The Sugar Quill
Author: Eudora Hawkins  Story: Fall  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Fall

Fall

 

A/N:

This story was inspired by characters and events created and owned by J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended. The idea that Remus Lupin fancies swing and big band music was taken from the movie version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This story includes partial song lyrics to the 1944 popular standard “Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye” by Cole Porter. In the Department of Mysteries, Albus Dumbledore quotes from the fourth chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes.

 

Remus Lupin stumbled down the stairs to the basement kitchen of Grimmauld Place. Fatigue from the previous night’s battle at the Ministry mingled with his grief. He swiped a grimy hand across his brow. He couldn’t deal with that memory now. Just wanted to forget.

He inhaled, expecting the smell of frying eggs and toast that usually greeted his return from missions for the Order. Sirius’ sullen, grey eyes would glower at him over a cup of black coffee, angry that he had been confined to the old house and missed out on all the action. Remus would fill him in on the details of the mission. Then those haunted grey eyes would sparkle and glint. Here’s what we ought to do next…

But that morning Sirius was not in the kitchen waiting for Remus. Cold, grey ash filled the hearth, the fire extinguished long ago. Empty bottles and half-drained goblets lay on the table, just where they’d been left the previous night, when the summons had come to rescue Harry.

“Sirius,” Remus called out, more out of habit than expectation.

His own voice reverberated in the emptiness of the cavernous kitchen, a mocking echo. Of course, there was no answer. He’d been foolish to expect one.

His shaking hand pulled the chipped teapot and cup from its berth in the old dresser. He filled the china pot with cold water and tapped it with his wand, a mechanical gesture. A few minutes later, he sank into a nearby chair and sipped the steaming brew. But the tea brought him no comfort.

Remus’ tired eyes swept the surface of the worn wooden table. His hand shot out to lay hold of Sirius’ goblet, the one he’d held less than twelve hours ago. His fingers ran over the tarnished cup and idly traced the Black family crest etched on the side. He imagined his friend’s hand, still warm with life, clasped on the goblet. God, he couldn’t be gone.

Upstairs in the hallway, the locks and bolts clicked and turned. The familiar clunk of Moody’s wooden leg sounded down the passageway. That magical eye of Moody’s was boring through the floorboards, watching him. Remus released the goblet with a sudden jerk of his hand.

Of course, Mad-Eye would be watching. That infernal eye had been staring at Remus since the previous night. No doubt Dumbledore had sent the old man to keep an eye on him. Constant vigilance was Moody’s byword. A wry chuckle escaped Remus’ lips. Now that constant vigilance was trained on him. Damn!

An uncharacteristic anger surged up through his body. He did not want to be coddled. He wasn’t a child or a dangerous beast that required tending. The full moon wasn’t due for a couple more weeks. He glared at the wizened and scarred face of the old man descending the stairs into the gloomy kitchen.

“How are you feeling this morning, lad?” Moody inquired, both eyes trained on Remus with a studied gaze.

“Fine,” Remus snapped. He brushed past the old man, avoiding the piercing stare of the magical eye that followed his every movement. “I’ll be in my room.”

What had he just done? He paused at the top of the staircase. He dropped his head. His fist clenched and unclenched with his building wrath. Remus could hear his father’s words, advice drilled into him since childhood. We Lupins do not lose our temper. Unrestrained emotion is a sign of weakness. We face adversity with unfailing politeness and, if possible, a smile.

Should he turn back and apologize? He couldn’t. His fist slammed into the wall in frustration. He was losing control.

His footsteps hastened down the hallway, speeding his escape. His shoulder brushed against the tattered curtains that veiled the portrait of Mrs. Black. The drapes wrenched apart with a violent jerk. The vitriolic screams of the old crone pierced the silence.

Mutant! Fiend! Abomination of nature!” the old hag in the portrait shrieked at him. Her eyes bulged from their sockets. The veins in her temples pulsed like purple snakes writhing across her forehead. “How dare you besmirch my house with your presence.

Remus attempted to force the curtains close, but the portrait would not allow it.

Remove your filthy paws from me.” The old woman screamed with such fury that spit flew from the gaping mouth. “Summon the blood traitor, shame of my flesh.”

“I would gladly oblige,” Remus retorted. His voice quavered with rage. “But he’s…d-dead.” This last word emerged in a hoarse croak.

