Disclaimer: JKR is responsible for this wonderful, wonderful world. I’d like to thank her for inspiration and remind her that I’m less than dirt and making absolutely no money from her beloved characters. Kailin is, of course, mine.
Chapter 1: A Change of Clothes
Monday, March 3, 1997
The wind blasted me head on as I emerged from the Tube station. Combined with the steady cold rain, it threatened to make my three block walk home a miserable experience, and I hoped Remus had a large pot of something simmering away on the stove. Exactly what didn’t matter: coffee, tea, soup, I’d need any or all of them by the time I reached the flat. In no time, my thin scrub pants, extending beneath the bottom of my coat, were soaked. I could feel the wet wicking its way down my socks as well, and I mentally added a dry towel to the list of necessities I required. March, it seemed, was determined to come in like a lion, and I sincerely prayed that it followed the old saying and went out like a docile lamb.
As I turned the corner onto Bannister Row, I had to fiddle with the hood of my coat. A particularly strong gust tore it backwards, and I was in the middle of readjusting it when I spotted the flashing emergency lights ahead.
A lot of flashing emergency lights ahead.
I broke into a hurried walk, and finally into a run when I realized that the lights were parked extremely close to my flat. From this distance it was impossible to tell if the emergency vehicles were fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, or a combination of all three. I was concerned, and with good cause.
Ever since Christmastime, I’d become increasingly paranoid. First there’d been the uncomfortable encounter with Lucius Malfoy at Madame Malkin’s, during which he’d blatantly leered at me from across the crowded shop. The man’s unwanted attentions made my flesh crawl, even more so when I learned who he was and to whom he owed his allegiance.
Then, before the holidays ended, Voldemort made his long-anticipated move - with tragic results.
Remus first told me about the wizarding war last summer, one of the many disclosures which resulted in me becoming the Muggle wife of a werewolf. Voldemort’s vendetta against Muggles and Muggle-born wizards began with the July murders of Edward and Constance Creevey, the Muggle parents of two Hogwarts students. August brought a failed attack on another student’s family. At once the Order of the Phoenix redoubled its efforts to glean whatever information it could about future attacks in an effort to prevent them.
It was almost as if Voldemort and his group of cold-blooded assassins knew they were under tight scrutiny, for there was no further activity for months on end. Then, on New Year’s Eve, a group of Death Eaters stole inside Hermione Granger’s home and murdered her parents while she was tied and gagged and made to watch. Despite the dozens of Order ears attuned to pick up any shred of news, it was too late. By the time Dumbledore got wind of the attack plan, it was a fait accompli.
The targeting of Hugh and Helena Granger, Remus told me grimly, was most certainly intended to make an enormous impression on the wizarding world. Their daughter’s educational accomplishments and raw talent were well known to anyone with present ties to Hogwarts. For five years, Muggle-born Hermione had easily bested the young pure-blood witches and wizards in all her classes, something that was a continuous thorn in the side of many in Voldemort’s circle. And that circle included Lucius Malfoy, who for years had been openly aggrieved that his son Draco was continually outshone by a ’Mudblood’. It was Remus’ opinion that Malfoy himself was probably the one pushing for the attack on the Grangers. What better symbol of Voldemort’s agenda than to destroy the Muggle family of the brightest witch to come along in a generation?
Hermione’s loss saddened me enormously - partly because I’d lost my own parents in an accident ten years earlier and I understood the sheer pain of it, but also because I’d gotten to know her rather well during my engagement to Remus last summer. Almost immediately, Molly and Arthur Weasley volunteered to serve as Hermione’s guardians, since the girl‘s remaining relatives were few and distant. I tentatively suggested to Remus that we might host her at some point during school breaks as well, and he readily agreed.
Then one night it occurred to me: Remus was a wizard married to a Muggle. I could easily be a target myself. But my husband had been dubious.
“I’m not saying it’s outside the realm of possibility,” Remus admitted, “but it’s just not likely. Death Eaters generally don’t care to sully their hands with us half-breeds.”
I hated the obnoxious wizarding laws that proclaimed werewolves as ‘half-humans’, but he had a point. This was one time when prejudice just might work in our favor. I decided to trust Remus’ intuition in this matter and deliberately pushed any concerns out of the forefront of my mind. I don’t like living in constant fear, starting at every noise and jumping at every shadow.
But now, seeing fire trucks blocking the street ahead, I feared that Remus’ confidence was misplaced. I sprinted the last stretch as fast as I could, totally oblivious to the wind and rain.
