Chapter 10 : Underworld
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Though there were many in the forest that were unfamiliar to her, she recognized all the trees she was looking for by sight. She pointed out distinguishing bark and leaf patterns to Remus, and if he wasn't actually interested in runemaking or the associated tree lore, then he must be very good at faking it.
"And you say that herbology was your worst subject?" he said, twirling a blackthorn twig between his fingers.
"Identifying a tree isn't the same as growing one." She knelt next to an aged ash tree, sifting through the leaf litter at it's base until she found a suitable branch. "I know a good length of wood when I see it."
"Which one is that?" he asked.
"Ash," she said, "One should never pass up a nice piece of ash."
He smiled, shaking his head.
“Sorry, I've got bad tree puns floating around my head. I wish I could forget them.” She tucked the branch in her bag and stood up, brushing the earth from her hands against her thighs. They continued walking.
"Harry wants me to teach him how to fend off the dementors," he said eventually, as they passed through an area shaded by evergreens.
"You're going to do it, right?"
"Yes," he said, ponderously. "After the holidays."
"That's great! Are you going to teach him the Patronus charm?"
"That's my hope. Although, it's ridiculously advanced magic made even more of a challenge since I won't be able to demonstrate it," he said, brow furrowed.
"Well, I suppose I could. Then I'd just have to explain to him why my Patronus takes the form of a werewolf," he answered wryly.
"I see how that could be problematic,” she said, sifting through the fallen needles beneath a pine tree. “Well, you don't really need to demonstrate it, right?"
"I just hope it's not too difficult for him."
She considered this for a moment. "I think as long as he's properly motivated he could do it. Fear is probably better motivation than wanting to pass a test or impress your friends."
Remus looked at her intensely for a moment. "I hear you cast a powerful Patronus," he said.
"Really? Who from?" Her cheeks colored slightly.
"Professors Flitwick and McGonagall."
"That was kind of them," she said.
"Perhaps … do you want to help teach him?" he asked.
"Me? Oh no, he doesn't even know me," she said, shaking her head. "I'm just some creepy old witch that follows him around the halls."
"Neither 'creepy' nor 'old' are adjectives that can be applied to you," he chided.
"Still, he wants to learn from you. He only asked you, right?"
"Yes, yes he did," he admitted.
"He knows, then, about you and his father?"
"He knows that we were friends," he replied cautiously.
"Well, see, he needs a father figure in his life," she said.
"I'm no father figure. Far from it." He stared down at his feet.
"Well, a kindly uncle, then," she said with her crooked smile. After a moment he looked up and smiled back at her. They walked out from the shadows and the sun caught her hair, setting it aflame. The silence that stretched out between them as his eyes flickered over her felt suddenly oppressive. Clio wanted desperately to kiss him, or to at least reach out and grasp his hand. She did neither, suspecting that moving too quickly might simply scare him off.
They passed once again into shadow.
"Now I just need to find a substitute for the dementor," Remus said.
"Oh, that's definitely out of my league."
He cleared his throat. "I've been thinking of finding another boggart."
"Well, I'll let you know if I find any more wobbling closets," she said. An awkward pause wedged between them as he carefully contemplated his next statement.
"I couldn't help wondering about your boggart ..."
"Oh," she said, suddenly very interested in a birch tree, even though she already had plenty of birch branches. "It's something that happened a long time ago. Something I saw when I was little. I don't really like to talk about it."
He nodded, longing to take her in his arms and tell her it was okay, whatever it was. "I understand," was all he said.
"I used to see my grandfather's death," she said then, looking at him once more.
"From memory?" he whispered.
"How did you Riddikulus it?"
"I pictured him alive, and laughing," she answered, walking on.
"That's wise," he said softly, following behind. "I can't think of a better way to remember the loved ones we've lost."
The sun was dipping behind the trees by then, and they turned back toward the castle.
"Did you collect all the wood you need?" he asked.
"Enough for now," she answered. "I don't know about you, but a drink and a cozy chair by a warm fire before dinner would be perfect."
There was another awkward pause, broken when he cleared his throat and responded, "I may have some mead in my office, would you care to join me?"
"I'd love to," she said, then practically skipped back to the castle.
They settled into the pair of chairs in his office, and he showed her the proper way to mull and serve mead. She brought out her music box, and they pretended not to notice that every song it played was about love, sex, or love and sex.
Even though the dementors had barely scrutinized them as they passed through the gates, he insisted on her eating a square of chocolate along with the honey wine.