The old woman blinked and stared, silenced by the shock of the news. “Then it is true?

Remus nodded. His throat seemed to constrict shut. He had said the words that he could not even bring himself to think moments ago.

The old woman threw back her head and cackled with insane mirth. Her tormenting laughter caused his blood to boil. The blood-lust of the wolf buried deep within him bubbled up through his veins.

“Vile, demented, old hag, shut up!” he roared. “How can you laugh at your own son’s—

He is not my son,” she shrieked. “My only son, my good son, died fifteen years ago. And now that the blood traitor is gone, I rule this house once more!

Remus’ hand whipped the wand from his belt. He panted, his breath coming in shallow gasps. Before he could stop himself, he had uttered an Incendiary Curse.

Sparks flew from the end of the wand in a rush of heat. The tattered, threadbare drapes caught fire. Flames licked at the flakes of pigment on the canvas, charring the linen underneath. The old hag in the portrait emitted a blood-curdling scream of terror and pain and shrunk from the fire.

Remus stared at the flames that licked the portrait. Uneven footsteps and the curses of an old man reverberated in the hallway. A stream of water shot from Moody’s wand, dousing the fire in a hiss of steam and ash. Remus turned his head away and shielded his eyes that now stung and burned. God, what had he done?

When the smoke cleared, he turned to see the limp body of the old woman, snoring against the charred remains of the carved frame. Moody’s gnarled hands closed the tattered drapes, now blackened with soot and smoke. Then those same scarred hands came to rest on Remus’ shoulder.

“Could’ve set the whole house on fire,” Moody said, in a low growl that Remus knew was meant to sound affectionate. “All right, lad?”

The magical eye was now trained on Remus’ face. His rage had receded, leaving only pain and shame. His sleeve swiped away the tears that had collected in the corners of his eyes. Damned tears betraying his weakness.

“Smoke,” he whispered. “It bothers my eyes.” He turned his head away. “I think I need to rest.”

He staggered up the stairs to his room and pulled the door closed behind him. He walked toward his old gramophone perched on a little table in the corner. His fingers searched through the dusty cardboard record jackets of swing and big band music. He selected a collection of Cole Porter tunes, placed the record on the turntable, and positioned the needle into the groove. At first, only crackles erupted from the old bell. Then the expressive voice of Ella Fitzgerald’s singing filled the room.

 

Every time we say goodbye, I die a little,

Every time we say goodbye, I wonder why a little,

Why the gods above me, who must be in the know,

Think so little of me, they allow you to go.

 

Remus stretched out on the top of the bed and listened. Swing tunes and old jazz normally calmed and cheered him whenever he felt troubled. Focus on the music. Block everything else out. Don’t feel.

Moody’s ungainly stride sounded in the hallway outside his room. That penetrating gaze was watching him once more. He rolled over onto his side, closed his weary eyes, and pretended to sleep. He lay in silence and allowed the music to wash over him, waiting for the forgetfulness of slumber.

 

* * * * *

 

Moody drifted off to sleep down by the fire in the old kitchen at Grimmauld Place. The scarred and wrinkled head lolled on the old man’s chest. Remus fingered the small phial in his pocket, a sedative potion that Madam Pomfrey had given him earlier that week to help him sleep. He had dribbled some into Moody’s dinner that evening. How clever he had been. The suspicious old man had eaten his meal without detecting the presence of the drug.

Remus crept to the corner, snatched up Moody’s invisibility cloak, and strode to the door. At the stairs, he glanced behind him for one last reassuring look. The watchful glass eye was hidden under closed lids. His plan had worked. He donned the cloak and disappeared into the night.

Remus appeared in the halls of the Ministry of Magic, his Apparition Charm shattering the silence with an alarming CRACK! Shrouded by the cloak, he slipped into the shadows and made his way to the deserted Death Chamber. Once there, he allowed the invisibility cloak to slip from his shoulders. Only his footsteps echoed in the eerie silence. He picked his way through the rubble down the steep steps, descending to the raised dais some twenty feet below. He paused at the bottom, glanced behind him, then approached the ancient, crumbling stone archway that seemed to defy the laws of gravity. A black veil hanging across the opening of the archway fluttered, beckoning to him.

“Sirius,” he whispered into the void. Padfoot.”

