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Chapter 4 : Two Owls
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Disclaimer: The story title is a song originally recorded (under that title) by Bob Dylan. The world, characters and canon events belong to J. K. Rowling. Everything else belongs to me. It is illegal to publish and distribute fanfiction without J.K. Rowling's permission. You may not copy, post elsewhere, change or edit any part of this story. You may not claim it as your own.
The two weeks that had passed since graduation had been uneventful for Remus Lupin. He’d spent several days out, campaigning various places to let them know that he was available for hire. He’d dressed his best, which wasn’t very impressive - he didn’t have nice clothing at all; he kept ruining it on accident during his transformations, and his parents couldn’t afford to keep buying him new things. The result was patched clothing that had had the seams let out two or three times already as he grew.
Remus sighed. Nothing. Nobody wanted to hire a werewolf. Every time he filled out an application, his quill had hovered above the line, Check ‘yes’ if you have a criminal history, dangerous condition, or are a Squib. Criminal history, he could deal with. And even Squibs got lucky in finding work in the wizarding world. But it was the tiny print below the check box that always got him. If yes, please explain:
He sighed, rapping his knuckles on the worn tabletop in frustration. He was reduced to applying at private shops, having tried everywhere else. Yesterday he’d combed Diagon Alley, picking up applications for every store. The day before, he’d gone through Hogsmeade. He hardly had the heart to even fill them out; he’d already leafed through them. They all asked the question about his history and background.
Though he doubted finding a job in either town, he couldn't help but picture himself as an Igor, faithful assistant to a random shop owner, never amounting to anything more than that. He snorted and shoved the stack of applications away before resting his elbows on the table and burying his face in his hands, defeated.
He felt he would be sitting here, filling out pointless applications, for so long that he'd have a thick layer of dust covering him before he was done. And then he still probably wouldn't have a job.
A small, light brown owl suddenly swooped through the open window beside the table. Remus spared it a glance, welcoming the distraction from visions of his hunch-backed, dust-covered self.
“Hullo, Aristotle,” he told the bird absently, stroking its feathery chest in greeting. “Got a letter for me, eh?” This was James’s owl; he’d seen the bird many times. As he reached to untie the scroll attached to the bird’s leg, Aristotle hooted and bobbed up and down.
“Calm down,” Remus remarked, slightly irritated as he struggled with the knot. Aristotle flapped his wings impatiently. “Bollocks, you’re just like Prongs,” he stated in a scandalized tone, and feeling almost as if he'd just come out of battle once he finally freed the letter. The handsome bird took off instantly without looking back.
Before he had a chance to open the note, however, his mother emerged from the hallway and looked towards the table where he sat. “Remus, I’m off to work,” she announced, moving towards him to say goodbye.
“Have a nice day,” he said dully, staring unseeingly at the note in his hand as she kissed his hair and then brushed it smooth with her fingers.
“Keep trying,” she urged him with a nod towards the applications. Then she heaved an exhausted sigh, wishing for a day off; she adjusted the strap of her bag and checked that her robes were straight. “I'll see you tonight.”
“Bye,” he mumbled, feeling his ears turn red with shame. He hated seeing his mother work so hard at her age to support him, her grown son still living at home. She'd even spoken to several people at the Ministry on his behalf, both in the Obliviator department (where she worked) and in all other areas. It had been useless; with the Ministry keeping tabs on all "creatures," as he was so often labelled, he couldn't even get a job on the Knight Bus.
As if to back up his feelings of uselessness, his father gave a loud snore from the bedroom. The man had given up everything for Remus, in search of a cure. He still worked nights in the Ministry's Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, just as he always had. But for the past decade, he'd spent all of his spare time among well-known Potion Masters, begging for their help and trying to fund their research.
If possible, his father was even more exhausted than his mother. Remus couldn't help but wonder (and hope) if things were better for them when he wasn't around, when he was away at school and they didn't have to financially support him on top of everything else.
He idly fingered the rolled up parchment in his hand as he listened to his father's heavy snores. He had to do something, for he couldn't continue living in such shame. He knew his parents were somewhat alienated within the community, and all because of himself.
