The Sugar Quill
Author: FernWithy (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Lines of Descent  Chapter: July 24, 1964
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Lines of Descent

Lines of Descent
by FernWithy

July 24, 1964. Under the full moon.

It was long past his bedtime, but it was too hot to sleep, and Daddy's Cooling Charm hadn't stood up to the heat very long. Remus kicked at his sheets and shoved them off the end of the cot. There was a little breeze coming down through the window, and he just knew it would be better outside.

It wasn't fair. It was hot a lot this summer, and there'd been plenty of times when Mummy and Daddy had made a little shelter with poles and a few sheets, and the three of them made a game of sleeping outside. Mummy would tell stories about old days, when she was little, and Daddy would make shadow animals on the wall of their little tent, then charm them to dance about and make noises. Everyone had fun and sometimes Remus would sing songs he knew and Mummy would clap. And it was much better than it was inside.

Now it was the hottest it had been yet, but Mummy and Daddy said they absolutely couldn't sleep outside tonight. Remus had stood on the back steps with his blanket and pillow and waited for them to change their minds, but they didn't. They just kept saying, "Not tonight. Tomorrow." They didn't tell him why.

At first, they didn't even want him on the sun porch, with its big windows, and even when they finally decided to let him stay there, Daddy had fixed all the windows so that they came down at the top instead of up from the bottom. And he'd closed the big heavy door.

It was almost as bad as being in his room upstairs, and for awhile, Remus thought about going back up there. It was only a little hotter, and he'd have the sheets Mummy had bought him that had dragons swooping around them. Remus wanted to see a dragon someday. He liked animals, and Daddy had promised him that next year, he would be old enough to have a pet of his own. Mummy was trying to convince him to get a cat or an owl, but Remus wanted a dog. He liked the way they jumped and licked his face.

He sat up on his cot and pushed his hair back up out of his face, letting the little bit of breeze cool him down. It wasn't fair. If there was any night to be outside, this was it. He looked up longingly at the crack above the windows. He could smell the grass and the leaves, and that lovely smell that was just night outdoors. Night always smelled better than day, but especially in the summer.

Mummy had left a clock here for him and charmed a rock to glow and light up its face. Ever since Remus had learned to read clock hands last year, he always wanted to know the time. It was eleven-forty. Mummy and Daddy had gone upstairs at ten-twenty, and Remus hadn't heard them since. Sometimes they put an Impervious Charm on their door, though--he supposed they were talking about grown-up things, like money and Quidditch--so they might still be awake. Maybe Daddy could put a new Cooling Charm on the sheets.

Remus got up, thinking he could at least ask, but as he moved toward the door to the inside, he heard a sound from outside.

A barking sound.

Two weeks ago, a new family had moved in at the farmhouse on the other side of the Lupin's fence. Mr. and Mrs. Phelan didn't have any children, but maybe they had a dog.

Remus considered this carefully.

If they didn't have children, maybe they would like to have one who came and visited to play. Mrs. Phelan was very nice and had given him sweets and not tried to kiss his cheek, like other grown-ups did and he hated. She even told him a story, and Mummy said that maybe she could watch Remus sometime while Mummy and Daddy went out. Mrs. Phelan had looked like that was the most wonderful thing anyone had ever said to her, and had asked him, "Would you like to come and visit me? I'd so like to visit with you!"

Remus thought that meant she would like to see him, and it made him feel good to think he might make her happy. And that was even before he thought they might have a dog.

He could show Mummy that a dog was a good thing to have, if she could see how much fun they would have together. Mummy and Daddy liked Mr. and Mrs. Phelan. When they'd come over three nights ago, there'd been a long talk among the grown-ups while Remus read a storybook in his room, and Mummy had said to Daddy later how much she admired them. "It can't be easy," she'd said, "but I admire them for trying, and being honest."

There was another bark, then a howl. The dog sounded like it was awfully lonely. It probably didn't like being hot any more than Remus did.