His voice rebounded off the stone benches that rose in tiers all around him. The black veil shook with a seductive tremor. Was someone hiding just on the other side, daring him to venture through the curtain to find them?

“Sirius.” The words caught in his throat. “I…I just came to say goodbye.”

Remus shifted his weight uneasily. He stared at the floor and ran a hand through his hair. The veil fluttered again. How? No breeze blew in the cold dampness of the chamber. Was it Sirius?

“I wish that things had ended differently. It should have been me, instead of you. How I regret that I did not—”

A shuddering sob shook his body. Thoughts of self-reproach dogged him. Why had he been so quick to believe in Sirius’ guilt all those years ago? Peter had been his best friend. How could he not have known that Peter was the traitor? Did Sirius know how much his friendship meant…how much he meant to Remus? If only he had been bolder. Perhaps if he had stood up for Sirius, this would not have happened. If only...

“R-right then.” He brushed the sleeve of his threadbare cloak over his face and collected himself. “I…I will miss you, old friend.”

His hand fumbled in the pockets of his robes and extracted a small flask and the chalice engraved with the Black family crest. With trembling grasp, he poured some of the liquor into the goblet. Half the liquid splashed down the side of the cup and spattered his worn robes. Then he faced the curtain once more and raised the chalice in tribute.

“The Marauders salute Padfoot on this…his final mission.” The words came hard. His voice dissolved to the merest whisper. “Mischief managed.”

He tossed down the liquor in a single gulp. The alcohol burned down the length of his esophagus. He grimaced. Then he set the chalice down with reverence at the foot of the archway.

The soft folds of the curtain caressed his ear. Whispered voices seemed to come from just behind the diaphanous fabric, summoning him. Was Sirius still there, waiting just on the other side? If only he could hear that voice once more.

The siren song lured him forward. The liquor, his grief, and lack of sleep clouded his judgment. He stepped toward the curtain. It would all be over in a moment. He would be reunited with his friends. The adventures were not over, they were just beginning. Just let go. Fall.

“Remus!” A commanding voice filled the chamber.

Remus stopped and spun around to face the newcomer. His eyes shot open wide in surprise. “Headmaster?”

Albus Dumbledore stared down at Remus from the heights of the Death Chamber. The hoary head and snowy beard of the ancient wizard glistened in the torchlight, encircling the wizened face in a halo. Light glinted from the half-moon spectacles perched on the end of the long crooked nose.

“You are no doubt wondering how I found you,” Dumbledore said, his voice full of tenderness. “Alastor informed me of your disappearance the moment that you left Grimmauld Place. I thought that I might find you here.”

Why that old fox! He hadn’t been asleep after all. How did he avoid that sedative? The old man cleaned his plate, every last bit. Remus stared up at Dumbledore in disbelief.

“Come away from the curtain, Remus,” Dumbledore urged, holding out his hand.

Remus shook his head. His pain had become a crushing weight, anchoring him to the spot. The voices still whispered in his ear, their enchantments ensnaring his thoughts. Come away with us. Fall through the curtain.

“Of course, I would not blame you, if you chose that path.” Dumbledore descended a step or two, a consoling smile on the old face. “I daresay you have endured more suffering at your young age than most men experience in a lifetime. And the shock of losing a dear friend, not once, but twice, that is difficult indeed. But…”

Here it comes! With Dumbledore, there was always a counter argument to challenge what you had already decided to do. Remus glanced from the archway to the headmaster with a questioning look.

“I ask you to consider that if you take your own life, you would be handing Voldemort a victory.” Dumbledore descended a few more steps, never removing his piercing gaze from Remus’ face. “One of my best generals taken out, without him having to lift a finger. The Order needs you, Remus.”

An appeal to duty. A wry smile worked on the corner of Remus’ lips. He had expected that. He was nothing if not loyal to Dumbledore. But his fatigue was too great. He was weary of fighting, so tired of losing friend after friend to this cause. He did not speak, but Dumbledore seemed to read his thoughts.

“Yes, it is hard to lose those we love.” Dumbledore sighed and moved closer. “Think of Harry and the losses that he has endured. Without you, Harry would lose the last connection to his parents that he has left in this world. And, I daresay, he is as broken-hearted about the loss of his godfather as you are.”