“I'm going to owe you a fortune in chocolate,” she said, when he forced a second square on her.
“Actually, since it's for 'medicinal purposes,' I've been billing it all back to the school,” he said with a sly grin. They both fell silent as the singer for Merlin's Beard crooned on about laying his love down on a bed of clover.
“Let me see your wand,” she said, seeking something, anything to ease her tension. “I can show you a non-magic trick. Maybe.”
He brought it out hesitantly, setting it in her impatient hand. She let it lay for a moment, judged its weight, then scrutinized it carefully. It was impeccably cared for, the glossy, amber-stained wood not betraying a single scratch. “Do you polish it every day?”
“Not every day.”
“Well, it's not a rune wood. Soft, moderately dense, small grain … Poplar?”
“Ah! I've failed.” She handed it back. Henry would have guessed right, she thought, wondering he was working on a guitar at that moment. “Mine's not quite as shiny as yours,” she said, noticing the finger prints smeared all over its surface as she passed it to him.
“Is yours a rune wood?” he asked, as he rolled it through his fingers. It was cut in a spiral pattern, and quite handsome when actually clean.
“No, it's beech. 'Beech is a bitch.' So says a friend of mine who knows way more about wood than I do. It's supposedly finicky and not always cooperative.”
“Perhaps it's only misunderstood,” he said, passing it back.
She laughed. “Perhaps. Maybe it only needs to find the right wizard.”
The clock on his wall announced that it was dinnertime, and Clio made her move as they stood up to depart for the great hall.
"Thanks for the drink," she said. He froze like a spooked animal as she leaned toward him. She changed course at the last moment, directing her kiss to the corner of his mouth rather than dead center. He smelled pleasantly musky, like fresh earth and green woods. He stiffened at her touch, and as Clio backed away she noticed him quivering slightly.
"I forgot something I need to do," he said, "I'll see you down there?"
"Yeah, see you," she said, slinging her bag over her shoulder and trying not to look disappointed.
“Your music box,” he said.
“Yes, thank you,” she answered, turning back to snatch it from the air before it could play yet another love song.
Clio occasionally received mail from her far flung friends and family, but one frosty mid-November morning she was surprised by a note from Henry with a London postmark.
"Holy shit, Henry's here!" she said, her eyes zipping back and forth over his neat cursive. "Not here, here, but in the UK,” she clarified for Charity, who had given her a strange look. “He's making custom instruments for a couple of the Weird Sisters and he's meeting them in Edinburgh."
"Shut up!" Charity exclaimed, snatching the letter from her so that she could read it herself.
"Do you want to meet them?" Clio asked.
"When? Charity demanded, eyes flying over the parchment, "Oh, this Friday." She looked crestfallen. "I have a date."
"Oh," Clio had forgotten: Charity had met another man while she'd been walking in the woods with Remus. "You could bring him along, too."
"No, that might be a little weird," Charity said. "You know who you should bring?"
"Maybe," Clio murmured, calculating the lunar phase in her head and wondering how best to bring it up with him. He'd been avoiding her since she tried to kiss him. She pulled a quill and bit of paper from her pocket and scratched out a reply, stroking the tawny barn owl on the back of his rounded head as she did. She broke up a piece of bacon and fed it to him in bits – this was one of the very few situations in which she would touch meat – then attached the reply to his leg.
"Go have a rest in the owlry before heading out," she said. He hooted and took off.
In the end, she took the direct approach with Remus: walking over to his office after classes that day and knocking. He met her just inside the door; body stiff and face guarded, but gray eyes betraying the warmth that she knew lay beneath.
"Hey," she said, attempting to swallow the lump that rose into her throat before continuing. "Have you ever been to Edinburgh?"
"Yes," he answered cautiously.
"I need to go there on Friday night to meet a friend, come with me." Her heart felt as if it might actually leap out of her mouth and flee.
"Need? Is this friend in trouble?" he asked, brow furrowing.
"No, I just haven't seen him in a long time," she said, watching his eyes and registering the slight twinge when she said him. "He's one of my friends from Salem. I think you'd like each other, and I'd like you to come with me."
His eyes widened. "I don't know," he said.
"Come on," she said, forcing what she hoped was a playful grin, just as she forced her heart back down into her chest. "I endured a grindylow bite for you."
He shook his head, smiling ruefully. "You won't let me forget about that so easily, will you?"
