Remus rediscovers a love from his past and Harry discovers a few things too during the Summer after fifth year. Sequel to Acceptance and Animal Attraction
Disclaimer: This story is based on the stories and characters created by J.K. Rowling and I am in no monetary way profiting from it.
Special thanks to my superb Beta Bring and Fly. Baffy, your speed and dedication has earned you and the Phoenix Song readers a first look at this chapter.
Also, to reviewer malko050987 – my current outline for this story holds it at 7 chapters, but my original outline only had 3 chapters. I didn’t add any new scenes, they just ended up being longer when written than when outlined. So anyway – at least 7 chapters, if that helps.
The first Order of the Phoenix meeting after Harry returned to Grimmauld Place was a highly anticipated event. Apparently, people interested in joining now that Voldemort’s return was public had approached many original members.
"How did they even know who to approach?" Harry asked Lupin. They were having their nightly conversation early due to the late night meeting, and Ron and Ginny had joined them.
"Yeah, we can’t have been keeping it too good a secret if everyone knows who the members are," agreed Ron.
Remus gave them a quiet smile, one they remembered well from the classroom. "Anyone out there aware enough to realize something like the Order exists can probably also guess who among their friends might be involved."
"Well, why are we allowing them to join now, though?" Ron asked, his slightly bitter tone matching Harry’s own feelings about it. "They left us to our own devices last year."
"Well, some people are of the opinion that we need all the help we can get. Not everyone not in the Order last year was like Fudge or Umbridge. Some just wished it wasn’t true, others were afraid to lose their jobs and other were just in plain denial."
"Like Percy," Ginny spoke up for the first time on the subject and Harry found his resentment quelled by her astute observation.
"Exactly." Lupin smiled at her like the approving teacher he was. "And I’m sure no one here thinks Percy doesn’t deserve a chance, right?" He looked pointedly at Ron.
"Erm… No," Ron said, shifting his weight and looking away to avoid Lupin’s gaze.
Movement and soft noise coming from the entry hall suggested people were arriving for the meeting. As one, they all stood from the kitchen table and started clearing their dishes.
"But why is there even an Order at all now that everybody knows Voldemort’s back?" Harry continued the conversation. "Shouldn’t we be gathering a public army of some sort?"
"Like Voldemort’s doing?" Lupin asked ironically. "As long as Death Eater identities and movement are at least partially obscure, it’s wise for us to…"
Lupin stopped mid-sentence and froze, looking as alert as Harry had ever seen him. He turned his head sharply towards the entrance to the room. His intense gaze and posture reminded Harry of his inner predator. Harry, Ginny and Ron all followed Lupin’s gaze to where Kingsley Shacklebolt stood at the kitchen door with an unfamiliar woman.
"Excuse me," Remus croaked, his voice even more hoarse than usual. He left them and made his way over to the pair.
"Who is that?" Ginny hissed urgently.
Harry was about to respond that he didn’t know when he saw the woman turn and see Remus approaching. The look on her face struck a chord. She was older – of course, her brown hair was shorter, her face was more mature – but the way she looked at Remus was almost disturbingly the same.
"It’s Beatrice Bennet," he said, barely audible.
"So? And who’s she?" Ron asked, his mildly impatient tone reminding Harry that his friends knew nothing of Beatrice.
"She and Remus went out at Hogwarts," he responded watching as the couple drew closer to their reunion.
On either side of him, two red heads turned to gape at him for an instant before whipping their heads back to look at the woman in question with new interest. Harry had not taken his eyes off the couple as Remus closed the distance between them. He wondered just how awkward the meeting would be and wished vainly he had a set of Extendable Ears.
As they moved away from the doorway to allow others to pass, Beatrice looked around the crowded kitchen of this dark house, trying to assimilate all the information Kingsley had been feeding her since they crossed its threshold. It was all overwhelming, yet oddly made a satisfying sense.
"This house belonged to Sirius Black’s family?" she asked.
She looked around at the telltale signs of dark magic, and felt a cold chill go down her back. "And he was actually innocent?"
"Yes." The firm tone of Kingsley’s voice conveyed much in that single word. Sirius’s family may have lived in this house, but Sirius had lived outside of its reach, Beatrice realized.
She was about to ask another question when she turned and saw him, Remus Lupin. He was walking towards her with a very intense look in his golden brown eyes. It put her in mind of how he used to look at her across the common room or down the table in the Great Hall while he ate breakfast with his mates. She swallowed and tried to remind herself she was well past fifteen.
"Oh, Merlin," she whispered, starting to regret this idea.
"Courage, Gryffindor," murmured Kingsley, his low voice rumbling in her ear.
It had been their motto at Hogwarts. She no longer remembered who started it – but it was a rallying cry among their classmates before Quidditch matches, important exams, and other stress inducing events. Hearing it reminded her of so many good things, not the least of which was that she was a Gryffindor, and Gryffindors faced their fears. So, when Remus Lupin drew up in front of her, she faced him with a mostly genuine smile.
"Beatrice," he said. His voice had always had a hoarse quality, but it had matured so much it was difficult to tell if the gravelly rumble she heard in his tone was anything different than his usual timbre.
"Hello, Remus," she responded, trying to sound like it hadn’t been almost 20 years since she saw him last.
"You’ve changed your hair," he noted. She did not miss the way his eyes swept over her.
"Only about ten years ago," she responded, unable to resist digging him a little over his long silence. Satisfied when he looked sheepishly back at her, she continued, "I found out it made much more sense for work." In truth, she had chopped off her long hair after an emotional break up when she found herself in desperate need of a change. It had ended up being better for work, but she hadn’t thought of that before.
His eyes lingered on her hair another moment. ‘Here it comes,’ she thought. Men like to chastise women for chopping their locks. Long hair somehow equaled beauty and femininity to them. The first time her ex had seen her afterwards he had made a bitter comment about her sexuality. Not that she blamed him, considering the way she had broken it off.