Harry – Dumbledore’s trump card. He should have known the old warlock would play that hand. Remus would do anything for Harry. He hung his head in shame. Sorrow swept over him in waves. His shoulders sank. His hand swiped away the tear that trickled unbidden down his cheek.

The ancient wizard was on the dais with him. The arm of the old man clasped around his shoulder, surprisingly powerful for one so aged. Before Remus realized what was happening, Dumbledore had led him from the dais and up the tiers of stone benches.

“‘Though one may be overpowered,’” Dumbledore mused, “‘two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’ Wise words to live by. There is strength in numbers, Remus. You are not alone.”

Dumbledore led Remus out into a circular room with many doors. Blue lights cast a melancholy glow over the rows of portals. The long fingers of the warlock pointed to another door.

“Come,” the old man beckoned. “Let me show you another mystery, perhaps the greatest mystery of all.”

Dumbledore waved his hand before the portal. The door glowed with a warm red light, then creaked open. Remus peered inside. Bookshelves stretched from floor to ceiling, bulging to capacity with dusty, leather-bound tomes. The room appeared to be a large library.

“What is this place?” Remus queried.

“A place for the study of the most terrible and awesome of all powers.” A twinkle glistened in Dumbledore’s kind blue eyes. He gestured for Remus to follow. “Come.”

Remus followed Dumbledore into the room and down one of the aisles. The ancient mage scanned the titles, pulled a tome from the shelf, and handed it to the younger man. Remus blew the dust from the leather cover of the book and stared at the title printed in glistening gold lettering. Remus J. Lupin.

“This is about me?” Remus asked, casting the headmaster a quizzical look.

“Yes,” Dumbledore nodded. “There is a volume in here for each person that has ever lived.” Dumbledore nodded again. “Open it.”

The old wizard conjured a comfortable squashy chair, covered in red chintz. Remus sank into the cushions, not taking his eyes off of the book. His shaking hand opened the first page. Inside were photographs of the people in his life.

The first was a picture of his parents in sepia tones: his Muggle father, an eccentric professor in full academic garb, flanked by his doting mother. There were still photos of his fraternal grandparents and relatives captured in sienna shades. On the next pages were wizard photographs of his maternal grandparents in which the occupants smiled and waved. All his family was preserved in the memories on those pages.

He turned another page to find pictures of his friends. Sirius, with his black hair and wily grin, waved out of a photograph from his Hogwarts years. James, in his Quidditch uniform, played with the golden snitch. Peter, a small boy with watery eyes, darted in and out of the same picture. Remus remembered the friendships of his youth. The best years of his life.

Then there were photographs from James and Lily’s wedding. Sirius thrust his shaggy head between the bride and groom, his face lit with mirth. Remus could still hear the familiar barking laugh.

Another page contained pictures of people from the old Order, including a much younger Mad-Eye Moody, with far fewer scars and his nose still intact. On the bottom of the page was a picture of James, Lily, one-year-old Harry…and Sirius. It had been taken just days before the attack. The last time he’d seen James and Lily alive.

Remus swallowed hard. His hand brushed back a tear that he had been unable to suppress. Another dropped on the page before he could check its progress.

“My past?” Remus asked, glancing up at Dumbledore.

“This is a record of all those who love you and whom you love,” Dumbledore explained, tears trailing down the snowy beard. “Past, present, and future. Our loved ones never leave us. We carry them with us whether we realize it or not.”

Remus flipped ahead several pages until he found pictures that he did not recognize. He stared at a photograph of an older Harry Potter, no longer a boy, but now a young man. In Harry’s arms was a lovely young woman with long, red hair. He smiled, noting the identity of the young lady.

Then his gaze flicked to another photograph taken on the same occasion. What was this? He was the subject, dancing a slow dance with someone. Grey strands streaked his brown hair in greater numbers and his dress robes looked a bit worse for wear. But his cheek lay nuzzled against a mass of golden brown curls, his face the picture of contented bliss. Could this be his future?

“Is this Harry’s wedding?” he asked.

“I see nothing but blank pages.” Dumbledore’s blue eyes twinkled behind the half-moon spectacles. “Only the owner of the book can read its contents.”

Remus turned back to the photograph, hoping for a better glimpse of the woman. She swayed in his arms and turned in rhythm to a silent tune. He could almost see her face. An enchanting, crooked smile. A rosy blush creeping across a lovely cheek. Then the picture faded from the page. No!