"Not if I can use it. It's got a bit of mileage left, I think," she said, heart beating like mad.
He sighed. "How are we getting there? Can you Apparate that far?"
"Of course," she said, smiling for real, now. “If you think I know about wood then you're in for a treat.”
It was at dinner that night that Charity announced the annual staff Christmas gift exchange, and commanded that everyone write their name on a slip of paper and toss it into a tin.
"Absolutely no cheating. I've put a charm on the tin that will make you break out in a most uncomfortable rash if you try to put back the first name you draw and pick another," she said.
"What, no sorting hat?" Clio joked as the tin made it's way to her. Professor McGonagall looked appalled.
"Godric Gryffindor's hat is only to be used for serious occasions," she said.
Clio tossed her name into the tin, hoping that she would draw Hagrid, or Remus, or Charity, or anyone other than Snape.
Please don't let it be Snape, the only person who would be worse than Snape would be Professor Trelawney, she thought. So, of course, she drew Sybill Trelawney.
After wracking her brain for what to get and coming up empty, Clio decided to make her an amulet. She had more wood than she needed for her classes, and could get stones and cord from Hogsmeade and stay well under budget.
She found everything she needed at Dervish and Banges the next day. Spying a diverse selection of wand quality wood, she also picked out a few things to make the present for Remus that had taken shape in her head while she was trying to think of something for Trelawney. Then she stopped at Gladrags on a whim to get the adorable hat that she had heard Charity fawning over on two separate occasions, shoulders slumping as she calculated the beating that her meager savings would take this holiday season.
The week dragged on interminably and when Friday finally arrived, Clio met it with jangled emotions. She was most worried that Remus would back out, and only slightly less worried that he would go but not enjoy himself. Much like the day when she'd helped him wrangle the Kappa, he seemed surprised when she appeared at his door.
"Hey," she said, while he stood in his doorway, looking her up and down. "Are you ready to go."
"Where are we going, exactly?" he asked warily.
"It's a seedy rock club called Underworld," she said anxiously. "I guess it's a favorite of the Weird Sisters."
He nodded slowly as he reached for his cloak. Something stopped him though, and he turned back toward her, "Clio, before we go … we need to talk."
Clio heard herself say, "Okay," knowing that nothing good ever came out of a conversation that began that way.
"Forgive me if I presume too much, but it seems clear to me that you're interested in becoming more than friends."
Her heart stopped beating for a moment. "That's correct," she responded, once it had started again.
He studied her with his pale eyes. "Why me?” he whispered. “You're an attractive girl, you shouldn't have to settle for … for someone like me."
Clio shook her head. "I'm not settling. You're attractive. And smart, and nice." She looked at him steadily. "What about you, what do you want?" she asked.
He was rendered speechless for a moment. "I've grown accustomed to not having what I want," he answered softly.
"Well, I'm here, if you want me," she said.
Remus gazed at her, heart pounding, eyes flickering back and forth from her smoldering eyes to her inviting mouth. He blinked then backed away, flustered. "This is moving too quickly."
Clio took a deep breath, and stepped back herself. "I invited you out tonight as a friend. We're going to meet up with another of my friends. That's all."
"I'm not saying I'm not interested," he said, looking anguished.
"I know," she said, turning her head so he couldn't see that she was close to tears.
He watched her, opened his mouth to say something else, then changed his mind and picked up his cloak, instead. "I'm ready to go when you are," he said softly.
She nodded toward the floor. They didn't speak to one another during their walk through the castle and grounds. Clio pulled a scrap of paper from a pocket and held it out to him as they passed the gate.
"Here's the address," she said.
The dementors peered down at them from the wall, and they drew closer together almost unconsciously. Remus looked at the address and nodded, then reached into a pocket for a bar of chocolate, gesturing for her to keep moving. He broke off a chunk for each of them as they walked. Clio ate hers without really tasting it. He stopped once they'd passed out of the dementors' influence.
"Why don't we apparate together," he said. "That way we're sure to not get separated."
"Okay," she said blankly, holding out her arm. After the briefest hesitation he linked his arm through hers and took her hand in his. His felt rough and callused, but his touch was gentle. She met his eyes and felt the heat wave roll through her belly and up to her throat. He must sense this, she thought, feeling his hand tremble in hers.
Then she was sucked through a straw, and falling through utterly empty space. The concrete jumped up to meet her feet. She blinked several times and looked around to get her bearings.
