Written by: Giulia "Kagome" Beta-read by: Lucy, Martin, Gabriel, Luminousmarble, and Daily Prophet Reporting.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Dolores stared at the dim shapes of London's buildings as she walked over Waterloo Bridge. The pale blue sky was painted with violet, and the crescent moon, easily visible between the clouds, told her that it was late. Nonetheless, she stopped and waited, resting her elbows on the reassuring firmness of the stone.
She could have been home already if she had used magic. She could have Apparated in front of her house, or even inside it. But she hadn't wanted to. Fifteen days ago she had moved out of her old house and asked Cornelius for a few months' leave of absence.
After what had happened in the Forbidden Forest, Dolores had needed time to heal. The St. Mungo's Healers had told this to Cornelius, and he had agreed to grant Dolores' request. Dolores had decided to distance herself from anything magical for a while and live in Muggle London. She found it somehow… irksome to use magic at the moment. The solidity and certainty of the distance between her and the wizarding world were helping her to forget her ordeal.
The city began to look murky as the blue and purple of the sky darkened into indigo. Artificial lights switched on, appearing as suddenly as fireflies on a dark lawn, and the light breeze cooled into a chilly evening wind. Shuddering from the cold, Dolores tore herself from the beautiful cityscape. She gave a silent farewell glance to Big Ben, the face of which had just been lit from within.
Dolores quickened her pace and left Waterloo Bridge, walking across Waterloo Road. The sound of her footsteps echoed in the silence as she entered the small alley where she lived. She opened her handbag, searching for her keys.
Looking up, she caught sight of something at her front door that she really didn't like—or rather, someone. Remus Lupin.
What was the filthy werewolf doing in front of her house?
Her heartbeat sped up as her glance rose to the sky, making sure that the moon was not full. She saw the man— if she could consider that thing a ‘man'— smile bitterly.
‘Good evening, Dolores. Don't worry, I won't stay long.'
Dolores' lips tightened into a rigid grimace that was vaguely reminiscent of a smile. ‘What do you want?' she asked, not bothering to be polite. She cast her eyes upwards and saw the crescent moon peek mockingly at her from behind a cloud. Annoyed, she tightened her grip on her keys.
‘It seems that the normal rules of courtesy aren't valid for . . . the likes of me,' said Lupin, giving her an amused smile.
He must have noticed her nervousness and was probably trying to put her at ease. She shrugged.
‘The likes of you shouldn't stand in front of the door to my house at this hour of the night,' she said venomously. ‘In fact, they shouldn't stand there at any time.'
Lupin's sympathetic look irritated Dolores. If she had been feeling more like herself, the bloody werewolf would have already run away as fast as he could. But unfortunately, she was still weak, unmotivated, and unwilling to use magic. Normally she could have discerned Lupin's intentions, but this skill seemed to have deserted her.
Otherwise . . . otherwise . . . .
‘I didn't come because I wanted to harm you,' said Lupin. ‘Nor am I here because I'm masochistic and enjoy being treated like a beast. Dumbledore sent me. When you left Hogwarts, you forgot some of your things, and the Headmaster asked me to bring them back.'
Dolores couldn't help but shudder upon hearing the name of that school, and the glimpse of understanding—of pity—she caught in the eyes of that . . . creature . . . she didn't like at all.
‘And Dumbledore sent you to bring them back?' she asked, giving a quick look at the trunk Lupin was carrying.
‘There was nobody else he trusted enough for this who didn't have other things to do,' said Lupin politely.
Dolores shrugged again. The trunk seemed huge, and she had no intention of using magic to move it. She had promised herself that she wouldn't use magic for a while, and no werewolf would change her mind. She eyed Lupin, noticing how he hugged himself to keep from shivering in the chilly wind. His clothes were old, too thin in the elbows, and patched in a few places. It was no wonder he couldn't suffer the weather, even though it was just an average August evening.
‘Then do come in,' she said, opening the door. ‘I will show you how I host my guests. Carry that; it's too heavy for me.' She tried to give the last sentence an offhand tone, but when she met Lupin's gaze, she realized that he hadn't believed a word of what she had said. However, he muttered a simple spell, took hold of the trunk, and entered the house.
Dolores made Dumbledore's emissary follow her up to the living room, feeling utterly nervous now that she was alone with a werewolf inside her own home. She knew it was a foolish fear; the moon wasn't full, and therefore Remus Lupin was no threat to her. But she couldn't help it; her fear was instinctive. She started to twist and scratch at the skin of her fingers.