When Remus declared, "It suits you," she couldn’t have been more surprised.
She smiled and took the opportunity to look him over. There was more gray in his light brown hair and more lines and small scars on his face then a man his age had a right to. Of course, in Remus’s case, it was understandable. His golden-brown eyes still had a kind yet mischievous glow, and the closed mouth smile that played at his lips still made her want to…
‘Patience, Beatrice!’ she mentally berated herself. After all, she had no idea what his life was like. She reminded herself to have no expectations from him except closure, whatever that meant. She was here to do her part for the war, not rekindle a long dead romance. Still, there was no harm in letting him know a thing or two.
"Thank you, Remus. You look terrible, by the way. The full moon was a couple weeks ago, you should have recovered better. Are you on Wolfsbane? You’re eating properly, aren’t you?" she quizzed him in her very best Healer’s voice.
"Yes, I…wait…what?" He started to answer her question before catching up to the implication of her words. "You know?" he asked wonderingly.
"Well," she admitted with some embarrassment, "I didn’t work it out until my training on Creature-Induced Injuries. They were going over all the signs and symptoms and it just clicked. I went home that night with a moon calendar and dug up my old diary from my fifth year. Sure enough, you were always sick right after the full moon." ‘And always quite affectionate right before,’ she silently added.
He stared at her for a moment, clearly gobsmacked. She couldn’t blame him. She had certainly spent the night she figured it out in a numb stupor. She wasn’t exactly sure what to say now, either. She let her Healer’s instincts kick in again. "So, you are taking care of yourself, aren’t you?" she inquired gently. She suppressed the desire to lay a hand on his arm, for fear of what might happen.
His expression was mildly chagrined. "Have you ever met Molly Weasley?"
Beatrice forced herself not to wince at the name of another woman. She couldn’t be surprised – it was 19 years since he had left Hogwarts, and her. Of course he had moved on. She concentrated on keeping her voice steady and pleasant when she replied, "No, I can’t say I have."
"You’ll understand when you meet her tonight. I hope she at least looks on me as a younger brother, but truthfully it’s more like I’m just another of her many sons…"
"Sons?" Beatrice’s heart leapt and she didn’t even bother keeping the pleased and surprised tone from her voice. It seemed she had misinterpreted.
"She has six, and one daughter," Remus explained, gesturing the way he had come. "Her youngest two are over there with…"
"Oh my gods!" Beatrice exclaimed, having followed his gesture with her eyes.
"Harry," Remus finished needlessly.
"Oh my gods," she repeated in barely a whisper.
"Uncanny, isn’t it?" Kingsley, who might as well have been invisible during their exchange, asked with a chuckle.
She nodded, unable to take her eyes off the boy across the room. "I knew – that is, I’ve seen pictures in the papers but to see him – Sweet Merlin," she whispered in awe. Then she looked up at Remus. "How do you stand it?" she asked.
He shrugged and smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes. "There are differences up close, most notably he has Lily’s eyes. And I taught him in his third year, so I got to know him in his own right. It was harder for Sirius."
The catch in his voice drew her full attention. He was looking at her much the same way Kingsley had at lunch the week before – as if testing her reaction to the mention of Sirius. This time, however, she had much more of the story. It didn’t help her much in the face of the anguish etched in his visage.
"King gave me the abbreviated version when we arrived – and of course I read the Quibbler," she said. Then she took a deep breath, unsure of how to continue, but fairly sure that her instinct to embrace him was inappropriate based on their current status, not to mention the gathering crowd. She ended up letting out a half-rueful sigh. "You know, at St. Mungo’s we’re trained to deal with grief and help people through it and suddenly it all seems so inadequate." She looked up into Remus’s golden-brown eyes. "I’m so very sorry," she whispered.
She could tell that her words and her eyes had conveyed the proper sentiment by his expression. She thought she saw a flicker of movement in her lower periphery, as if his arms moved towards her for a second. If they did, he must have thought better of it, as his arms were safely by his sides when he finally spoke.
"Thank you." He acknowledged her condolence, then almost physically shook off the melancholy of the subject. He smiled at her with a bit of a sly twinkle that reminded her both thrillingly and painfully of their schooldays. "You wouldn’t want to meet him, would you?"
Her attention was drawn back to the young man across the room. "Could I?" she asked.
"We have a few minutes before the meeting starts," he answered, "If Kingsley will excuse us?"
Kingsley nodded and winked at Beatrice not so subtly. "Of course, I have to talk to Mad-Eye anyway. Enjoy, Bea."
Before Beatrice could figure out if Kingsley was telling her to enjoy or telling Remus to enjoy her, she felt a hand on her elbow steering her across the crowded kitchen. Though she had barely spared Kingsley a second glance when the three of them were standing together, she was now painfully aware that she was alone with Remus.
‘Alone in a room full of people?’ her inner voice prodded.
‘You know what I mean,’ she countered.
She realized her inner conversation was promoting a somewhat awkward silence. She decided to satisfy her curiosity as to where Remus Lupin had been for the past 19 years. "So, have you been teaching all these years?"
He paused for a moment and she felt his fingers twitch at her elbow. "No."
She frowned, confused. "You did say you taught Harry, though?"
"I taught Defense of the Dark Arts at Hogwarts for a year – I had to resign."
"Yes, the Daily Prophet was full of oblique and direct references to that over the past couple of years. I suppose it was because of the lycanthropy?" she asked, though it was obvious.
"Yes," he sighed.
She frowned again and could feel her indignation rise on his behalf. "But if Dumbledore already knew…"
"It wasn’t him. A fellow professor revealed my affliction to his students and from there the governors and the Ministry. I believe Albus would have supported me to his own detriment…"
"Like he did Harry last year?"
He looked at her as if startled by the observation. "Yes. Anyway, it’s rather too long a story to get into now." He resumed their progress across the kitchen.