"It's right across the street," Remus said, pointing to a nondescript sign that would have passed unnoticed if they hadn't been looking for it. As they started to cross, she realized that they were still holding hands. His was warm, and large enough to envelop hers.
They were halfway across the street before he released his grip. "Sorry," he murmured.
"It's okay," she answered, already missing the warmth.
The club inhabited an ancient stone stable adjacent to an even more ancient cemetery. An imposing man – he was almost as large as Hagrid – guarded the front door. He cast them a cursory glance before nodding them on through a massive door of solid oak, into a cavernous room with rough-hewn stone walls. Small clusters of candles on each table provided light, as did a massive chandelier hanging from the ceiling far above.
At least 100 different taps occupied the polished mahogany bar along the wall to their right. A young band billing themselves as The Istari graced the stage along the wall directly ahead. Clio would describe their sound as generic rock with a twist of blah. She thought that Remus might say that they were not his cup of tea, and that Snape wouldn't even deem them worth mocking. She tuned them out.
In between the door and the stage sprouted a maze of mismatched tables and booths, every single one packed with a diverse crowd of magical folk. Witches and wizards who looked barely of legal age mingled at tables just yards away from witches and wizards who made Dumbledore look spry. Clio spotted hags, banshees, vampires, goblins and even a centaur in the crowd. Dress styles included British robes and cloaks, muggle garb, kimonos, tunics, togas, kaftans and hijabs. The crowd seemed oblivious to the band, but she supposed that was better than booing them off-stage, or worse, hurling jinxes.
"I like this place already," Clio said, as a well-chiseled couple clad in matching leather loin clothes, vests and boots strutted by. "Although, spotting Henry might not be as easy as I thought it would be."
"What does he look like?" Remus asked, scanning the crowd. He noticed her mouth quirk up in its first genuine smile since their discussion in his office, and the weight in his chest eased a little. He'd hated to see her disappointed.
"Like a big teddy bear," she said. "He's black, a couple inches shorter than you, a little on the round side, and will probably be carrying a lyre."
Remus smiled, "Turn around," he said.
She turned and saw Henry waving to them from the far end of the bar, a frosty beer glass by his hand and his lyre propped up on the seat next to him. Clio ran to embrace him. As usual, he was impeccably dressed in deep purple and gray and smelled of the linseed oil that he lovingly rubbed into each of his instruments. She felt him laugh as he hugged her. His deep brown eyes looked over her shoulder, sweeping over Remus, who hung behind.
"Henry Orfeo, Remus Lupin. Remus Lupin, Henry Orfeo," Clio said, gesturing to the two of them in turn, smiling nervously, eyes glowing. Henry stood up to shake hands, then picked up his glass in one hand and his lyre in the other.
"They've got a private table for us in the back," he said, nodding toward a darkened archway near a booth full of vampires. Clio followed him through the crowd, Remus staying close behind. Henry nodded toward the band on stage. "Keep an ear out for those guys," he said.
"Really?" she asked, wrinkling her nose.
"You don't like them?"
He shook his head. "They're American. I talked to them earlier about recording together."
Clio was distracted by a pair of gruff, grizzled men who she caught eyeing them closely over their beers as they passed by their table. They seemed most interested in Remus, their backs stiffening and eyes narrowing at him. Clio looked back at him, and saw him acknowledge the two strangers with a barely perceptible nod. They stared at him for a moment, then nodded back. Remus read the question in her eyes and leaned forward to whisper into her ear, "Werewolves."
"How can you tell?"
"Sixth sense," he replied with a shrug.
They passed from the main room through a dim corridor, and up a narrow flight of stairs to a smaller room with just a few tables. The entire energy of the room centered around the three young wizards holding court at the long table opposite the private bar. All three were dressed in artfully distressed black robes.
Clio recognized Kirley Duke, the devastatingly handsome lead guitarist of the Weird Sisters, right away by his unruly black locks and piercing blue eyes. The other two (one brunet and extremely hairy, the other blond and only moderately hairy) she wasn't sure about. Duke was surrounded by a bevy of giggling young men and women, and half a dozen pitchers in various stages of emptiness littered the table.
"Henry!" The hairy brunet called out. "We wondered if you had abandoned us. Are these your friends?" he asked, his glance brushing over Clio and Remus.
"Yes," Henry said, then introduced them as, "Clio Callimachus, my muse, and her friend Remus Lupin." The brunet introduced himself as bassist Donaghan Tremlett and the blond as lutist Herman Wintringham. The three musicians laughed as they leaned forward to shake Clio's hand.