I arrived at the jumble of trucks, hoses and firemen, out of breath, my heart thudding painfully in my chest. It was our building drawing all the attention, but I couldn‘t spot any flames. Remus. Where was Remus?
Almost instantly, I heard him calling my name, and looked around to see him hurrying toward me. I threw myself gratefully into his arms.
“Kailin!” He held me tight. “What a way to find out! I’m so sorry… I called you at work, but you’d already left. And I tried your mobile phone, but you didn’t answer, -”
“What happened?” I gasped. “Was it Voldemort? Were we attacked?”
He chuckled softly in my ear.
“Nothing that dramatic, dearest. I’m afraid the downstairs neighbors had a bit of a grease fire and it went out of control.”
I sagged against him, utterly relieved. “Then - our flat is all right?” I asked hopefully. I could see now that the first floor windows had been broken out, while ours on the second story were intact.
“I don’t know,“ Remus admitted. “I‘ve been waiting for the firemen to tell me.”
All I’d wanted was a hot meal and a hot bath, and now I’d get neither. I joined my husband in staring at the flat and hoping for the best.
Ever since graduating from college, I had avoided putting down roots. It wasn’t a question of money, because my income was enough to afford me a nicely furnished place to live.
I simply wasn’t interested. My parents were recently deceased, and I still felt the loss keenly. Not only had I lost a mother and father, I’d lost my childhood home as well. No amount of fancy decorating could turn my boxy little apartment into a home. Besides, I worked long hours at my nursing job. The apartment was nothing more than a place to crash.
Then I began working for a traveling nurse agency. I was sent all over the country, which automatically meant short-term stays at residence hotels. I was further than from having a real home.
My marriage to Remus marked the first time I had enthusiastically thrown myself into feathering a nest. I was, however, determined to furnish our home nicely and without spending a lot of money. Given the fact that Remus had lived in near-poverty for so long, it seemed totally inappropriate to go on a thoughtless spending spree. I bought things like linens and kitchen items new, then visited flea markets and furniture consignment stores to find the rest. The two of us had a positively delightful time choosing our furnishings, and while they were neither numerous nor costly, they were certainly precious to us. As I stared up at the darkened windows of our home, tears slid down my cheeks, mingling with the water dripping from my sodden hair.
“Kailin…” Remus pulled me tighter. “It’ll be all right, darling.”
“Would the missus like to sit down in my parlor?” a voice called.
I turned to find the elderly gentleman who lived directly across the street from us, standing on his stoop. We’d done no more than exchange pleasantries on occasion, yet I decided that right now he was my best friend in the whole world. Remus answered for me.
“Yes, please. That’s very kind of you.” My husband put a firm arm around my shoulders and steered me across the minefield of fire hoses and up the front steps of the man’s flat.
“Bit of a shock, I should think,” the man said, leading the way into the house. “Coming down the street and finding your home gone.”
“We don’t know that,“ Remus put in hastily. “I’m sure there’s damage, but we don’t know how much yet. The fire was below us, not directly in our flat. Do you have a blanket or a towel? I hate to drip all over your house…”
“’Course I do. Wait right there.”
The man shuffled away and returned shortly with both blankets and towels. “Name’s Donald Mackey,” he said. “Seen you often, but never introduced myself.”
“Remus Lupin.” My husband shook his hand. “And my wife, Kailin.”
“How do’.” Mr. Mackey nodded in my direction. “Can I get you both a spot of tea?”
“That would be wonderful,” I said gratefully. “But I hate to inconvenience you, Mr. Mackey.”
“No inconvenience at all. I was just going to make some for myself.” He shuffled off to the kitchen, leaving Remus and me to dry off. We stood in the small entrance hall, mopping up ourselves as best we could.
“I thought I smelled smoke,” Remus told me as he wiped off his face. “But nothing more than a whiff, you know. Then all of a sudden I heard the sirens, and the fire trucks pulled up and they started making everyone evacuate the premises.”
A thought struck me. I stopped blotting my hair and stared at him, wide-eyed. The last full moon had been only two days ago…
“What if this had happened at night during the full moon? Or afterwards when you’re sleeping? You sleep so soundly, you might never have heard the sirens -” I broke off, unable to finish the thought. The loss of a few household belongings suddenly dropped a few notches on the list of Things That Mattered.
“But it didn’t,” Remus reminded me quietly, holding my eyes steady with his own, urging me back to calmness.
I took a deep breath and nodded. We continued our drying off in silence, then placing the folded blankets underneath us, took seats in the elderly gentleman’s parlor. A television blared noisily at us: a silly game show was in progress.
