The Sugar Quill
Author: Alkari (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Jigsaw  Chapter: Chapter 1 - A Rabbit out of the Hat
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Short Poppy POV in PoA

JIGSAW

 

 

Summary:  Remus Lupin is returning to Hogwarts as DADA Professor, much to Poppy Pomfrey’s joy.  But the shadow of Sirius Black hangs over Hogwarts …

 

Disclaimer: Naturally I do not own JK Rowling’s characters. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes"> </span>She invented them and the wonderful world of Hogwarts. I am just happily visiting her world for a while.

 

Author’s Note:  Someone suggested that after ‘A Most Unusual Student’, it would be interesting to see Poppy Pomfrey’s reactions to the events in ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’.  I wasn’t going to go any further than MWPP at Hogwarts, but then one day that little plot bunny emerged from its hole - and so here is ‘Jigsaw’.  

 

This is not an exact re-telling of every event in PoA, though of course I have used actual dialogue in some scenes where Poppy is concerned.  There are no plot spoilers for ‘Student’, so I will be writing the two fics in tandem, and posting chapters in each as the muse strikes me.

 

My thanks as always to those who have encouraged me with this, particularly Mincot, Catherine, Yolanda, Axelle, Allemande, and Zsenya (who assured me that another version of PoA, by Poppy, would not be too much).

 

__________

 

 

Chapter 1.   A Rabbit out of the Hat.

 

Remus Lupin was coming back to Hogwarts.  ‘Professor’ Remus Lupin now - Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.   Remus Lupin – my Remus.   Remus Lupin - werewolf.

 

Albus had announced it at the staff meeting ten days before term had started, and the arguments were still raging with certain staff members.   But Minerva and I had known before then.  We’d joined Albus for supper that summer evening, the twilight glowing softly purple and gold, and the breeze bringing with it the faint scents of flowers and forest.

 

“I believe I have found us a new Defence professor,” Albus said mildly, as we helped ourselves to cakes.   

 

“As long as he’s better than that last gilded idiot!”  Minerva’s considered opinion of poor Professor Lockhart was that there had been ‘almost no mind to lose’.

 

“Oh, I have no doubts as to his competence,” chuckled Albus, eyes twinkling wickedly over his teacup.  “Though I must say he does lack Gilderoy’s talent for self-promotion.”

 

“Never mind the publicity.  Does he know his subject?  And can he teach?  Our second and third years are quite woefully behind in that subject, Albus – and you know it.”

 

“Well, I haven’t actually experienced his teaching,’ Albus admitted, but the twinkle became even more pronounced.   “But yes - he does know his subject.  Knows it very well, as I recall.  And I think he will be an asset to Hogwarts, a most interesting asset.  Oh yes, most interesting.”   He took a large bite of strawberry sponge.


Minerva was clearly feeling quite testy, and I wondered if she had another headache.  “Albus, please put us out of our misery.  Just who have you managed to conjure up this year?   We’ve had three Defence teachers in four years, none of whom I’d trust to get rid of an angry beetle, and now … ” she paused, and swallowed suddenly.  “And now we have Sirius Black on the loose.”

 

Sirius.  I did not want to even think of Sirius.  None of us wanted to think of Sirius.  Traitor Sirius.  Murderer Sirius.   Loyal deputy to You Know Who. Expert in Dark Magic.  The only person to have ever escaped Azkaban.  

 

For twelve long years I had tried to put his memory out of my mind, to forget the clever, mischievous, handsome boy that I’d known so well, and come to like – even love.  Well, as much as I ever allowed myself to love any of the students.  But then, Sirius had been special … and so had his friends … James … Peter … and of course, Remus … Remus Lupin …

 

“… precisely because of Sirius Black that I have asked this person to come and teach, Minerva.”  I realised I had missed part of Albus’ reply.   I smiled at him, trying to counter Minerva’s obvious ill-humour.

 

“So what rabbit have you pulled out of your Headmaster’s hat this time?” I said lightly, wondering all the same whether any sensible witch or wizard would take on the job of Defence teacher at Hogwarts with Sirius Black supposed to be heading here.

 

“Poppy my dear, I doubt that anyone could ever call Remus Lupin a rabbit.  Even our dear Professor Snape.”