It wasn't very nice of the Phelans to leave their dog all alone, even if they were nice to people.

Remus glanced over his shoulder and listened to the house. There was no sound from his parents' room. They were probably asleep. He wouldn't bother them. And they'd said he couldn't sleep outside, not that he couldn't go outside.

His father's voice came into his mind for a moment--You know you're not to go walking about alone at night, Remus--but it was only a moment, and the dog was barking again, and it just sounded like it wanted company. A boy, perhaps.

Remus turned around, opened the outside door, and went down the steps.

The breeze was like cool water on his skin, and the moon was big and silvery, making everything glow with a kind of magic light. It was beautiful, like it wasn't even the yard he saw every day, but some other world that he'd slipped into, just like in the stories Daddy read to him that had princes and princesses and sword-fighting. Remus smiled, laughed. The sound seemed to bounce off the moon and fill the night.

The dog howled next door.

Remus took one brief look up at his parents' bedroom window. There was the glow of one of Mummy's charmed rocks, but nothing else.

He made his way over to the fence and slipped under one of the wooden slats into the Phelans' yard.

The dog was barking from the other side of the barn. It sounded miserable, letting out little yelps and woofs, then letting loose another long howl. Remus came around the corner and saw it.

No wonder it was howling!

It was a great large dog, with gray fur and pointed ears. In the bright moonlight, its eyes seemed to glow. The Phelans had put it in a cage that was barely big enough for it, and it was throwing itself against the bars, crying at the sky, looking sad and lonely and hurt. As Remus watched, it bit its own paw.

"I'm coming," Remus whispered, no longer wanting to visit with the Phelans, who had to be mean and awful, no matter how nice they seemed. "Poor doggie."

He didn't know exactly what he meant to do--he definitely wouldn't be able to open the cage--but he thought it would at least help to just be there. And sure enough, the dog had good ears and when it heard his voice, it stopped yelping. Instead, it just went down on its haunches, close to the ground, its ears flat like it wanted to play rough (Remus had played rough with a big dog in the village; it had been fun). They wouldn't be able to play much, not with the cage there, but Remus thought maybe just petting the dog would make it feel better, the way he sometimes felt better after a bad dream if Mummy sat beside him on his bed and combed his hair with her fingers.

He reached the cage and stood there uncertainly. The dog was looking up at him with a dog-smile, all of its sharp teeth showing.

"I'm Remus," he said. "I live next door."

The dog stuck its snout through the bars and Remus tapped it in a quick pat, then drew his hand away. The dog made a noise in its throat.

Remus bit his lip. Something was tingling in his stomach, some strange fear. The dog was just looking at him steadily, making that noise, looking lonely. But some message kept trying to go through his blood, and the message was, Run.

Stupid idea.

Remus Lupin wasn't a coward, and he wanted to have a dog. He wasn't frightened of them. This one was big, but it was in a cage. It wasn't going to hurt him.

The dog pushed its nose out hopefully again, and made a whimpering kind of sound.

The tingling feeling got stronger, but Remus ground his teeth. He wasn't frightened. He liked dogs, and the nasty old Phelans shouldn't have left theirs outside all by itself when it was so hot and miserable, and the cage was too small and--

It happened fast.

Almost daring himself to do it, Remus went all the way up to the cage. The dog backed up a few steps.

Remus put his right hand between the bars, meaning to scratch behind the dog's ears. Instead, the dog's head darted upward, its heavy jaws and sharp teeth clamping down on Remus's arm, just below the elbow. He heard the bone break even before he felt the pain.

When the pain came, it was hot and sickening.

Remus tried to pull his hand away, but the dog wouldn't let go. The teeth sank deeper into his flesh.

He screamed.

And screamed.

He didn't know how long he screamed, how long the dog shook him by the arm and tried to pull him closer, how long he gaped up at the full moon before things got hazy. He could see his own blood falling onto the dusty ground, making black mud in the silver light. His head was swimming, his legs were weak. The world grayed.