"Did you like it? Teaching, I mean," she asked in an idle conversational tone. His mannerisms had changed little enough in the passing years that she could tell he wanted to drop the subject, but she found she couldn’t completely let it go.
"Very much." She could tell he was holding back; she wondered what it would take to open him up to her again. Not that he had ever been completely open with her, she admitted ruefully.
"You must have been good at it," she observed. "You were always such a good tutor."
She chanced a look at his profile. A hard swallow and a leap in his pulse let her know he remembered their tutorials all too well. She allowed herself a secret, triumphant smile at being able to draw a reaction from him before changing the subject. "So tell me about Harry. Does he hate being told by every witch and wizard he meets that he looks just like his Dad?"
"He used to like it, but he recently decided being just like James may not be such a good thing."
"Well," Beatrice said, her professionalism kicking in again, "he is at an age where children begin to realize their parents aren’t infallible and rebel against them. So that’s reassuringly normal."
"Harry hasn’t exactly led a normal life," Remus countered, his tone reflecting an obvious protectiveness for the boy.
"Of course not." Beatrice softened her clinical tone. "His circumstances are unusual in the extreme, which is why seeing him do something a normal teen would, like rebel against his parents or other adult authority, is reassuring."
He neither agreed nor disagreed, probably as much because they were upon the very subject of their discussion as anything else.
"Beatrice, I’d like you to meet Ron and Ginny Weasley, and, of course, Harry Potter."
Bea noticed Harry made a face when Remus said, ‘of course.’
"Everyone, this is Beatrice…" Remus paused in his introduction and looked at her inquiringly. It took her a moment to realize why he paused.
"I’m still Bennet," she assured, surprised that he might think otherwise.
"Beatrice Bennet," he said with an odd look. "Bea is an old friend and fellow Gryffindor from Hogwarts."
Beatrice smiled and greeted the teens individually leaving Harry for last.
"Harry Potter," she said, trying to think of something to say that wouldn’t remind him of the reason that everyone in the wizarding world knew who he was. Finally she gave up. "You don’t know how I’m dying to hug you – but I won’t," she assured quickly, seeing his alarmed look. "I know teenage boys find it awkward and embarrassing to be hugged by strange old women."
He blushed slightly and gave her a shy smile. "You’re not so old."
She barked out a laugh and cried, "That does it!" She yanked him into a quick embrace, and then backed away quickly.
"If my schedule at St. Mungos permits, maybe I can come to a meeting early and tell you about how amazing your Mum was," she offered.
"I…" he paused for a moment, considering. "I think I’d like that."
She smiled at him and exerted all her self-control not to look at Remus to see if he would like it.
"You’re a Healer?" Ginny Weasley asked.
She turned to the sprightly red-haired girl and nodded. "Yes – is that a career that interests you?"
"Yes, I guess." The girl shrugged. "I mean a lot of things interest me. What’s your specialty?"
Beatrice couldn’t stop herself from glancing nervously at Remus for a moment. She didn’t need to reveal any more than she wanted, she knew – but discussing her career choices might give more of herself away than she was willing to for now. "Well," she began cautiously, "I had to study all areas, of course, and I’ve actually fairly recently decided to branch out into Potion and Plant Poisoning – before that I was involved in a sort of research and development project. Nothing high profile though. What interests you besides Healing?"
She shrugged again. "Oh you know, everything. Healing, Banking – my brother’s a Curse Breaker for Gringotts, Quidditch, maybe, if I’m good enough, and some ministry jobs might be all right…"
Beatrice couldn’t help exchange an amused look with Remus. This girl was full of the life, energy and possibilities of youth. "And do your O.W.L.s support all these choices?" she asked, smiling.
Ginny blushed. "Oh, I’m just starting my fifth year – but I do all right in school."
"Well, don’t believe all the horror stories. Fifth year was…" Beatrice paused. She wanted to say how fifth year had been her favorite, but wasn’t sure she could admit as much in front of Remus. She chanced a glance at him and from his uncomfortable posture judged he was apparently intuitive enough to guess what she was thinking. She felt her cheeks warm and decided to at least express most of her sentiment. "Let’s just say fifth year can be quite enjoyable – under the right circumstances."
Beatrice almost didn’t notice Ginny cast a brief glance at an oblivious Harry – almost. She felt a surge of kinship for the girl. She wondered what the history was behind her attraction to Harry and silently wished her luck in her pursuit. ‘More luck than I ultimately had,’ she thought ironically.
Any further thought on that front was cut short by Kingsley, who came up to them at that moment. "Severus is here. We’re going to start."
"Severus?" Beatrice asked, turning to Remus. "Not Severus Snape? That greasy Slytherin in your year who always looked like he was a fortnight late for his annual bath?"
When the three teens sniggered, she covered her mouth, aghast at what she had just said. "I’m sorry, that wasn’t very kind," she apologized. "You know, sometimes the raging hormones of our teen years wreak havoc on our bodies – gives us pimples and greasy hair. I’m sure he’s quite a normal looking adult."
"He’s not," Harry proclaimed, rather vehemently, a stormy expression crossing his face reminding Beatrice again how his father used to look when discussing the same subject.
"He’s as greasy as ever," Ron agreed with a snort.
Beatrice raised her eyebrows questioningly at Remus.
"Severus is the Potions Master at Hogwarts now," he explained.
"Ah. In that case I really shouldn’t have said anything disrespectful about him and neither should…" she paused in the middle of her admonishment and looked back at Remus sharply. "A colleague turned you in?" she asked, voicing her realization. "He did it, didn’t he?"
Remus merely nodded.
Beatrice suppressed her indignation on his behalf and regarded him through narrow eyes. "One of these days, you’ll have to tell me the whole story."
He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, she thought she saw a flicker there. Longing? Regret? A combination of both? She couldn’t be sure.
"Perhaps one of these days, I will," he said softly, making her heart leap with hope. Then his expression changed to one of authority. "In the mean time… Harry, Ron, Ginny – you’d best make your way upstairs before Molly sees you lingering about."