“I think he must be hard of hearing,” Remus said in my ear.
“No kidding. Do you suppose he’d mind if I turned it down?” The question was mere formality. I was already out of my chair, looking for the appropriate dial - it was an old television set - to adjust the volume.
It took several more minutes for Mr. Mackey to appear with the tea tray. Remus spent the time staring out the window towards our home while I nervously fingered my towel and stared unseeingly at the TV.
“Here we go,” he called cheerfully as he tottered into the room. “This’ll warm you up a bit.”
Remus sprang from his seat to take the precariously tilting tray from the man. “Here, let me help.”
“Thank you for that, young man. I’m not as steady as I used to be.” He gestured toward the coffee table. “Just set it down right there.”
Remus did as he was instructed. Mr. Mackey manned the teapot and began to pour, politely inquiring about our preferences for milk or sugar. Soon we were sipping hot tea, feeling the warmth drive out the lingering chills and grateful for it. Remus reprised his story of the fire, then our host began to talk at great length about his dearly departed wife. I didn’t know if it was Mr. Mackey’s way of distracting us from our woes, or if he was simply glad to have a captive audience for his tales. In any event, I soon began to feel human again, and I stopped listening and started wondering when I’d be able to get into some dry clothes.
I’d just reached the bottom of the cup of tea when there was a knock at the door. It was the fire chief, looking for Remus. Remus stood at once and introduced me.
“Sorry ‘bout meeting under these circumstances, ma’am,” the fireman said, tipping his hat in my direction.
“Our flat?” I asked, cutting through the formalities at once.
“You’re the second story, right? Could have been lots worse. There’s smoke damage, of course, but little damage from the water. Lucky you live above and not below. Main problem is that the fire damaged the downstairs kitchen ceiling, which is your kitchen floor, of course. Good chance it would collapse if you walked on it. It‘s quite unsafe as it is.”
“So we can’t go home,” I said miserably, and the fire chief chuckled.
“Not unless you want to create a shortcut to the lower level. We’ll be letting your landlord know ’bout the damage. I suspect you’ll be out for several weeks, longer for the first floor folks.”
“But - our clothes - ” I sputtered, knowing it was useless to protest.
“Best buy a few odds and ends to get you through, ma‘am. Be a bit like camping out, but at least you’ll have your home back in the end.”
I’m not a clothes horse, but I do like to have a change of underwear at regular intervals. I was miserably contemplating the reality of our current situation when I noticed Remus winking at me over the fire chief’s shoulder. When the man departed, Remus sidled up to whisper in my ear.
“I’ll Apparate into the bedroom after dark and pack us a bag.”
Momentary relief flooded over me, then faded.
“And we’ll be staying where, exactly?” I whispered back.
“Well, that’s not such bad news,” Mr. Mackey broke in, reappearing with a plate of cookies. “Biscuits?”
We spent several minutes politely nibbling on stale cookies, then Remus thanked the man for his kindness and announced that we would be needing to be finding a place to stay. A flash of consternation crossed the old man’s face, as though he thought we might now be expecting him to offer lodging. When we said our good-byes, I thought he looked a bit relieved that his hospitality hadn’t backfired on him.
“Where are we going?” I asked Remus curiously as we headed back outside into the cold, damp twilight.
“It’s only temporary,” he said, and suddenly I knew.
“We’re not.” I closed my eyes briefly.
“It’s there, Kailin. We may as well use it.”
I sighed. I really had no choice.
We were going to stay at number twelve, Grimmauld Place.
* * *
I hate number twelve for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s invisible, and I find it hard to grow attached to someplace I can’t see. The fact that it’s cavernous and spooky and reeks of dark magic isn’t very endearing, either. The house is deserted, except for the times when the Order holds its meetings there. It’s also the place where I found out that Remus was a werewolf, a night that churned up a wave of despair and caused me to evaluate what in life was truly important. Even Remus isn’t fond of the old house. For him, it conjures memories of Sirius Black, and reinforces the fact that his good friend is dead and gone.
We had to take the Tube and one bus in order to get to Grimmauld Place. Along the way, we stopped to pick up some fish and chips for dinner. The cold rain hadn’t yet abated, and as a result, we were both hungry, cold and tired by the time we arrived.
The house wasn’t any more inviting than usual, but it did have the advantage of being dry. We took care to tiptoe past the portrait of Mrs. Black; after the past few hours, the last thing either of us wanted was to deal with a screaming maniac. Remus deposited me in the kitchen while he went about the house turning on the gas lights. It took all my nerve to stay alone in that kitchen, listening to the house creak and groan, trying to reassure myself that this was nothing more than an old, empty building. I nearly jumped out of my skin when Remus reappeared.