He flipped back and forth through the book. All the pictures from the past remained, but all the futures pages were now empty. He stared up at Dumbledore in panic.

“They’re turning blank,” he whispered. “What does it mean?”

“It may be that even the subject of the book is not permitted more than a glimpse of the future.” Dumbledore appeared pensive. “Or it may simply mean that we have run out of time.”

Pounding footsteps sounded in the hallway outside. Dumbledore tossed Remus the invisibility cloak and flicked his wand. The book flew back to its place on the shelf. Remus jumped to his feet and pulled the cloak back over his head. The chintz chair disappeared.

Then the door to the room blasted open. Two Aurors rushed in with their wands drawn, aimed at Dumbledore. Kingsley Shacklebolt and his muscular associate Dawlish blocked the doorway. Dumbledore raised his hand to stay the attack.

“No need to be alarmed,” Dumbledore explained. “Just doing a bit of after-hours research.”

Kingsley was the first to lower his wand. “Sorry, sir,” he intoned in his rumbling bass voice. “Alarms went off at Auror’s Headquarters. This door is supposed to be kept locked. We’ve been on high alert, since the break-in last week.”

“As well you should,” Dumbledore nodded, approaching the two Aurors. “On my way down here, I noticed that the stairwells are not being monitored. Nor is the second fireplace to the left in the Atrium.” Dumbledore turned and winked at no one in particular.

“Thank you, sir,” Dawlish replied. “We’ll file a report first thing in the morning.”

A grateful smile worked across Remus’ face. He nodded to the headmaster under the invisibility cloak, certain that the old man’s piercing gaze had somehow noticed.

 

* * * * *

 

More than a month had passed since his adventure in the Department of Mysteries. Remus still felt the pain of his friend’s loss, but he was faring better now. He had just come off of a shift guarding Harry, when the summons from Dumbledore arrived. The portrait of Phineas Nigellus delivered the message.

“Dumbledore wishes to see you in his office immediately,” the aged Nigellus drawled with a lazy yawn. “You’ve been assigned a new recruit.”

“Someone new to the Order?” Remus inquired. “Anyone I know?”

“How should I know?” the portrait replied casting him an arch look. “I simply relay the messages.” Nigellus shrugged and reclined against the frame of the portrait. “But if I were you, I would hurry along. The interview started an hour ago.”

Remus leapt to his feet and sprinted to the massive stone fireplace in the basement kitchen at Grimmauld Place. His hand grabbed a fistful of a glistening powdery substance from a nearby cauldron and threw the powder into the fire. Moments later, Remus disappeared amidst the column of green flames flaring in the grate.

He stepped out into the well-appointed office of the Hogwarts headmaster. A meeting was already in progress. Several members of the Order had gathered in the room to participate in the interview. Remus could not see the candidate from his vantage point behind the row of spectators. But he could hear an unfamiliar female voice answering questions.

The muscular form of Kingsley Shacklebolt, with a single, shiny gold earring dangling from his earlobe, stood in front of him and blocked his view.  Next to the Auror stood Severus Snape, his black academic robes wrapped around his angular body. The two were engaged in a whispered conversation with their backs to Remus.

Remus stepped up behind them. Since when was Snape friendly with Shacklebolt? Or anyone, come to think of it?

“Why does he get all the plum assignments?” Kingsley whispered in deep base tones that were audible to Remus’ sharp ears.

“Because he is and has always been Dumbledore’s pet,” came Snape’s acid reply with a pronounced emphasis on the last word.

“What did I miss?” Remus asked.

Snape’s head whipped around to face Remus with his usual look of loathing. “Speak of the devil,” he spat. Then his mouth twisted into a sneer. “You really shouldn’t sneak up on people like that. It is almost predatory. By the way, you’re an hour late. The interview is almost over.”

Ah! So Remus himself was the topic of conversation. That explained a lot. Although he hardly considered guarding Harry from Aunt Marge’s vicious bulldog a plum assignment. Both the mutt and its mistress had been in belligerent spirits. He’d had his hands full keeping Harry calm, and even had to hex the pesky pup. Though he’d administered only a mild shock, the prospect of cruelty to any animal, even one as deserving as Aunt Marge’s prize pet, was troubling enough to his conscience. He furrowed his brow. But he wasn’t about to rise to Snape’s bait.

