“I wouldn’t go that far—”
“Yes, she is. The Parkers are two very saintly people,” she remarked as Prudence winked. “She’ll only get worse. It’ll only be a matter of time before she sneaks out of her bedroom window to visit her boyfriend,” she added and handed him the photograph.
“You’ll be waiting outside Gryffindor Tower, I suppose,” he replied and Althea murmured yes. “I really should board my train.”
“No,” she lamented, lifting her head from his shoulder. “I don’t want you to go.”
“I have to,” he whispered, caressing her cheek. “Please, don’t cry. You’ll see me shortly.”
Althea smiled weakly. “Are you sure about going on holiday?” she asked, her fingertips gently tracing circles into his chest.
“I’ll see, and don’t worry about money. I saved the majority of this year’s pay, so I’ll be fine,” he explained softly and hesitated, as if he was struggling with something. “Althea, Sirius wrote to me already,” he whispered, resting his forehead against hers.
Althea’s stomach flipped, as she knew what Remus would say next. “So, this changes everything, then?” she whispered, sniffing back tears.
“I can’t abandon him, Althea,” he said, closing his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize, please,” she replied, gently pushing away from him. “I understand,” she continued, wiping her eyes.
“Althea, he needs you as well—”
“I can’t,” she interrupted, shaking her head. “I just can’t.”
“He needs to know you’re alive. He has that right,” he explained, taking her chin between his thumb and forefinger. “It will help him.”
Althea removed Remus’s hand. “How can you accept him—take him back without question?” she asked, looking into Remus’s eyes. “Remus, I can’t…I just can’t.”
“He needs us,” he replied and glanced toward the train. “I need to go,” he replied and hugged her. “Goodbye.”
Althea frowned—the anger bubbling inside her. A hug? We made love a night ago and he says goodbye with a hug, she thought as Remus held her tightly. Remus started to pull away, and Althea kissed his lips, wishing he would kiss back, but he did not.
“I’ll write you,” he replied, taking his suitcase and grindylow tank into his arms.
“Of course, you will,” she replied and feigned a smile.
Althea watched Remus board the train and waved with feigned enthusiasm as the train pulled away from the station. What else did you expect, she thought as the train vanished from sight. Did you expect a happy-ending?
'what can I give you in return' -- To Sir with Love (Black/London)
Thank you so much for reading! What is in store for Althea? A moody bassist and a hippogriff.
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