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Author: ilene  Story: A Touch of Moonlight  Chapter: Prologue
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A Touch of Moonlight Prologue

A Touch of Moonlight

 

Written by ilene

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 Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Prologue

 

            The sky was dark, and a thin sliver of a moon gave forth just enough light to make out the high, pitched gables and many chimneys of a large, rundown, rambling mansion, the only house to be seen for miles.  Most of the house was dark, except for the light shining from the large windows of a greenhouse off the east wing, illuminating a small garden that had been established outside the greenhouse, although many of the plants seemed more suited for a wild moor or a bog than near any human habitat.

 

            A wizard stood inside the greenhouse, surveying the plants within it.  He was clothed in shabby, frayed robes.  His face was still young, but looked worn, with faint lines crossing it.  His light brown hair was marred with strands of grey.  The expression on his face, however, was, if not cheerful, a calm one. 

 

            A sudden, loud, cracking sound from above, like a thunderclap, led him to direct his gaze toward the sloping ceiling, where he observed the sudden appearance of a small robed figure among the rafters that flailed about violently before it fell to the floor, narrowly missing landing in a large bush.

 

            The man didn’t even blink. His expression as he looked at the figure lying on the floor showed concern, but no alarm or surprise.

 

            “Are you all right?” he asked as he stepped toward the figure.  His voice was still quite calm given the situation; it was as if he had just seen someone accidentally bang an elbow against the wall, not suddenly appear out of thin air and fall twenty feet.

 

            A sound suspiciously like a muffled curse came from the bundle of robes on the ground.  Suddenly, the figure jumped up, and the robes swept backward, revealing a woman with dark, cropped hair, clad in a black tunic and leggings, clutching an obviously broken black umbrella.  She shook her arms and legs as if to check if they were still intact, then softly set the umbrella down on the floor.  She looked up at the man with a sheepish grin on her face.

 

            “Well, hello, Rouge,” she said.  “I suppose that Portkey needs some adjusting, eh?”

 

            “Hello there, Silver,” the man replied.  “What brings you here tonight?”

 

            “Business, of course,” the woman called Silver replied, with a smile. 

           

            “Yes, of course,” said the man called Rouge.  “But I doubt the herbs are ready.  Even I can tell, and Herbology was not my best subject.” 

 

            “Yes, I can see that,” said Silver, looking around the greenhouse, then through the windows to the garden outside, with a rather critical eye.  “I have a good sense of what your best subject was.  It’s quite fitting that you are to teach it.”

 

            “You know about that?”  Rouge, however, did not seem that surprised.

 

“I have my sources,” said Silver. 

 

“I was planning to Owl you as soon as I knew when I’d be leaving.” Rouge said.

 

            “I never said I thought you weren’t,” Silver said.  “I simply thought it best to discuss the matter in person.”  She drew her wand, and murmured “Accio Furniture!” A small, round table and two chairs scooted over to a spot near where she was standing.  Then she turned to Rouge and asked,

 

“Would you care for some tea?”

 

            “Yes, I was thinking of taking a rest myself,” he replied, and took out his own wand.  “Perhaps I could treat you to…”

 

            “I require nothing, Rouge”, Silver said, “I have brought my own supplies.”  With that, she took out a small wicker box from her pocket, placed it upon the table, and tapped it with her wand.  The box opened, and a china tea service jumped out of it, including a teapot, two teacups, a bowl filled with teabags, a plate filled with biscuits, and a potholder.  She now tapped her wand on the teapot, and steam started to rise from it.

 

            “Thank you,” said Rouge.  Then he pointed his wand at a corner of the greenhouse and whispered, “Accio.”  A bunch of grapes flew into his hand.  Ablutio”, he said, and a stream of water gushed out of his wand, thoroughly rinsed the grapes, and disappeared.  Another “Accio” directed at a nearby cabinet produced a clean plate, on which he heaped the grapes. 

 

Silver had been looking somewhat askance at these preparations, but did not speak until Rouge placed the plate of grapes on the table.

 

“Are you sure you can spare…”

 

“Yes,” he said, “I insist.  And as you know, I grow these for myself, not for the market.”

 

“Well, I suppose I shouldn’t usurp the role of host entirely.” Silver said.  She sat down, and beckoned Rouge to sit as well. 

 

            “So,” said Rouge, “I assume you wish to discuss how to maintain the garden while I’m gone.” He sat down, as the teapot, after another tap from Silver’s wand, poured the tea.  “I must admit, I’m not sure how it can be arranged.  I know your shop must keep you occupied.”

 

“Not too occupied, Rouge.  Of course I can help.”