“I just got off my last shift,” Remus replied. “I came as soon as I heard.” He glimpsed the back of the candidate from between the two men. “So who is she?”

“A clerk from the Office of Wizengamot Administration Services,” Snape said. “Recruited by Arthur Weasley.”

“Pity we didn’t have her last year,” Kingsley added. “We could have used a spy in Wizengamot affairs when Fudge ousted Dumbledore from the High Court. She’s in an ideal position to keep tabs on the court cases of all those Death Eaters imprisoned last month.” Kingsley nudged Remus with his elbow and winked. “And she’s an expert in Muggle martial arts. Got high marks – a black belt. You missed a cracking demo. McGonagall conjured an opponent.”

Kingsley pointed toward a pile of cushions, arranged to resemble a human form, slouching in the corner of the room. Fluffy wads of stuffing protruded from burst seams. Remus’ eyebrows shot up.

He shouldered his way forward to get a better look. The woman sat erect in a low-backed chair before the Headmaster’s desk. Baggy trousers and a loose-fitting blouse covered her petite build. A wand handle stuck out from a pocket along her right thigh. She wore her chestnut hair pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of her neck. Remus craned his head to get a look at her face, but could not from his position behind her chair. That’s odd. She didn’t look all that intimidating.

 “…Dolores Umbridge,” the woman said.

Remus’ eyes remained fixed on her. Her conversation with the headmaster had captured his attention. He remembered Umbridge’s condescending toad-like smile and great budging eyes, when she had announced her latest round of anti-werewolf legislation. The despicable hag. His jaw clenched.

Narcissa Malfoy has been a daily visitor to Ms. Umbridge’s office,” the woman said. “Peddling her influence to win freedom for her husband.”

“Her attentions were not confined to Ms. Umbridge alone, no doubt?” Dumbledore responded, training those piercing blue eyes on her.

“No, sir,” she replied. “She has applied to every member of the Wizengamot, except you.”

“Ah, yes.” A familiar twinkle glistened in Dumbledore’s eyes behind the half-moon spectacles. “And would you happen to know the nature of these discussions?”

“Not first hand, sir,” she replied. “But there are rumors aplenty. Narcissa insists that her husband was victim of injustice, wrongly imprisoned. She claims that he’d heard rumors of children at the Ministry that evening and that he’d come to help, when the Imperious curse was used on him. Mrs. Malfoy has enjoined Umbridge to champion her husband’s cause. Gold has changed hands.”

“Ah, that is not unexpected.” The snowy head nodded. “But it is good to have confirmation.” Dumbledore’s gaze scanned the parchment on his desk, then faced the woman once more. “We can’t have too many spies in the Ministry. I am certain that you’ll be useful to us.”

“Yes, sir.” The woman leaned forward. “But I want to do more than spy on the Wizengamot. I’m willing to fight.”

Dumbledore’s face softened. A knowing glint twinkled in his eyes. “Any weaknesses?”

The woman hesitated. “The Dark Arts,” she whispered, dropping her head. “I never was very good at…”

“If I may,” Snape said in his silkiest tones. “I have considerable expertise in this area.” He shot Remus a challenging look. “I would be delighted to coach our new recruit.” 

The woman spun around in her chair to face Snape. The Potions master inclined his head in a slight nod. She nodded in reply.

Remus’ mouth dropped open. The woman before him was the same one that he had seen in that photograph in the Department of Mysteries. He’d only caught a momentary glimpse of her face in that photograph, but he was certain. She was his dance partner.

“Ah, Remus, you’ve arrived,” said Dumbledore, rising to his feet. The headmaster gestured to the young woman. “Allow me to introduce Angela Hawkins.” Dumbledore turned to the woman. “This is Remus Lupin. I have asked him to be your mentor in the Order. He can explain our procedures to you and answer your questions.”

Angela rose to her feet, turned to face Remus, and extended her hand. In her haste, her foot caught on the leg of the chair. With a gasp of surprise, she pitched forward and grabbed Remus’ arm to check her fall. Then she released his arm and took a step backward. A blush of chagrin crept over her cheeks.

“I’m terribly sorry,” she said. “So clumsy of me.” She swiped a brown curl from the path of her sea-green eyes and extended her hand to Remus once more. “Pleased to meet you.”

Remus could not move. He stared, at a complete loss for words. His knees had gone weak.