The teens bid their farewells obediently and, as Beatrice shook Harry’s hand and looked in into his hauntingly familiar, yet strangely new face, she swore to herself to make room in her schedule soon to come and spend time with this young man.
Harry, Ron and Ginny, too keyed up to go straight to bed, went upstairs to the drawing room as the meeting began. A part of Harry was dreading this moment. He realized as soon as he revealed prior knowledge of Beatrice’s existence that he would have to explain the hows and whys. Ron and Ginny knew that he and Remus had some private time his first night – and Ron knew Harry kept something in the cabinet in their room – but he had not discussed the Pensieve or its contents with anyone but Remus before tonight. He did not relish relinquishing this personal secret – on the other hand, meeting Beatrice in person was definitely something he wanted to discuss.
"Well," Ginny, as usual lately, was the first to speak. "For the first time I don’t feel like I’ve missed the most interesting part of an Order meeting."
"Too right," Ron agreed heartily.
Ginny cast a sly sidelong glance at Harry. "So, Harry, what was that all about?"
"All what?" he asked with feigned innocence.
"All what!?" she mimicked back at him. "Why, Beatrice and Remus, of course! They obviously didn’t just ‘go out.’ They went out! The way he stopped when she entered the kitchen – there was something there. And you recognized her, Harry – so you must know something about it. Come on, spill!"
Ron snorted in disgust. "Spill? Merlin, Ginny! This is Harry you’re talking to, not Lavender Brown. He’s not going to gossip with you about Professor Lupin."
Ginny stuck her tongue out at Ron and flopped into a large chair with a pout. "Well, the least you can do is tell us how you recognized her," she said to Harry.
Harry shifted uncomfortably. As he suspected, he wasn’t going to get out of this without telling them everything he knew, little as that was.
"Did he show you her picture over one of your private nightly teas?" Ginny asked. There was an edge to her voice that Harry didn’t like, as if she somehow resented the time he spent with Remus – though that seemed ridiculous. Perhaps she objected to secrets in general. He could understand that after being in the dark for so much of last year. Still, there were some personal things he wasn’t ready to talk about.
"They’re not private," he protested, hedging for time to think. "You and Ron join us all the time."
Ginny crossed her arms in front of her and raised an eyebrow at him. "Well, I certainly don’t remember any discussions about Remus’s love life – or pictures of his old flame."
"There’s no pictures," Harry said cautiously, knowing he would have to come out with it soon.
"But you recognized her," Ginny reiterated.
"It was from a Pensieve," Harry admitted with a capitulating sigh.
"You went snooping into Professor Lupin’s Pensieve?" Ginny asked, sounding like her mother on the brink of a good scolding.
"I wasn’t snooping!" he protested vehemently. "It’s my Pensieve. Remus gave it to me my first night here. He and … and Sirius made it for me. It shows the first time my parents went out. It was for a Halloween Ball and Beatrice went with Remus so she’s in it too. Satisfied?"
As much as he told himself he didn’t want to fight, Harry found himself tensing for one. Strange, generally Ginny was the one who could diffuse his temper with a well-placed joke or a not so gentle reminder that he was not the only person to suffer at the hands of Voldemort. Tonight, however, she was not having her usual calming effect – quite the opposite in fact.
Ginny faltered in her aggressive stance at his mention of Sirius, but her curiosity apparently won out over her sympathy. "You must know something about what happened to them, Harry. I cannot fathom, after seeing them tonight, why they possibly broke it off."
"It just sort-of happened. She was a couple of years behind him in school…" Harry started.
"That shouldn’t matter," Ginny interrupted in clipped tones, looking at him rather pointedly. "A lot of people go out with someone in another year."
Like she did with that Michael Corner bloke – or was currently doing with Dean, Harry found himself thinking with unexpected bitterness.
"Well, after he left Hogwarts he stopped answering her letters." That didn’t sound very good for Remus, Harry realized. He tried to think of a better way to explain it.
"What!?" Ginny exclaimed loudly, making it difficult for him to think reasonably. "Why would he do a cloth-headed thing like that?"
"He never told her about the werewolf thing." Harry attempted to explain again.
"What difference does that make?" Ginny asked with flip annoyance.
Her casual treatment of it set him on edge. "A big difference when you’re out of school in the real world and you can’t even find a job because everyone hates you just because of something that happened to you when you were a kid and you have no control over!" he defended in a rush of words and emotion.
"Well, she obviously knows now and doesn’t seem to care. I don’t see why it had to be such a big deal," Ginny said scornfully.
"It is a big deal!" Harry exclaimed standing from his chair. "It’s a big deal to have this dark part of your life that’s a threat to you and everyone else in your life. It doesn’t matter what she thinks about it now. What would she thought of it then? How was he supposed to trust a fifteen year old school girl with something so huge?"
Ginny stood too and took a step towards him. Her arms uncrossed and moved to her hips and her eyes flashed, turning dangerously dark. "How could he not trust her if he really cared about her. When you really care about someone, you take the risks and face the dark things together!"
Harry felt a strange knot in his chest. He was beginning to feel distinctly uncomfortable at the direction this argument was going, but found himself unable to back down from it. It wasn’t just Remus’s fault that things didn’t work out with Beatrice. Well, he admitted deep down in what was left of the reasonably calm part of his brain, it was mostly Remus’s fault – but as his friend, Harry felt honor bound to defend Remus’s position. The more he argued the position, the more he felt he was arguing for himself.
"That sounds nice – but how was he supposed to know if she really cared about him?" He mocked Ginny’s idealistic phrasing.
"What do you mean?" she hissed out. "Didn’t you just say she wrote to him religiously?"
"I didn’t say religiously…"
"And that he cowardly just didn’t answer?" she pressed.
"He is not cowardly!" Harry spat back.
"I think it’s clear which of them was the trusting, caring one," Ginny finished smugly.