Frustrated, he ripped open the note and quickly scanned over the familiar handwriting.
How is the job hunt going? Not well? I didn’t think so.
I haven’t got a job yet either, and neither does Sirius, if that makes you feel any better. We tried to apply at the Ministry, but after discovering that they use Dark Magic to capture suspects, I decided it wasn’t the job for us.
Yes, the Aurors use Dark Magic, you read it right. Yes, it’s mental.
I’ve found something else I’d like to do instead. If you’re interested, I’d love to have you doing it with us. I’ve already got Padfoot. I sent a letter to Peter as well. Owl me back if you want to, and we’ll meet somewhere to discuss.
Always your friend,
Remus folded the note and smirked. There was James, coming to the rescue just like he always did. He wasn’t sure what job his friend could possibly have in mind that would take a werewolf such as himself, but James hadn’t seemed concerned about it; he hadn’t mentioned it, at least. If anyone could get him into something, Remus reasoned, James could.
He grabbed the application on the top of the stack and flipped it over.
Any time is fine to meet - just let me know.
That's horrible about the Auror positions. I'm sorry it didn't work out. No luck finding work here. I've started applying in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Hogsmeade would be a rather embarrassing place to work, don't you think? Seeing all the old students... Oh well, I doubt I'll find a job there anyway.
He cursed Aristotle for taking off without a response, folded up the note and went outside. They lived in an old cabin in a clearing in the woods. He’d hated it growing up; it was in these woods that he’d sustained the bite from the werewolf Fenrir Greyback. Now was not the time for dwelling on that, however; he put two fingers in his mouth and let out a shrill whistle.
From somewhere high in the trees, a hoot was heard, and then a ruffling of feathers. The next thing he knew, a grey owl swooped towards him and landed gracefully on the porch railing.
“It goes to James,” Remus told the bird, attaching the letter to its leg.
He stood back and watched as it flew away, until he could no longer see it over the treetops. As he turned to go back inside, he realized he was suddenly anxious for James’s return owl with the date. He’d missed his friends in the two weeks since school had been out - as their small cabin didn’t have a fireplace, using the Floo to chat wasn’t an option for him. They’d promised to meet for sure every full moon of the month, but Remus had been hoping for something more. He’d like to spend time with them when he was in his right mind as well. Whatever this job was, he was eager for it to start.
Peter Pettigrew hated his life. He didn’t think anyone could blame him, if they knew what it was really like. Even as he came to this conclusion, a wad of mashed potatoes hit him in the face. His three year old brother shrieked in glee as Peter narrowed his eyes and clenched his teeth together. Dinner was always like this at the Pettigrew household, and if Peter complained about it, he got the usual answer from his mother:
He’s just a toddler, Peter.
Today, however, his mother didn’t give any excuse for his brother. She pursed her lips as she watched Peter clean his face off with the napkin. “When are you going to move out, Peter?” she asked casually.
Peter stopped scrubbing his napkin over his cheek and looked across the dinner table in dismay. “What?”
“Oh, you know...” said Mrs Pettigrew, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear. “You’re of age now, and finished with school. You haven’t even tried to get a job yet...”
Peter definitely would have given anything to trade lives with any one of his friends. All three of them had a place where they belonged. Even Sirius, whom he knew had been mistreated at home for how he chose to live his life. But all had worked out for Sirius - his home was now with the Potters. That was where he went for the holidays, that was where he went home for dinner, even after he got his own flat. Or even Remus, who’s family was poor, but happy and cheerful; they did their best, and they got by all right. And James was a given - James had always led a charmed life.
Peter hated his own family. His father had died thirteen years earlier, and since then his mother had had quite a few men over. That was how he’d ended up with a three year old brother. His mother didn’t even know who the father was. Little Ben was given his mother's maiden name instead of a father's last name.
His brother got away with everything, too. Whenever Peter went home for the summer holidays, it was to find his bedroom in ruins from Ben playing in there all year without any discipline. Candy wrappers were strewn everywhere - months old chocolate had melted into his bedding and carpet. But it didn’t matter - he hated his room anyway.