 

I heard Minerva’s cup crash into its saucer, was dimly aware that she was staring at Albus Dumbledore as if he’d finally gone quite mad.   My own cup seemed frozen in my fingers, and I felt as though someone had dropped a cauldron of Freezing Potion over me.   He couldn’t mean it … surely Albus couldn’t mean it …

 

He said nothing, just finished his piece of cake and brushed the crumbs out of his beard.  A smear of cream dotted the end of his nose, and he wiped it absently with a large red and blue spotted handkerchief before leaning back in his armchair and regarding us both with a strangely sad expression.

 

My mind was a conflict of whirling, swirling memories: a shy little grey-eyed boy in Diagon Alley – freezing cold mornings in the Shrieking Shack when I’d knelt in the dust and blood to heal his wounds – the way he’d always come to kiss me good-bye at the end of each year – the anguish over Davey Gudgeon – getting teased by the others about his first girlfriend – his mischief and his laughter - the transformation from a self-effacing skinny child into a slender, confident, good-looking young man – his paintings – his friends ….

 

And Gwen – dear Gwen.   Remus had brought us together, mother and matron, and for nine years I’d been blessed with her friendship.   I still kept all her letters.

 

I looked across at Minerva, sitting silent and thoughtful, fingers laced together in her lap.  And suddenly I was transported back to this very room and another supper some twenty-five years ago – when Albus Dumbledore had told us that he needed our help, because Hogwarts was going to have a most unusual student next year.

 

“You think he will be able to find Black?” she said slowly, working through the implications of that statement.  “Does he know young Potter’s here?   That Black is probably after him?  What if Black finds out he is teaching here – wouldn’t he be in danger too?”

 

“Yes, he knows.  And no, I doubt Professor Lupin is in any danger himself.   Unless of course he goes looking for Sirius – but I have told him that is best left to the Ministry, and they will have guards round the school.”

 

Sirius – hunting Remus.  Remus – maybe trying to find and kill Sirius.  The world had turned upside down for so many of us on Halloween 1981 – treachery, murder, the deepest of friendships shattered.   Four close friends, and suddenly two were dead, one was in Azkaban – and one was left to find his way through a world that no longer made any sense, where he was an outcast, bereft of the people who’d been the centre of his life for the last ten years, who’d sworn they’d always be there for him ...  

 

*     *     *

 

I  remembered him at the Potters’ funeral, whey-faced, eyes haunted, moving as if in some sort of hollow dream from which he’d never wake.   Edmund had been there too, silently supporting his son, grieving in his own way for the two boys he’d known so well, for Lily, and for Harry.   I could only imagine his thoughts about Sirius – the boy he’d liked more than any other of Remus’ friends.  

 

The other Hogwarts staff had left Remus alone, just a quick word afterwards before departing, embarrassed, confused, hardly knowing what to say to the one who was left.

 

But I’d gone and waited silently with them under the trees beyond the graves as the other mourners drifted away.   We’d watched Lily’s sister and her pompous husband leave the funeral in an indecent hurry, clearly hating the very thought of associating with wizards and witches.  That was the only time I saw any life in Remus’ eyes: there’d been a flash of anger as Vernon Dursley had pushed past elderly Mrs Corban, one of the Potters’ neighbours.  It was followed by a look of desperate longing as he saw someone hand Harry to Petunia, and watched her shove the little boy roughly into the back seat of their Muggle car.  Remus would have taken Harry, I knew – would have loved to have had him – would have made a wonderful father – but werewolves were not permitted to be guardians of other people’s children, and there were even some restrictions on having their own children.

 

After the others had all departed, Remus went and stood quietly by the graves, just staring at the lettering, chiselled so new, so precise, so cold in the creamy grey stone.  Edmund and I said nothing, just waited, understanding each other as we had at Gwen’s funeral.  At last Remus turned and came back to us, nodding slightly at Edmund, dry-eyed, resigned, lost in a world of his own. 

 

“Remus.”  I spoke hesitantly, wondering if he’d even noticed me there.  For a long moment we just looked at each other, neither having the words we needed – only we didn’t need words, I realised, as I reached out and put my arms around him.

 

He was taller than me of course, and my head rested against his shoulder; but it felt strangely as though he was a boy again, a frightened boy seeing the Shack for the first time, or waiting for the inevitable agony at moonrise.  We held each other for a long time, and I felt my own tears sinking into the smooth dark blue wool of his robes, felt the quivering tension in his body, the unspoken agony in the way his arms clasped me almost painfully against him.   I knew he was crying silently inside, knew that he’d never show it to the world, but he’d show it to Edmund – and to me.