"Seriously, her presence increases the music ability of everyone in the room," Henry said matter-of-factly.
"He's exaggerating," Clio interjected.
"Not by much," he insisted.
"Is that why she's here tonight?" asked Duke.
"No, she's also good company," Henry said, taking a sip of beer.
"Henry doesn't need my help, which you'll hear as soon as he plays his lyre for you," said Clio.
"We're going to be parting with quite a bit of money to have him build us instruments," Tremeltt said, all business.
"Who do you think built that lyre?" Clio said, with her slyest smile.
"Well, let's get some drinks for these people," Duke said, clapping his hands. A waitress appeared instantly at his side. "Get these folks whatever they like," he said to her, gesturing toward them with a flourish of his hands. "It's all going on our tab."
Remus looked at Clio who looked at Henry, who nodded.
"I'll have whatever local ale you recommend," Clio said.
"Mulled mead for me," said Remus. The waitress nodded and their drinks appeared immediately on her tray.
"So, are you musicians, too, then?" Duke asked Clio, his eyes flitting from her to Remus.
"No, I'm actually a teacher," she said, laughing. "We're both teachers at Hogwarts," she continued, gesturing to Remus.
"Get out," he said, looking back and forth between the two of them. "You didn't go to Hogwarts," he said pointing to Clio, then pointed to Remus, "What about you?"
"Ahh, Hufflepuff '89," he said. "Donny the Ravenclaw graduated in '90 and Herman over there just vacated Hufflepuff House in May."
"'89, that's the same year you graduated from Salem, isn't it?" Remus asked.
"Yep," Clio said.
"So what do you teach?" Duke asked Remus.
"Let's hear you play, then," Tremlett asked Henry, nodding to the lyre, which rested on a seat of its own. "It's lovely to look at, let's hear how it sounds."
"Donny, Donny, Donny," interrupted Duke, "We haven't even eaten yet. Let's get our priorities straight." He clapped again for the waitress, whose fake smile didn't quite cover her irritation at his method of summoning her.
She tossed a few menus on the table from the restaurant next door. "Tell me what you'd like and I'll order it for you."
Clio scanned the entire list, looking for something that she could eat. She heard the Sisters ordering various permutations of steak and fish, then it was Remus' turn.
“Ribeye, very rare."
She fell back on her favorite. "Chips.”
The waitress vanished with a loud crack.
"Chips? Is that all you want?” Remus asked
“Nothing beats a fried potato.”
“You can have some of mine, if you change your mind.”
“Oh, no thank you.”
Henry gazed at her intently.
She looked at Remus guiltily. “I'm vegetarian. You won't have noticed since you sit so far away at meals.”
“No, I never noticed,” he said, face going suddenly pale.
"I wouldn't say that you're not a musician," Henry said, sensing that a change in subject was in order. "You were getting too good to never play again."
"Clio, do you play an instrument?" Remus asked, taking a sip of his mead and looking at Clio curiously as she frowned into her beer.
"She played a few instruments at school," Henry elaborated. "And she can sing."
"Yes, I've heard her sing," Remus said with a smile.
"Oh, that party doesn't count," Clio said, going red.
"I thought you were quite good," Remus said lightly. "What did you play?"
"Flute, piano and guitar," Henry said.
"I'm sitting right here, I can talk for myself," Clio snapped at him. “I sucked at the flute,” she said then to Remus.
“There's your problem, right there,” Duke cut in. “You're supposed to blow a flute.”
“I sucked at blowing the flute,” she said with a laugh. “I hated the piano.”
The waitress returned with another sharp crack and laid plate after plate on the table. Remus' steak was still bloody. Clio tried to ignore the way he tore into it as she went to work on her large mound of chips.
"Now, that's how a real man eats his steak," Duke said, pointing his fork at Remus. Remus smiled politely and shifted uncomfortably in his seat .
"Sorry, didn't get a chance to warn you. Kirley's in a mood tonight," Tremlett whispered.
Remus took another bite of cool meat, and watched Clio eat a few more chips as he chewed thoughtfully.
"Do you still play the guitar?" he asked.
"No," Clio said, staring at her plate. His silence told her that he was waiting for her to expand on her answer. "I used a school guitar, and I just never got around to buying my own."
"Well, technically you did," said Henry.
"Is it still at the shop, then?" Clio asked, concentrating on the chip she held.