How could she? Harry wondered. She knew Remus. How could she side with a woman she just met over Remus? Sure, Beatrice seemed really nice – but they were talking about Remus!
"She didn’t even know the real him!" He burst out accusingly, not sure whom he was accusing. "For all he knew she loved this fantasy of him, and when she found out who he really was – what being with him really meant – she wouldn’t want him anymore!" Harry’s head felt hot – not like he was flushed on the outside, but as if his anger was actually burning his brain – and for once Voldemort didn’t have anything to do with it.
"Are we back to that again already?" Ginny snorted, unimpressed. " I thought we’d established that it doesn’t matter. That’s not who he is."
"It’s a part of him, whether you see it or not." Harry bit out. He felt this argument was going in circles and he was getting confused. Somewhere along the way he felt like he had become Remus – but really he had just started arguing about his own problems and how they affected his relationship with an altogether different fifteen-year-old girl. The one who seemed to have lost interest in him about the same time she realized he wasn’t the great heroic ‘Boy Who Lived,’ but plain old messed-up Harry Potter. He was so caught up in this internal realization that he completely missed Ginny’s opposing argument. When he focused back on her she seemed to have a full head of steam.
"…And another thing…"
"She gave up on him!" he blurted. ‘You gave up on me!’ he thought accusingly.
"Wh…what?" she stammered, her steam cooling abruptly, though she snorted incredulously. "How can you say she’s the one who gave up? Of course when letter after letter goes unanswered she’s eventually going to take a hint that big and stop writing…"
"She got married," Harry almost sighed. He was glad they weren’t yelling anymore. The realization that he cared that Ginny gave up on him – that he cared about Ginny, left him suddenly exhausted.
Ginny gaped at him, and then laughed as if he had told a bad joke. "She didn’t! She said her name was still Bennet."
"That doesn’t mean anything these days."
"That’s true, Ginny," Ron agreed, almost causing them both to jump when they turned to looked at him. Harry felt the heat of a blush wash over his face when he realized he was so wrapped up in Ginny that he had completely forgotten Ron’s presence. "You remember back when Mum used to read Witch Weekly and rant about how these modern witches never take the name of their husbands – like they expect the marriage to fail?"
"But…Beatrice isn’t like that!" Ginny protested.
"We don’t really know anything about Beatrice," Harry countered, turning back to Ginny and crossing his arms firmly. "All I know is that a mutual friend told Remus that she was married."
Ginny looked completely undone. "How could she be? How could she look at him like she did tonight and be married to someone else?"
Ron snorted, and Harry could guess what he was thinking. Ginny’s romantic ideal of love and marriage didn’t necessarily reflect the real world. Harry had another question.
"I don’t know, Ginny, what makes a girl give up on a bloke she supposedly loves?" He asked, fixing her with what he hoped was a meaningful stare.
Ginny opened her mouth to retort, then stopped when her eyes met his. He thought he saw a flash of understanding in the brown depths, but it was quickly replaced with a renewed ire. "If she gave up on him, it’s his fault. He should have tried to find her, told her who he really was and how he really felt before she moved on!"
Harry sighed and uncrossed his arms. "I know," he admitted.
Ginny was building her temper back up again, taking a deep breath for another biting rail when he responded, yet his two words caused her to expel all her breath and stare at him with an odd vulnerability. "You…you do?" she stammered.
"I told him pretty much the same thing when he told me about her," he admitted.
The way she looked at him, for one crazy, exhilarating and terrifying moment he thought she would throw herself into his arms.
"Well, more or less," he said shifting uncomfortably. "Of course, that was before he told me that he heard she was married. And he did say he regretted never telling her about the werewolf thing."
Ginny collected herself and shook off the look like she was going to jump on him. Harry wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed.
"I’m still not convinced she’s married," Ginny muttered almost to herself. "Even if she is, he can’t be much, can he? He didn’t join the Order with her."
"What does that prove?" Harry asked.
"That this man, if he even exists, is not as good as Remus."
"Of course he’s not!" Harry exclaimed feeling a surge of residual defensiveness. "What does it matter if she’s married to him?"
"Not all marriages last forever," Ginny said conspiratorially.
Harry could only gape at her, stunned. He couldn’t believe he had only a moment ago thought she was being naively idealistic about love in the real world – her last statement made her seem anything but.
It was Ron who reacted first, once he stopped making shocked gagging noises. "Ginny, what are you saying?"
"I’m saying that if Beatrice is married, she probably isn’t as happy as she could be."
"You think Remus should just chase after a married woman?" Harry pressed aghast.
Ginny sighed. "I don’t know. It just seems like such a waste. You saw them down in the kitchen, just standing together and looking at each other. They looked so right. How could it not be right?"
"Because it isn’t," Harry said firmly. "Marriage is marriage." ‘Now who’s being naïve?’ his inner voiced queried, but he didn’t care, it was how he felt.
Ginny sighed again. "You’re right – at least, that’s how it should be. I just wish…"
"Yeah," Harry agreed to her unspoken wish. "If anyone deserves a little happiness it’s Remus."
"You, too, Harry," Ginny said softly.
Harry shrugged, embarrassed by Ginny’s gently spoken words. "I’m all right." Happiness seemed unlikely while Voldemort was still around.
"’Course you are, mate. And so is Lupin," Ron said abruptly, looking uncomfortable, as he often did when things got gloomy. "Ridiculous to act as if his happiness depends on some bird he hasn’t seen in…"
"How many days until Hermione gets here?" Ginny interrupted him sweetly.
"Sixteen days," Ron replied automatically.
Harry snorted. Ginny grinned impishly. Ron sputtered when he realized what he had done and then turned bright red.
Ginny went over to her brother and patted him on the cheek. "Don’t worry, Ron. I’m sure she’s counting the days too." She moved on past him towards the door. "I’m tired all of a sudden. I’m going to turn in – so should you two – then when you wake up, it’ll be fifteen days!"
"Ginny!" Ron protested whiningly.