 

We parted soon after: I kissed him and made him promise to write to me, to keep in touch and let me know how he was doing.  And I said that he could always call on me, no matter what: Gwen would know I’d always look after Remus, I thought.   He promised faithfully that he’d write, and that we’d see each other from time to time; so I hugged Edmund goodbye and left them together, father and son, standing side by side as an autumn drizzle started to drift down.

 

I’d been in Canada with Jasper and his family when Edmund had died two summers later, and hadn’t made it to his funeral.   I’d written to Remus, and he’d come to see me in London before I returned to Hogwarts.   I’d cooked him dinner, and we’d sat and talked – about his childhood, his parents, my friendship with Gwen, about my own family and mutual friends, about what he was doing with his life.  We’d spoken of the Potters – Remus hadn’t heard anything about Harry, and neither had I – and we reminisced about Peter and schooldays.  But the talk was full of awkward pauses, of hesitations in the middle of stories, of remembrances started, then stopped in mid-sentence.   Because we never mentioned Sirius.  Not a word.  Not once.   And that was the very hardest thing of all.

 

Eventually Remus departed, and since then I hadn’t seen him.  We’d written of course, and sent each other cards for Christmas and birthdays.  But his letters became shorter and less frequent, and I knew, reading between the lines, that he was finding life hard.   I took to sending him small hampers at Christmas, telling him that a large ham from Madam Rosmerta’s own supplier, some Honeydukes chocolates and Mother Truffle’s puddings were essential to his welfare – as were the jars of healing ointment and Rubus Remedy which I also included.  I wished there was something more I could do for him, but I couldn’t offer him a job, and he said he was ‘managing’.   Which was the truth, but not the whole truth.  I sometimes felt so helpless as I remembered Gwen and Edmund and their hopes for their wonderful son ...

 

*     *     *

 

“Poppy?”   Minerva’s voice finally penetrated, and I became aware that she and Albus were watching me.  I realised my cup was now held at a precarious angle, and hastily leant forward to return it to the saucer lest the dregs spill on Albus’ lovely carpet.  I swallowed and sat back, trying to compose my erratic thoughts.

 

“Guards, Albus?” I asked.  “What sort of guards?  Many of the aurors have retired now.”  

 

“I’m afraid I have been forced to agree to the Ministry’s wishes in this matter, Poppy.”  Albus sounded resigned, even regretful.  “The Ministry insists that Sirius Black poses a grave danger to Harry Potter, and to anyone at Hogwarts – so they are sending a squad of Dementors to patrol the school.”

 

Dementors!  At Hogwarts!  Was the entire Ministry out of their minds?  We had children here – hundreds of innocent children – how would they cope if they met a Dementor?  And the staff – how were we going to manage with those – those – things – floating around?  Minerva was staring at Albus in equal horror.

 

“You cannot mean that, Albus,” she said faintly.  “Surely you cannot permit Dementors to come here to Hogwarts!”

 

Albus looked at us sadly.  “Unfortunately I have no choice. As you know, no-one before has managed to escape from Azkaban.  For someone even to survive there this long is almost unheard of – well, there are occasional survivors, but I am afraid they are mostly quite insane. So if Sirius has managed to escape, then we must prepare for the very worst. I do not, of course, know whether he is insane or whether he is just singularly determined to finish what he apparently started.  Either way, the school must be protected.”

 

“But Albus – Dementors!  How are we going to manage with those creatures roaming the grounds?  How is anyone going to concentrate?  You’ll have half the students in hospital!”    Minerva was aghast.

 

“The Dementors will not be in the castle, Minerva,” he replied calmly.  “Nor will they be in the grounds where the students and staff can be affected.   I will not permit that.  They will remain at the gates, and patrol the perimeter though, and they will also patrol in Hogsmeade and the surrounding country.”

 

I sat silently, dazed at the sudden turn of events.  Dementors!  I’d have more than one child ill before the first day was out, no matter where they were patrolling.  More to the point, would they stay out there?  Or would they come looking for other – victims?

 

Minerva snorted.  “If they couldn’t keep Black IN Azkaban, Albus, then just how do they think they are going to find him outside?  He’s certainly not your average wizard by any means – he never has been.  So he’s not going to show himself anywhere near here, surely!   Why would he try to reach young Potter – IF indeed that is who he is after – in the one place where he will be protected?”