As soon as they entered the house, Lupin let go of the trunk and allowed it to float in the air behind him. He no longer had to disguise the charm now that there were no questioning Muggle eyes to see. ‘Where can I put it down?' he asked. Dolores indicated a corner of the living room, and he directed the trunk to it with his wand.
‘May I offer you a cup of tea?' Dolores cursed herself; her voice was shaking a bit, and she didn't want the werewolf to know how much he frightened her.
‘You don't need to do this, you know,' said Lupin. ‘I've done my duty; I can leave now.'
Lupin gave Dolores a serious look, and this calmed her down. She didn't want him to go back to Hogwarts and say how weak and frightened she looked.
‘No,' she spat, ‘I said I would show you how I treat my guests, and you're my guest. Sit down; I'll be back with some tea.'
‘As you wish,' was Lupin's quiet reply. He sat in one of the armchairs and crossed his legs, waiting as she made her way to the kitchen.
Dolores filled a kettle with water and put it on the stove to heat. While waiting for the water to boil, she prepared the infuser basket, counting out three spoonfuls of loose tea. Now and then she peeked into the living room, but Lupin hadn't moved at all. He was still sitting in the armchair and looking around.
As the water began to boil, Dolores realized that she was calming down. Going back to a normal activity like brewing tea had helped her regain her normal self. She put the infuser basket into a teapot, added the hot water, and prepared a tray with two mugs and a few biscuits.
McVitie's or Norfolks? Dolores decided that she would never waste Norfolk biscuits on a werewolf. He might be her guest, but she liked Norfolks too much.
Dolores fussed over the arrangement of the biscuits in their dish, trying to arrange them in a neat pattern. Finally she stirred the tea, added milk and the sugar bowl to the tray, and took everything into the living room. Surprisingly, Lupin was in the same place where she had left him, still glancing around.
‘Do you like the furniture?' she asked. Lupin moved his eyes from the crystal objects on the sideboard and looked at her pointedly. Only at that moment did she notice what he had been staring at— a crystal dog, the largest of her collection.
‘I was just looking around,' he muttered, smiling softly.
‘How many lumps?' Dolores asked, but Lupin beckoned for her to stop. He took the mug, added some milk, but no sugar. Dolores took her own mug and prepared her tea in the usual way— two lumps of sugar and just a drop of milk.
Lupin took a biscuit, bit into it, and sipped his tea. He glanced at Dolores, and she noticed with disappointment that her hands were shaking. Only when she rested the mug on her lap did she discover that she hadn't yet taken off the light cyan jacket she used to camouflage herself among the Muggles. Not that it worked much, though; she had caught many of them shooting her odd looks. Who knew why?
As Dolores stood to take the jacket off, she saw that Lupin was laughing softly. She glared at him and he immediately stopped, hiding a few last chuckles by taking bites of his biscuit.
‘Sorry about that, but you must admit that it's funny,' he said, reaching out to take another biscuit.
‘What is funny?' Dolores picked up her mug again and nervously sipped her tea.
‘Here we are, having a cup of tea together as if we were dear friends. We of all people—anti-halfbreed Dolores Umbridge and Remus Lupin, a werewolf,' said Lupin, the last two words coming out in a whisper. He chuckled again and added, ‘Do you know how much trouble the laws you wrote gave me?'
‘I'm glad they did,' Dolores muttered, and the man's eyes hardened. Since when had she started thinking of him as a man?
‘There's something I've always wanted to know,' said Lupin. ‘Why do you hate half-breeds so much?'
Dolores' hold on her mug tightened. She sipped the last of her tea with her lips clenched so tightly that they were starting to hurt. She put the empty mug back on the tray and stared down at her fingers. ‘You're asking about things that you really don't want to know about,' Dolores warned. Her voice was shaking again. She cursed herself once more.
Lupin put his own mug back on the tray. ‘I want to know why you like making the werewolves' lives so difficult,' he said harshly.
Dolores glared her guest. She took off her glasses and started to clean them with a dry handkerchief. She didn't need them, but was using them recently as a shield to protect herself from the others. When she put them on again, she tried her best to feign a calm that she didn't feel at all.
‘I don't know what has happened to you, Dolores, but werewolves aren't beasts all the time,' said Lupin. ‘I understand that the centaurs were—'
‘You can't even imagine how the centaurs were,' Dolores shouted, her voice rising with each word.
Lupin fell silent, looking paler than ever.
‘You can't dream of what it was like for me,' said Dolores. ‘Your kind—creatures like yo