"Yes. A few people have asked to try it out, but it's beech. It won't play for them. It barely plays for me."
Clio nodded, putting the chip in her mouth and chewing it slowly. Remus glanced at her, concerned.
"Why wouldn't it play?" asked Tremlett, interest piqued.
"It's a magic instrument, made from wand-quality wood to my specifications," Clio said. She took a sip of beer and then made Henry's sales pitch for him. "These aren't ordinary guitars that you're buying. They're essentially extensions of your wands. When you pick them up for the first time they're going to respond to you in the same way that your wands do."
Tremlett and Wintringham exchanged a look, and Clio knew that they were sold.
Henry wiped his mouth and hands and pushed his empty plate aside. "Since you asked," he said. He picked up his teardrop-shaped lyre and held it out for their inspection.
"My wand is made from pear, just the like the body and yoke. The bridge and arm are cherry."
The strings shivered at his touch. He turned the instrument around to show them a long thin notch on the backside of the yoke. He took out his wand and slid it into the notch. The lyre and wand clung to each other like long separated lovers. Henry stroked the strings, murmuring, "Modulatio tangite," and the pegs holding the strings turned themselves, not stopping until Henry nodded that he was satisfied. Without any fanfare, he began to play. His fingers danced effortlessly over the strings, and his lyre sang.
Clio leaned close to Remus, who watched with rapt attention, and whispered, "Watch how the crowd reacts." He understood as soon as Henry's rich, velvet baritone joined the lyre, floating over and under and sometimes melding with it's chorus of voices. Heads turned along the entire length of the table.
The waitress stopped wiping up spills and pulled up a chair, her forgotten bar rag wiping the same spot over and over again.
By the time he finished his song, most of the young women and several of the young men who'd previously been clustered around Duke had assembled around Henry. Even Duke gazed lustfully at him, now.
Clio smiled at Remus. "He's like a brother, so I'm immune."
"So let's talk about design," Tremlett said, sounding as if he were waking from a dream.
Henry set aside his lyre, and after another sip of beer, reached into his robes for a quill and parchment. "What have you got in mind?"
"I want something unique. It's going to be black of course, but the shape needs to be special. I was thinking of something like a … bat wing," he whispered.
"Interesting," said Henry, starting to sketch. "Do you want to see bones in the wing, like it's three-dimensional? Or just a flat wing shape?"
Tremlett exchanged a wide-eyed look of glee with Wintringham. "Three-dimensional."
Henry sketched for a moment longer, then pushed the parchment toward him. "What about something like this?"
"Marvelous! Can you make it pointier though? And the headstock should look wingish, too."
"Give it a claw!" Clio butted in. The three of them turned to her. "You know, that little thumb thing at the top of the bat wing."
Remus nodded, sopping up the blood on his plate with a piece of bread while Clio was distracted, “I think it is a thumb, actually.”
Henry nodded and revised his sketch. Tremlett nodded his approval.
"What type of wood is your wand?" Henry asked, pulling a measuring tape and calipers from his robes. "I'll need to measure it, too. And what type of strings do you want?"
"Walnut," he answered pulling his wand from a pocket. "What type of strings do you offer?" he asked giddily, laying his wand on the table.
"Unicorn hair, dragon heartstring and flitterbloom vine are what I recommend," Henry said, measuring the wand's length and the circumference at several points. "My own lyre is strung with unicorn hair." His eyes slid towards Clio as he continued, "Flitterbloom is favored by vegetarians."
"Unicorn hair, then, to match my wand," he said.
"Excellent choice," Henry murmured, finishing his notes and turning to Wintringham. "How about your lute?"
"Okay, the ribs are going to be black, but the face is going to be white..." he began.
Clio's attention was diverted by a soft touch on her arm. She turned to Remus, his pale eyes glimmering even in the dim light.
"Why is your guitar still in the shop?" he asked gently.
"I ordered it last spring. Then ... some family stuff came up and I didn't have the money to pay for it. Henry offered to do the work on his own time, but his boss was furious. The materials are expensive."
Remus opened his mouth to ask another question, then shut it again. He shook his head, "I'm sorry," he said.
"It's just a guitar," she said.
"It's yet another reason why I'm out seeking my own clients on my own time," said Henry. He recorded the measurements for Wintringham's wand, then moved on to Duke.
"Okay," Duke said, "I'm envisioning a guitar with three necks. One six-string, one twelve-string and..."