 

“Thank you, I wouldn’t want it to become totally overgrown…these plants run wild very easily.” Rouge said.  “And of course, I’m not asking you to do this for nothing.  I can send you money, as needed…and I’m sure I’ll have the means to reward you, when I return --”

 

Silver cut off his words.  “You speak as if you expect to return.”

 

“Well, this is my home, such as it is.  Of course I would return.”

 

“I did not mean that, Rouge.”  Silver looked into his eyes, probingly.  “I mean, you speak as if you expect that you will not last long at your post.”

 

Rouge laughed, and his voice held just a hint of bitterness.  “In the light of my past attempts at gainful employment,” he said, “Pardon me for considering the possibility that this latest post will not be a permanent one.”

 

“Ah, so you do not consider this – “ Silver gestured around the greenhouse – “gainful employment?  What about all your years as a…”

 

“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, Silver,” Rouge said, “but I must admit – I’ve felt that my talents have been wasted these past few years.  Selling these herbs does help me put food on my table, and I do appreciate your role in all of it.  It was more than I could’ve expected…”

 

“Why should you have expected less of me?”  Silver said, her voice suddenly much louder than before.  “I am in your debt, Remus, your life-debt.  You saved my life, and I could never repay that.”

 

A strange look passed over the face of Remus – for this was the true name of the man called “Rouge”. As might be expected after hearing such a sudden outpouring of emotion, he looked rather embarrassed…but there was something else there, an almost-tortured expression.

 

“I didn’t – I do not consider it a life-debt.  How can it be, when…it was because of me, that your life was endangered in the first place?”

 

“You could not have helped that!” Silver said emphatically.  “What matters is what you did – what you chose to do, when you had the chance to do it.”

 

“You sound like Headmaster Dumbledore. He said almost the same thing when he hired me.”

 

“It is true then…you are the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher? At Hogwarts?”

 

            “Yes, I am.” Remus laughed.  “I still find it rather hard to believe.  It seems so – well – preposterous, does it not?  I’m sure many would – indeed, I’ve no doubt that some have already called it quite an insane idea. “

 

“I wouldn’t,” Silver said.  “Although I suppose there is some irony to the situation.”

 

“Yes.  Not that such a situation is completely new for me, of course.”

 

“You speak of your work…for my uncle?” asked Silver.

 

“Yes.  Somehow, I suspect that when your uncle advertised that he preferred those who had experience with Dark Creatures, he meant experience with fighting them, not be-”

 

“No, I suppose not.  But your condition didn’t make any difference…”

 

Remus laughed again, a short, bitter laugh. “It did, and you know it.  Especially for you…it almost killed you.”

 

“Again, Remus, the situation was not your fault.  Could you please give yourself some credit for a change?  You came to get me, to save me, when you should have been in BED!  When you were exhausted!   When you had absolutely no business putting your own life in danger just for me!  Besides, I was being an idiot, thinking I could do it all by myself,” Silver said.  “I should’ve waited for you.”

 

“You shouldn’t have had to.  I put you at a severe disadvantage…serious risk…just by being paired with you.”

 

“Oh, so that’s why you quit?  Because you felt guilty?  Well, you might like to know, I’m not exactly feeling great about myself either, you know.”  Silver sighed.  “You risk your life to save mine, and you wind up quitting over it.  That’s a great way to start repaying a life-debt! Damn, Remus, I should be delivering wheelbarrow-fuls of Knuts and Si—okay, maybe not Sickles, but wheelbarrow-fuls of Galleons to you every day, just to start to pay you back.”  

 

“Well, it seemed it was a matter of time before I was discovered…”

 

“You thought I’d tell?” Silver said sharply.  “Thank you so much for trusting me,” she added, quite sarcastically.

 

“No, no, I didn’t think…well, maybe I did.  I don’t know.  But I knew…I would rather leave while the choice was still mine to make.”

 

“Is that the excuse you always use, Remus?”

 

“It’s not an excuse, Curie!” 

 

Silver looked at Remus with a startled expression on her face.  Not only was it unusual for Remus to raise his voice, she had not heard him use her real name for some time.

 

“You think I wanted to spend my life on the fringes of polite society? You think I wanted to feed myself by growing herbs, of all things?  You think I’d be doing any of those things, if I could hold down an actual job?  You know how many times I’ve tried to…”  He paused, then looked out the windows for some time.  His fingers clenched the handle of the teacup tightly, then relaxed as he turned back toward her. 

 

“I suppose I still have some pride.  And I knew I couldn’t commit myself to the work as I should…so I’d have made the same decision, regardless.  But I have no illusions about what would’ve happened, if your uncle had found out that someone he’d hired to fight Dark Creatures, was himself a Dar-.”

 

“You are NOT a Dark Creature, Remus!”