"Aren’t you going to wait up for Fred and George?" Harry asked. The twins, now full Order members, often gave them highlights after the meeting.
"Nah." Ginny shook her head. "What I want to know I can get from Tonks tomorrow. ‘Night."
Harry watched her leave, then turned back to Ron. He wondered how long a silence after Ginny’s teasing would be respectable. Ron solved his dilemma by speaking first.
"Do you want to wait here for the twins?"
Harry considered a moment. In truth, he was exhausted too. His short row with Ginny and the turbulent feelings it had stirred up made him long to collapse into bed with a dreamless, emotion-free sleep. Experience told him that he was unlikely to get it, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to try.
"Nah," he answered Ron. "Let’s just go to bed. If anything really good comes up, they’ll Apparate into our room and let us know."
Ron nodded with an unintelligible grunt of agreement and stood. Harry followed him silently out of the sitting room. As they moved up the stairs and down the hall to their room, Harry sensed Ron looking at him several times and opening his mouth as if to say something only to close it again and look away. The strange behavior was starting to wind Harry up so that by the time they got to their room and closed the door he reeled on his friend.
"What?" he asked with an exasperated snap.
Ron looked sheepish. "I’m trying to figure out a way to ask you something without making you mad."
Harry snorted and sat on his bed. "Well, that didn’t work, so best spit it out."
Ron nodded and sat on his own bed before taking a deep breath and blurting, "Do you fancy my sister?"
Harry gaped at him, stunned that the normally oblivious Ron would hit so close to the mark. "Do I… what?" he stammered out.
"I know it seems crazy – but I’ve never seen either of you row like that before. And I’ve seen Ginny plenty mad, believe me…"
"And me," Harry added, admitting that Ron had been on the receiving side of his temper on more than one occasion.
"Well, yeah. You two were going at it like Hermione ‘n’ I usually do – worse even."
"And you and Hermione fancy each other, is that it?" Harry prodded his friend with a grin.
The flush returned to Ron’s face with a vengeance. "Well erm… I can’t speak for Hermione but…." Suddenly, he squared his shoulders and met Harry’s eyes determinedly. "Yeah, I reckon I do."
Harry was stunned – not by the feeling Ron admitted to, he had suspected that for ages – but that Ron actually admitted it at all. "Wow," was all he managed to say.
"Yeah," agreed Ron with a sigh. "Look, I don’t want you to feel bad, or anything – but I had a lot of time to think about it after… you know."
"The Department of Mysteries," Harry said dully.
"Right." Ron looked uncomfortable and apologetic. "I don’t know if it was those brains, or just knowing how bad she was hurt – I just sort-of realized it, yeah?"
"You didn’t know before then?" Harry asked with mild incredulity.
"No. I mean, I reckon I did. That’s probably why I was so mad about Vicky…erm Krum."
"You think so?" Harry asked, trying to do his best mild Remus Lupin impression.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Well, he could have been using her to spy on you," he defended half-heartedly. "That’s just not really what I was so mad about. So, what about you?"
Harry shrugged. "Hermione and I are just friends."
Ron was not deterred by Harry’s little joke. "Not her – my sister!"
It was Harry’s turn to sigh. He wished suddenly he could be as confident as Ron – and he never thought he’d be wishing that. He had only suspected his feelings about Ginny less than an hour ago – though if he thought about it, he could recall telltale signs prior to this evening – he wasn’t sure he was ready to say them out loud.
"I don’t know, Ron," he admitted. "If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said ‘no’ without a second thought. But now…" he trailed off.
"Now?" Ron prompted, leaning forward curiously. His movement partially crossed the light and cast a shadow that reached Harry’s bed.
"Now I don’t know. All I know is that just now I was very …angry and disappointed at the idea that she gave up on me to go out with someone else. I don’t know, though, if that means I fancy her, or I’m just a selfish, conceited prat who wants all the attention."
"You’re not like that," Ron offered sympathetically.
"Yeah, well – maybe not. There are other things too – like I’ve noticed how pretty she is." Ron made a face and Harry decided not to expound on how the fire reflected in her eyes or how her hair cascaded around her shoulders. "And she’s brave and clever and almost as funny and devious as the twins when she wants to be…"
"And you’re not sure if you fancy her?" Ron broke in sarcastically, leaning back again and causing the room to seem lighter.
Harry sighed. "I reckon… it doesn’t matter does it? I mean, she gave up on me. She’s going out with Dean now."
Ron’s expression turned stormy. "Says who?"
"Uh…says her," Harry replied with exasperation. "On the train ride home, remember?"
"Oh, that," Ron said waving his hand dismissively. "Harry, one thing you forgot to mention when you were cataloging Ginny’s many virtues is that she is a stupendous and convincing liar. I’d bet my broom she just said that to wind me up."
"It worked," Harry observed.
"Yeah," Ron agreed with a frown. "Yet another thing she’s good at."
"Anyway – she definitely went out with that Michael Corner chap – and Hermione said she gave up on me so…"
"So you’re giving up too?" Ron asked incredulously, as if Harry just announced he was going to join the Death Eaters.
"What’s it to you? I thought you didn’t like Ginny going out with anyone," Harry lashed out bitterly.
"Not just anyone. You’re my best mate – practically a member of the family already. You wouldn’t hurt her like some other blokes might."
"No – I’d just get her killed," Harry bit out before he had a chance to stop himself.
Ron paled, but said nothing.
"Didn’t it ever occur to you that I’m sort-of a dangerous guy to be around? Voldemort keeps trying to kill me and hitting someone nearby. What if Ginny was hurt or died because of me? Voldemort already almost killed her once in our Second year to get to me and I barely even knew her – she was just your sister to me then."
Ron had gone from pale to green during Harry’s tirade. Harry remembered all too well how Ron had reacted when they had heard that Ginny had been taken down to the Chamber. More recently, he remembered Ron’s reaction to Ginny’s insistence to be included in their ill-conceived rescue mission to the Department of Mysteries. Harry didn’t want to be any part of causing that kind of anguish.