A smirk of perverse pleasure twisted across the Potions master’s face. “Close your mouth, Lupin,” Snape hissed in a whisper. “You’re drooling.” Then Snape turned to Angela, took her hand in his own, and kissed it. “You must excuse my colleague. He is not accustomed to beautiful women. I believe he prefers a canine companion.”

“Did you say something, Severus?” Remus asked, recovering and finding his voice at last.

“I was just telling Miss Hawkins about that mangy, ill-tempered cur that you kept company with last year.” Snape sneered, still cradling Angela’s hand in his own.

“I love animals,” Angela said. She withdrew her hand from Snape’s and cast a shy glance at Remus. “Dogs are such intelligent and loyal creatures. I would love to meet yours.”

“Actually, Snuffles had a rather sweet disposition,” Remus replied evenly. Then he shot a glance at Snape and added, “Toward most people.”

Kingsley snorted. Snape glared at Remus with a look that did little to disguise his hatred. Angela did not seem to notice. Those lovely eyes, deep as the ocean, were still locked on Remus.

“Had?” she said.

“Yes, he’s…he’s dead.” Those words still stuck in his throat.

“I’m so sorry.” Angela dropped her gaze.

“Thank you.” Remus averted his eyes, then looked up again. “Where are my manners? I’m Lupus Reemin, I…I mean, Remus Lupin.”

Good Godric! Had he just said that? Warmth flushed up through his cheeks. He felt like a flustered school boy. A conversation from his Hogwarts days flooded back into his memory. A sixteen-year-old Sirius whispered in his ear. Oy! Really suave, Moony. Way to chat up a bird. Weren’t you paying attention?

“What did you say your name was?” Remus asked. He smiled and held out his hand.

“Please, call me Angela,” she replied.

That charming lopsided grin appeared on her face. She took hold of his outstretched hand. A barking laugh echoed in Remus’ head. You always were a lucky dog, Moony. Snog her for me.  And just look at old Snivelly.

Remus glanced over at the Potions master. Snape’s lip quivered and twitched with spasms. His sallow face had turned green with envy. Remus did not want to appear ungentlemanly, but he could not suppress the wide grin that overcame his face.

From behind his desk, Dumbledore watched the interchange. His eyes twinkled with merriment behind the half-moon spectacles. He appeared most pleased with himself.

Minerva McGonagall approached his desk, a stern look of disapproval on those thin, pursed lips. She studied the headmaster’s expression, then glanced in the direction of Remus and Angela. Remus caught the look out of the corner of his eye. His ears tuned to the conversation.

“Albus, I sincerely hope that you have not been dabbling in matchmaking again,” the deputy headmistress scolded, arching a thin brow.

“Whatever makes you say that, Minerva?” The bushy white brows of the ancient warlock shot up in surprise.

“Curiously, Griselda Marchbanks asked me to give you this.” McGonagall plunked a large, leather-bound book on his desk. “This photo album was found among the stacks in the library of the Department of Mysteries the other day. Records show that you were the last registered user of the library. Madam Marchbanks keeps meticulous accounts of all the books. And she thought that you might know the owner of this particular tome.”

“Yes, indeed,” Dumbledore replied, eyeing the book. His hand quickly slid the volume under a stack of parchments on his desk. “Ah, yes, I may have left that behind. Do thank her for me, Minerva.”

McGonagall’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Albus, you meddlesome old fool, you didn’t?”

“In truth, I cannot deny it.” A smile twitched under the snowy beard. “After all, without my assistance, there would have been no Lily and James or Alice and Frank or …”

The library at the Department of Mysteries?  Remus could hardly contain his surprise. He’d been pranked by the old headmaster himself. Sirius’ voice intruded on his thoughts. You’re not going to stand for that are you, Mate?

Remus glanced over at Angela. A worthy plan would require some thought. In the meantime, he had a job to do, one that promised to be very enjoyable. He extended his arm to Angela and gave a courtly bow.

“Shall I escort you to headquarters?” he said. “Show you around?”

“That sounds delightful.” Angela looped her arm in his and flashed him a smile.

Remus glimpsed the deepening scowl on Snape’s face. He chuckled. The strains of another Cole Porter tune hummed in his head. Ella Fitzgerald sang that jazzy swing again in his heart.

 

//
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