"You've never mentioned money problems," Remus said quietly, resisting the urge to take her hand in his.
She shrugged, "It never came up, and I didn't want to burden anyone with it."
"I can empathize with you, believe me."
"Everything should straighten itself out, eventually."
The waitress, who'd been hovering near Henry since he began singing, shook herself and asked if their empty glasses needed refilling. Clio nodded. After a few sips she excused herself and left in search of the ladies' room.
Remus turned to Henry, who was filling in his notes on the Sisters' instruments.
"So how much does an instrument like this cost?"
Henry studied him before answering. "She's already put 20 percent down, so that leaves 110 galleons."
Remus nodded, grimacing.
"She forfeits her deposit it if she doesn't pay in full by the end of the year," Henry said with a frown. "It'll be sold at auction for whatever the asshole can get for it."
Remus stared into his drink, running calculations through his head. "I'd buy it for her, but my own financial situation is … complicated."
"You're not married, are you?" Henry asked.
Remus looked up, eyes wide. "No. Why would you ask me that? We're not even-"
Henry laughed it off. "Forget it. You said 'complicated,' and I'm just looking out for my friend."
Remus sighed, looking thoughtful again. "I could pay half."
"I'm sure if I ask around I can get a few of our other friends to pitch in," Henry said. "She needs a hobby to distract her from obsessing over her grandfather."
Remus looked at him curiously, "Do we have an agreement, then?"
"We do," Henry said, offering his hand. They shook on it, Henry slipping him a card with payment instructions just before Clio returned to the table.
"What did I miss?" she asked. "Why are you smiling?"
"If these instruments turn out as awesome as I believe they will, then I'm opening my own shop," Henry said.
"Gentlemen, and lady," Duke interjected, "I believe a celebratory round is in order." He winked lasciviously at Henry as he handed him a glass.
Clio had gone through two pints and two shots of firewhiskey by the time they left. She was walking fairly straight, but tripped over an uneven floorboard and would have gone face down if Remus hadn't caught and steadied her. He maintained his hold even after they made it outside, and insisted on her walking for a few blocks to clear her head before Apparating back to Hogsmeade.
"Thanks for coming with me," she said, clinging to his arm, beyond caring about anything other than his warmth and solidity. "What did you think of Henry?"
"He's a good friend," he answered.
"He's my oldest wizard friend. We met at the Chicago train station, on our way to Salem. He taught me how to play exploding snap, and out of the bazillion games that we played by the time we reached the school I maybe managed to beat him a couple of times."
Remus looked at her curiously. "I met my first friends on the train to Hogwarts. I was stuck in a car, trying to read, with several very rowdy boys. James and Sirius were the rowdiest of the bunch. Lily was in that car too, and actually walked out because they were so obnoxious. I didn't expect to talk to them ever again, but then we were all sorted into Gryffindor."
She smiled, "And that was it? The rest is history, as they say?"
"Well, there's a bit more to it. It was Lily who befriended me first. She was … everyone liked Lily. I might have had a schoolboy crush on her until James..." he stammered.
"Oh, she was one of those girls," Clio said, smiling bitterly, the smile not reaching her eyes.
He flushed. "I didn't mean–"
"No, I'm definitely more of cult classic than a best seller," she said, refusing to look at him.
"I think you would have been friends, if you could have known each other."
She nodded absentmindedly, replaying her last two statements in her head and wondering what had possessed her to make them.
"Are you ready?" he asked, hoping that she wouldn't remember this once she'd sobered up.
"To Disapparate. I think we should go together, again."
"Right, yeah." Clio leaned into him more than she had on the way there, and he didn't protest. They didn't drop arms until they'd made it well past the dementors at the gate, and then only because Remus needed to reach into his pocket to get the chocolate.
“Sorry I was so bitchy back there,” she said, as they walked up the stairs together.
“What? No, not at all,” he answered. Without thinking about what he was doing, Remus walked with her all the way to the fifth floor.
She turned to him hopefully at her door. He gazed into her fiery eyes, felt himself beginning to melt, and backed away before he could do anything foolish.
"Clio," he began, but struggled with what to say next. "I haven't had a real relationship in a long time. I don't know the right way to go about it."
She smiled, stunned at his words. "Neither do I. I don't think anyone does."
"I do like you as more than a friend. Please be patient with me, that's all I ask," he said.
"Okay," she said, waiting hopefully. When he made no move toward her she sighed. "Good night, then?"
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