His mother had decorated it and insisted it remained the way it was; it was her house, after all, as she frequently reminded him. He had flowery curtains and flowery blankets on his bed. Even if he wasn’t embarrassed of his family, he still would never invite his friends over because he was embarrassed of his bedroom as well.
The one thing that kept him going was the account at Gringott’s he was set to inherit as soon as he reached eighteen. It was a trust that had been made for him when he was a child with his father’s funds. Though he was already of age, the Ministry had wanted to be sure he was out of Hogwarts first, and as his birthday was in the summer, had set the date for then. It was possible, even, that his father had chosen his eighteenth birthday in his will. His father was Muggleborn, after all, and eighteen was when Muggles were of age.
It was only a few weeks away now, thought Peter hungrily. The second week of August and then he’d be out of here. Needless to say, he was in no rush to look for a job right away with a large pile of gold waiting for him in the wizarding bank.
For the moment, however, he took a bite of green beans and shoved the thought of gold from his mind. “I’ve been looking,” he insisted. “I’ve been taking The Daily Prophet and checking their advertisements every day!”
It was true; he’d been taking the paper to his bedroom and looking through the ads, but then he’d grow bored, toss it aside and pick up one of his comic books instead.
“And yet you’ve found nothing?” his mother stated doubtfully. “I know the Ministry is hard pressed for employees right now, Peter, in every department!”
Peter hung his head guiltily. There was no way around this little fact.
“I see,” said Mrs Pettigrew softly. “You are the least ambitious boy I have ever met, Peter. I want you to go to your room and think about your laziness.”
Peter glared at her for a moment, but she turned away, giving all her attention to Ben. He finally sighed and pushed his chair back forcefully, throwing his napkin down, leaving the dinner table and heading to his room.
Once inside the flowery eyesore of a bedroom, he slammed the door and flopped heavily onto his bed, picking up one of his comic books. He wouldn’t think about so-called laziness even if it was the last thing to think about on earth, he told himself defiantly. He rifled through the pages of the comic to find where he’d left off last time.
A low hoot sounded abruptly, taking Peter by surprise so badly that he jumped and sent the comic book flying. There sat James’s owl, balancing on top of his desk.
“Aristotle,” Peter breathed, his heart hammering wildly. “You scared the everlasting shit out of me,” he murmured, approaching the owl to take the message tied around his leg. “So Prongs wrote to me. Maybe I haven’t been forgotten after all,” he said dryly, untying the letter.
Aristotle didn’t look amused at the sarcastic comments. He nipped Peter’s finger harshly, and the moment he was free of the note, he was gone out the window, taking extra care to slap Peter upside the face with a wing as he went.
Peter blinked rapidly, feeling foolish, for his eyes had begun to water slightly. “Even the owls treat me like rubbish around here,” he muttered, unrolling the scroll and peering at it.
How is your summer? Little brother still being a pain in the arse? I bet you can’t wait until you have the gold to get out of there. Only a few more weeks, mate!
I’m writing to ask if you want to join us for a job. I can’t give the details in a letter, but its something I’ve already spoken to Sirius about, and I sent a letter inviting Remus as well. The Auror thing for the Ministry didn’t exactly work out, and I’ve come across something else.
Let me know.
Peter rolled his eyes. Of course, Sirius was the first to know. And of course, Remus was the second. As usual, he was last in line. Despite the bitterness, he was desperate to get out of the house and away from his family. He ripped off a piece of the parchment and wrote back that he was definitely interested.
“Bloody stupid owl,” he muttered, glaring out the window.
James’s owl never seemed to wait for anyone’s response. He couldn’t leave his room at the moment without getting in trouble; that meant his letter had to wait until morning to be sent out by the family owl. He placed the note on the windowsill for now and turned back to his flowery bed and comic book.
“I can’t wait to get out of here,” he muttered unhappily. Seeing his friends again, as jealous as he was of each of them, would definitely be a good thing right about now.
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