 

“I cannot answer that, Minerva.  I know little more than you do.  Sirius Black is, apparently, fixated on Hogwarts – and presumably that means Harry Potter.  So we must take all necessary steps to guard him – and to ensure that Sirius is recaptured and returned to Azkaban.”

 

The words seemed to hang there like a doomsday pronouncement.  What sort of world were we in, that the three of us could be sitting here and talking of Dementors and sending Sirius Black back to Azkaban?  I found myself wishing this was all a terrible nightmare, that I’d suddenly awake to a bright new dawn and find myself looking forward to four delightful boys returning for their next year.  James - Sirius - Peter - Remus …

 

Remus!  I’d almost forgotten about him.  I sat up sharply.    “Albus, what are you expecting Remus Lupin to do?  Apart from teaching Defence of course.”

 

“I certainly do not expect him to go looking for Sirius, Poppy.  Not at all.  But if anyone can shed any light on how Sirius might try to get into the castle, or what exactly he might do in particular situations, then Remus Lupin is that person.   After all, they were in enough trouble together when they were students!  Though of course James was always closest to Sirius.” 

 

“When will Lupin be arriving?” said Minerva.  “And more to the point, what arrangements have you made for his – his difficulty each month?”

 

“There is a new potion available now – you’ve probably heard of it, Poppy.  It’s called Wolfsbane, after one of its main herbs. It renders a werewolf quite harmless – they still transform, but they lose the craving to attack and bite.   They are able to remain as a normal wolf, so Remus will just stay locked in his rooms during the full moon, and he will not need to go to the Shrieking Shack again.   The potion is very complex, and few are capable of making it properly.   Luckily, Hogwarts is blessed with one such expert.  I intend to ask Severus Snape to make it each month”

 

Severus Snape.   Albus was going to ask our Slytherin Potions master to make Wolfsbane potion for Remus Lupin, the person he probably detested most in the entire world.   Well, apart from James Potter and Sirius Black …

 

“Albus,” said Minerva tightly, “Albus, do you know what you are saying?  Don’t you remember what they were like at school?   Severus will probably add a cup of arsenic to the first cauldron of that potion, and I really have to wonder whether you should ask either of them to trust the other to that extent.”

 

“I am aware of their feelings while at school.  Quite aware.” Albus reached out and calmly poured himself another cup of tea.  “But I believe Remus Lupin is the best person for the Defence job this year, for various reasons.  Regardless of personalities, even Severus will have to concede his competence in the subject.   Oh yes,” he said, seeing her look, “I’ve heard the rumours that Severus would like to be the Defence professor, though he has never spoken to me on the matter.  But I suspect he has expressed a belief that the subject is not being taught as it should be.”

 

“Would you ever consider him as Defence professor?” asked Minerva.  “It may be easier to find another Potions expert, you know.”

 

“I have heard that suggestion.  But regardless of his own knowledge of the subject – which is considerable - that is one position Severus will not hold.  At least while I am Headmaster.”

 

“Why is that?” I asked.

 

“I have my reasons,” he said.  “And Severus knows what they are.” His tone would admit no further discussion.

 

“Are you going to tell the other staff about Remus?” I asked.  “What will they think – will they agree?”   I knew Filius would be no problem, but I could just imagine Severus.  And Professor Trelawney.

 

“I’ve thought long and hard about whether I should tell them or not, Poppy,” he said gently.  “But they have a right to know – especially as one or two of them might be called upon to fill in for him during his ‘absences’.”

 

Minerva and I looked at each other: there’d be no question where our support would lie.

 

“Assuming you manage to persuade the others, Albus, when will Professor Lupin get here?” she asked

 

“The full moon is two nights before the start of term, and Remus said he preferred to remain at home for that.   So I have asked him to accompany the students on the train.  Unless the Ministry manages to catch Sirius in the meantime, they could be vulnerable while travelling.  And the Ministry is quite likely to insist that the Dementors check the train before it arrives, so it will be as well to have someone who can cast a good Patronus charm if necessary.”

 

He smiled suddenly at me.  “Poppy, don’t look so glum.  I thought you of all people would look forward to seeing Remus again!”

 

“I do, Albus, I do.  It has been far too long.  But I wish it was not in these circumstances!”   I felt a terrible sadness; my thoughts were whirling like billywigs and I felt a headache developing.   I rose abruptly.

 

“Albus, thank you for the delicious supper.   I – I have a few things to think about.   I’ll see you tomorrow.  Good night, Minerva.”

 

And before either of them could respond, I left the room.

 

______________

 

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