Ron shook himself and frowned at Harry. "That’s the point, isn’t it? Ginny was targeted before you knew much more than her name and her family – and that all old You-Know…V-Voldemort knew either." Ron stammered out the name when Harry scowled back at him. "Every one of us is in danger as long as he’s around."
Harry sighed sullenly. "Yeah, maybe. Still, if something happened to her – like Cedric…or Sirius…I…" he broke off. The line of conversation was making him feel a bit nauseated.
"Yeah," Ron agreed quietly, though Harry hadn’t really finished his thought. "Still, don’t give up on Ginny." Harry opened his mouth to protest and Ron held up his hand. "I know – Hermione said she gave up on you – but that doesn’t mean anything. Hermione doesn’t know everything, you know."
Harry could only raise his eyebrows incredulously at this. Ron grinned back. "Don’t tell her I said that – but it’s true. She only knows most everything."
The two friends laughed and the conversation turned to lighter topics like Quidditch prospects and the twins’ latest products as they got ready for bed and finally drifted off to sleep.
Remus Lupin collapsed into a chair in the sitting room as Arthur Weasley saw out the last of the stragglers and Molly bustled about the kitchen, cleaning up. He was glad for once that Harry had not waited up for him or the Weasley twins. Ordinarily, he would be helping in the kitchen anyway – but tonight he felt as if all his energy had been sapped out of him. Behaving normally took as much effort as getting through a post-transformation day usually did. Yet the full moon was about two weeks away – and therein lay the crux of his problem. If he felt this way now – what would the approach of this full moon do to him – this particular full moon?
He had known instantly when Beatrice entered the room. That should not have happened. On a good day, he could pick out a couple of people he knew well by their scent. But after 19 years, and so far from the full moon – he shouldn’t have been able to do it. It wasn’t just her scent anyway; it was more like his whole body reacted to her presence. It was as if a shock jolted within him. He had struggled to maintain a normal visage and even pace as he crossed the kitchen to her. There was only one explanation for all he had felt and was now feeling. Somehow, he had made a wolf-bond with her. He wasn’t sure how – he had read up on these things very carefully when he hit puberty. All research agreed – a werewolf had to actually copulate to bond with his or her mate. He had scrupulously avoided that – especially with Beatrice, who had been most tempting. Still, based on his reaction this evening, he knew the bond was there.
He might have guessed before now. After he left Hogwarts, he never had asked women out; he had never been interested. James and Sirius had attempted to encourage him – astute Lily had pressed him to write to Beatrice. He had attributed his lack of enthusiasm for either idea to his unemployment – something his two independently wealthy friends had little understanding of. Later, he had been on such a downward spiral from lycanthropy, to abject poverty, to depression over the loss of the people he held most dear – it seemed ridiculous to add a woman to the mix. Sirius had chastised him for that last summer.
"Merlin, Moony, you think James and Lily wanted you to spend the rest of your life friendless and alone?"
Ah, Sirius – suddenly the loss of his friend felt fresh and sharp as it had on day one. Once again he was friendless and alone – and never more in need of a friend – or at least, somebody he could rely on. Of course, Sirius wouldn’t be the best friend to share this with. He could hear him now: "Let me get this straight, Moony. Your mate for life went off and married another man before you even got one shag in? Too rich." No – James would have been much more sympathetic – Lily best of all, though he would have to endure some "I told you sos" from her – and James or Sirius would be more ready to handle the potential upcoming repercussions from his new discovery. It was no use wishing for any of them, though – they were gone and Harry…. Harry was a remarkable young man, mature beyond his years in many respects, but the mild embarrassment they both endured during a brief discussion about the mating habits of werewolves proved Harry wasn’t mature enough for this conversation. Not to mention the fact that the last thing he needed was to feel the burden of responsibility for Remus. What Remus needed was a true peer, and he was depressingly short on those.
"Chocolate?" An aromatic mug was being waved in front of his face.
He looked up to see a grinning Bill Weasley. "What?"
"Mum sent it up," Bill explained, handing him the mug. "Best take it or there’ll be hell to pay."
Remus took it, answering the younger man’s grin. Then his gaze shifted guiltily towards the door. "I should go and help her clean up…"
"Did you not hear what I just said about hell to pay? Relax for once." Bill settled into another chair with a mug of his own. "Of course, I can never relax after a meeting, even the routine ones – I always get so keyed up."
Remus grunted his assent, though it was not the meeting that keyed him up. He took a sip of his cocoa and grinned at the hint of peppermint he tasted. Molly did think of everything, and she couldn’t resist mothering everyone around her. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him and he cast a speculative sidelong glance at Molly’s eldest son. Bill was more than a Hogwarts’ generation younger than he. Still, he was an adult, and unlikely to be uncomfortable or shocked with talk of werewolves, mating and adultery.
He cleared his throat and gathered his thoughts along with his courage. It had been a long time since he had opened up to a new person, and he had never made the first overture of friendship.
"Something on your mind, Remus?" Bill had apparently inherited his mother’s sensitivity.
I was wondering if you would mind if I ran something by you," Remus began tentatively, setting his mug aside.
Bill raised his eyebrow. "Of course."
"How much do you know about werewolves?"
"The basics, I guess – what they cover at Hogwarts," Bill answered with a shrug. "Plus, you pick up a bit when training as a Curse Breaker. Not much use for the werewolf stuff in Egypt, though. I’ve probably forgotten a lot, why?"
Remus went to reach for his mug, allowing himself to turn from Bill when he asked, "What do you remember about werewolf mating habits?"
Bill chuckled and leaned back in his chair more comfortably. "Not as much as I’ve learned about those of the Veela."