Then there was a voice, a spell, a pair of strong arms scooping him up. His arm came free of the cage, and flopped down uselessly. The broken edges of the bone cracked against each other and a bright white pain exploded in his head, and then there was blackness.

Some time later--he didn't know how long--he was vaguely aware of someone screaming, then of being put in more familiar arms, Mummy's arms, and smelling her summer smell. There were voices:

"The cage held... he put his hand in with her..."

Frantic. "We told him we couldn't be outside tonight! What was he doing there?"

"He was trying to pet her. I think he was playing..."

"My baby, my baby, how did this happen, how did this..."

And then there was another blank time, more gray than black, and when he came out of it he was in a strange bed, and Mummy and Daddy were looking at him, frightened and sad. Mummy was sitting in a chair beside the bed, holding one of his hands, the one that wasn't covered with bandages. Daddy was on the bed on his other side, big arms comfortably around him.

Nothing really hurt anymore.

"Where are we?" he asked.

Mummy squeezed his hand. "We're at St. Mungo's Hospital. We had to get your bite fixed. And your arm. They fixed the bone. The bite... it will take a few days." She started to cry.

"What were you doing, Remus?" Daddy asked quietly.

"I was just visiting the dog," Remus said, feeling embarrassed at how it turned out. Mummy would never let him have a dog now. "It sounded sad, and the Phelans had it in a bitty little cage. But it was nasty. It bit me. I don't want to play with that dog anymore."

Mummy's crying got louder, and she rocked back and forth, holding his hand against her and pulling his arm straight each time she rocked.

"It wasn't a dog, Remus," Daddy said. He hugged Remus tighter. Between the two of them, Remus felt like he was being squeezed for juice. "It was... it was a sort of creature... do you know what a werewolf is?"

"It was a wolf? Why do Mr. and Mrs. Phelan have a wolf?"

"It was--"

"Tomorrow," Mummy said to Daddy. "It can wait until tomorrow. Please." She pulled his hand up to her face and kissed his fingers. Her face was tired and the dark stuff she wore on her eyelashes had run down her cheeks.

Remus hated it when she was sad. He reached over with his bandaged arm and patted her wrist. "It's all right, Mummy," he said. "It hardly hurts at all now."

She let out a wail that was so much like the dog's--the wolf's--that Remus almost screamed, but he caught himself. Mummy was sad enough already.

Daddy kissed his head. "You should sleep, Remus. You'll need strength. Quite a lot of it."

"Can we go home?"

"No." Daddy put a cool hand on his forehead. "No, Remus, you'll need to stay here for a bit."

"Can you and Mummy stay?"

"Tonight. We can stay tonight. We won't leave you."

"We won't ever leave you," Mummy said fiercely.

Daddy touched her hand. "We'll stay in the room with you tonight. That's fine. And tomorrow we need to have a very long and serious talk."

Remus gulped. Daddy said that whenever he'd gotten in trouble--"Remus, we need to have a very long and serious talk about making up stories... about keeping your room clean... about taking care of your toys..."

"I'm sorry," he said. His voice was shaky and jumping around. He was going to be in trouble and he felt like crying, but he hated crying and wasn't going to do it, especially not because he was afraid. He'd got himself in trouble. Whatever the punishment was, he should take it like a big boy, not a crying baby. "I shouldn't have gone out, I knew you wouldn't like it, I--"

"Shh," Daddy said. "Not tonight, Remus. Rest tonight. Mummy and I love you. Rest tonight."

Remus nodded uncertainly. It wasn't like Daddy to make him wait all night to find out what his punishment was going to be. Maybe it was because Mummy was so upset.

He leaned back into Daddy's arm and the cool pillows of the hospital bed, making room on his other side, and Mummy climbed in with them. He rested in the circle of their arms, drifting down toward sleep, feeling safe and comfortable between them.

His arm didn't hurt anymore, but Mummy was still crying when he finally fell asleep.

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