 

“I’m not?  Would you like to look at the textbook I’ll be teaching from?  It says quite clearly that -- ”

 

“I don’t care what the textbook says, Remus.  You are not a monster, and I certainly hope you won’t be teaching your students that you are.”

 

“No, of course not.  Not that the students will be told…I trust Dumbledore completely, he’ll make sure of that.  And I’ll be safe…Hogwarts has a Potions Master on staff, who can make the Wolfsbane potion.”  Remus couldn’t help smiling.  “That should definitely be interesting.”

 

“Interesting, why?” 

 

“Ah…the Potions Master at Hogwarts, is an old schoolmate of mine.  But I would not exactly call him a friend.”

 

            “You went to school with Severus Snape?” Curie chuckled.  “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, you are near him in age...but somehow, it never crossed my mind before.”

 

“You know Severus?” said Remus, sounding rather surprised.

“I’ve had dealings with him,” Curie said.  “Haven’t seen him for a while, but I sold him some boomslang skin last year.  And I also got treated to a nice long harangue on how the students were stealing his supplies.”  She made a face, and quoted, in an exaggerated, hissing voice, “From my private stock!  Such audacity!  And I thought it was bad enough that idiotic students waste my time in my class. At least they are not using supplies that I personally paid for. And the worst of it is, the miserable thief got away with it!’”

 

“That sounds like the Severus I know,” said Remus, with a laugh.  “I trust you not to repeat this, but I must say, I do wonder sometimes how he wound up teaching at Hogwarts.  Of course, I’m sure Severus would say the same of me.”

 

“Hated each other, eh?”

 

“Well, I wouldn’t say I hated him.  My friend, on the other hand…”  Remus stopped, and a strange look flashed over his face. 

 

Curie looked at Remus for a moment, but did not ask any questions.

 

“I see.  Anyway, of course I wasn’t suggesting that you teach them about yourself, personally.  I mean, assuming you’ll have to teach them about, well, werewolves…you’ll be fair, right?”

 

            “Actually, I’m really not sure what I’ll tell them.  But yes, I plan to make every effort to be fair.  I mean, werewolves can be very dangerous, when they are…” he paused, and looked out of the windows again, at the silvery crescent in the sky.  “Actually, perhaps you have seen, in your work…”

 

“No, Remus.  At first, my uncle would not let me work on such a ‘dangerous and complicated assignment’...no need to jump, Remus, please…he meant complicated, because you see, it involves a lot of decision-making…it’s different from other, um, creatures, because you can’t just …uh…dispose of them, unless it’s really necessary.  My uncle was quite enlightened for a man of his profession, you know.  And from all I’d read in my studies, I thought that too, even before I knew you were…and when I did, I knew I could never...”

 

Remus was still staring out the window, so Curie could not see his face, but she could see a definite, though faint, flushing of the skin on the back of his neck.

 

“Well, thank you for that sentiment, Curie,” he said, still looking out the window.  When he turned to her again, his face had that same calm yet cheerful expression he’d had when they’d been discussing Severus Snape.

 

“It has occurred to me, Curie…I plan to schedule a lot of practical lessons for my classes.  I would, of course, need specimens for the students to practice their defensive skills on.  The school will provide any funds I require, and I need a supplier, a steady, dependable one.  Do you think you could assist me?”

 

**********

 

 “Well, then, I’ll owl you as soon as I get to Hogwarts, concerning the specimens,” Remus said.  “It was certainly a pleasure to see you again.” 

 

Curie smiled.  “Likewise.”  She picked up the umbrella, and before he could tell her to be careful when she was landing, she was Portkeyed away.

 

Remus sighed.  He wondered if she would be so accepting of his condition, if she had actually seen him…seen any werewolf, for that matter, on a full moon.  He immediately chided himself for the ungrateful thought.  It was not as if he was going to subject her to such a sight just for some twisted test of her loyalty.  Yet, he had once had friends who accepted him even knowing full well what he was, indeed, perhaps partly because of it…but the happiness of that memory, as always, was tempered with his knowledge of the great risk they…he…had posed to everyone at Hogwarts, and in Hogsmeade.  

 

**********

 

Curie Portkeyed (with another loud clunk) onto the floor of her shop. 

 

I don’t know who’s the greater imbecile, Remus, me or you, she thought.  I guess all I have over you is this…I know your deepest secret, but you don’t know mine. 

 

I wonder if I’ll ever see him again, she thought.  She wanted him to succeed, to walk in the sunlight, to forget all the years he had existed on the fringes of decent society.  Even if that meant he would forget her, as well, if she became nothing more to him than “that supplier of Dark Creatures”.  Not that she could ever forget him…

//
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