It was Remus’s turn to raise his eyebrows and cast a nervous look towards the door, though Bill’s mother was out of earshot down in the kitchen. He set his mug down again untouched before looking back at Bill seriously. "I hope you’re being careful…"
Bill laughed. "It’s not like that…not yet anyway. Fleur thinks being French and part-Veela makes her worldly – but she’s still quite young. Barely out of Beauxbatons, really. I don’t want her to regret…me."
Remus did not miss the protective tone in Bill’s voice. "You sound serious," he observed.
Bill nodded. "I am. I reckon that’s why I know so much about Veela. When I realized this was more to me than a harmless flirtation, I thought I’d better be sure it was real and not some Veela charm."
"Fleur’s only part Veela, one quarter. She can catch a bloke’s attention well enough – but to hold him in thrall – well suffice it to say, what I’m feeling is real." He drank from his mug.
Remus nodded, feeling a pang of envy.
"But enough about me," Bill cracked. "What’s going on with you?"
"Nothing," Remus said.
Bill gave him a look that said ‘pull the other one’ and countered, "Well, it must be something for you to bring up werewolf mating habits."
"Werewolves mate for life," Remus said, wishing that explained everything.
"Oh sure, I remember that now. So I guess you being a confirmed bachelor and all, that means you never…" Bill trailed off from his blithe remarks and Remus could see his brain catching up with his mouth. He gaped questioningly at Remus. "Never?"
"No," Remus admitted, more than a bit mortified at the direction of the conversation.
Bill let off a low whistle. "Is that what you wanted to talk about?" he asked, an uncomfortable expression growing on his face. "Because I don’t really think…I mean didn’t your father…?"
"Merlin, no, nothing like that!" Remus exclaimed, groaning and putting his face back in his hands. The mortification was increasing, and the worst was yet to come. Had Bill Weasley just offered – or more accurately refused – to give him "the talk?" Perhaps this was a mistake; men did not discuss matters of the heart, certainly not with a casual friend. He looked up through his fingers at Bill who was looking at him with patient inquiry. He seemed to be over his discomfort at the idea of educating Remus and was now more curious as to what might happen next.
"Sirius and James took care of that part of my education, thanks," he finally cracked, lowering his hands.
Bill chuckled in response, but his eyes reflected sympathy. "This has been a hard time for you," he observed.
"Yes, but that’s not really the point," Remus dismissed his grief, setting it aside for another time as he had trained himself to do so long ago. "Something…strange happened tonight."
Bill just waited patiently.
"There was this girl that I went out with fairly seriously back at Hogwarts," Remus continued haltingly.
"Beatrice Bennet." Bill nodded knowingly.
Remus couldn’t contain his surprise; he gaped.
Bill shrugged and grinned. "You’d never guess from her dignified appearance that Emmeline Vance is a terrible gossip."
Remus half sighed, half laughed. He had had enough ‘informative discussions’ (as she called them) with Em to know Bill was right. "No secrets in the Order," he intoned seriously.
"She was here tonight," Bill said.
Remus didn’t bother asking which "she" Bill meant. "Yes," he replied.
"And something strange happened?" Bill prompted.
There they were – the heart of the conversation. Remus either had to confess here and now to this younger man, or get up and leave the room, never to speak of it again. The typically male thing to do was leave. Bill didn’t want to hear about his problems. They weren’t even close friends. Still, what was the point of even starting the conversation if he didn’t finish it? If he left, the real problem would be unresolved, which was unacceptable. Not to mention he needed to say it out loud, just once, even if it was to the wrong person. He cleared his throat again.
"Well – how to put this – it seems, based on my reaction this evening, that I somehow made the life-bond with Beatrice without realizing it." He stopped. What else was there to say?
"Without realizing it? How did that happen?" Bill asked.
"That’s the real question isn’t it? I was very careful with Beatrice. I didn’t want her to regret me." Remus recalled Bill’s earlier words and the younger man nodded in understanding.
"And you’re sure you…bonded?" Bill asked hesitantly.
Remus could only nod – no sense in going into agonizing detail that he was pretty sure Bill would rather not hear.
"So, are you going to tell her?"
"Gods, no! I can’t tell her!" Remus burst, his voice cracking like an adolescent.
"Well, you don’t just blurt it out… but…" Bill started, possibly actually intending to give him romantic advice.
"You don’t understand," Remus interrupted. "It’s a bit more complicated than that. She’s married."
Bill stopped short. "Married?" he asked. "Are you sure?"
"That’s what I’ve heard. You could always double check with Emmeline," Remus suggested.
"Is she your source then?" Bill asked with raised eyebrows. "Because she didn’t say anything about that tonight."
"Actually, in this case, it’s Kingsley – but he and Bea are old friends – he’d have reason to know."
Bill paused and frowned for a moment. "So let me get this straight – your mate for life married someone else?"
It was so close to what Remus had imagined Sirius might have said, that he almost laughed. "That about sums it up."
"Is there any way you can get… I don’t know – a lycanthropic annulment?"
Remus did laugh then, though it was a hard and bitter sound. "That’s an interesting idea. Unfortunately, as far as I know there’s no precedent for my situation." He sighed. "No – I’m afraid I’ll just be suffering the rest of my life in silence. I wouldn’t have brought it up to you except…my next transformation is on the Blue Moon. They’re notoriously volatile and under the circumstances…"
"Surely the Wolfsbane Potion will contain…"
"I hope so." Remus didn’t let Bill finish. "But I’d still like someone on guard in case I get … out of control – and I’d rather not alarm or concern your parents."
Bill nodded soberly. "You can count on me," he assured Remus.
"Thank you," Remus said simply. It had been a long time since he had counted on anyone – he couldn’t believe he was doing it now, but that was the magic of the Weasleys. Despite their size and their apparent lack of resources, they lived by the ‘always room for one more’ philosophy. He had told Harry they were lucky men to be included, and he never felt it more deeply than at this moment. "Thank you," he repeated, his hoarse voice even rougher than normal. There was nothing more to say, so he stood with his cocoa mug, and left the room to return to the kitchen.