“That’s it, then,” he said, and waved his wand briefly: two bathrobes materialized out of thin air. “Let’s get out of these wet clothes and then we can enjoy our meal. I‘ll use a drying charm on them later.”
By this time I felt permanently clammy. My scrub pants were glued to my legs and my shoes were sodden lumps of leather. I knew that Number Twelve had functioning plumbing, and I prayed that hot water was a real possibility. Right now, I would give my eye teeth for a long soak in the tub.
“I don’t suppose you could whip up a towel for my hair, could you?” I asked, half-joking.
Seconds later I had the towel in my hands. I love being married to a wizard.
Remus was the first one out of his clothes and into the bathrobe. Putting the two of us together in a room, disrobing, normally doesn’t lead to a dinner of cold fish and chips. But these were special circumstances, and before long both of us were wrapped in dry terrycloth and ready to eat. Remus placed a heating charm on the food and we dug in.
“Not the dinner I had in mind,” he said ruefully. “I was planning on a nice meatloaf for supper.”
“It’s not the worst meal I’ve ever had.” I sighed aloud. “I’m just glad you’re alive and that we didn’t lose everything.”
“Do you intend to go in to work tomorrow?”
“No. I think we need a day to regroup. I’ll call in as soon as -” I broke off. No telephone had ever graced the rooms of number twelve. “Well, I’ve got my cell phone in my purse. I‘ll call after supper.”
Funny thing I learned that night: cell phones don’t work very well in an extremely magical environment. I had to go outside to place the call. This meant, of course, that Remus needed to accompany me, since I couldn’t get back inside without him. And so we stood in a cold drizzle once again, while I called the hospital to let them know I’d be taking tomorrow off. Fortunately, the call didn’t take long, and as a result, we didn’t get terribly wet this time.
“I’ll Apparate to the flat,” Remus told me after he saw me back inside the house. “See what I can get out of the closet. I’ll bring back as much as I can. Is there anything in particular that you want?”
“Can I come with you?” I asked hopefully. I didn’t give a snowball’s chance in hell of Remus returning with the right combination of scrubs, casual clothes and underwear, not to mention toiletries and makeup. Besides, I wasn’t happy about being left in this house alone.
Remus shook his head. “It wouldn’t be safe, Kailin. We don’t know for sure that it’s safe for even one person in there, and I’d rather it be me if anyone has to find out the hard way.”
He had a point. Remus could likely levitate himself or something if the floor started to give way. Still…
“I won’t be gone long,” he reassured me. “There‘s nothing here that can hurt you. The house was cleaned out, remember?”
“I know.” I scowled. “It still gives me the creeps. I don’t suppose I could wait outside for you?”
Remus laughed. “You’ve only just dried out. Anyway, you’ve seen the neighborhood around here. It’s more dangerous outside than in.”
Except that the dangers outside were familiar to me. I nodded reluctantly.
“I’d love a hot bath. Any chance you could fire up the hot water heater?”
“Good idea. Just save some hot water for me, will you?”
I grinned. “What’s it worth to you?”
“At this point, quite a bit.” Remus headed off at once to light a fire under the hot water heater while I bagged what was left of supper to go in the trash.
“How long until the water’s hot enough, do you think?” I asked when he returned.
“I put a spell on the water itself, so it’s already hot,” he told me, reaching for his coat.
I threw my arms around him at once. “I knew there was a good reason I married you,” I said irreverently.
Remus burst out laughing. “And all this time I thought it was for my fortune,” he teased, kissing me goodbye.
I gave him an unnecessary plea to be careful, then ran lightly up the stairs. Without preamble, I headed straight into the bathroom, opened the taps, and five minutes later was gratefully sinking into the depths of the tub. Whether it was Remus’ work or the bewitched workings of the taps, the hot water was liberally laced with perfumed bubbles, and I was able to relax for a while and forget that I’d been forced out of my nice home into this bizarre place.
I was to the point of contemplating getting out and drying off when I heard the front door open. Good, I thought; Remus was back in one piece and sooner than I’d anticipated.
I climbed out of the tub and was in the midst of vigorously toweling dry when I realized that Remus hadn’t announced his presence. What, I thought with a sudden chill, if it’s not Remus? I threw on the conjured bathrobe, painfully aware that conjured items don’t last forever, and thinking that I might be opening the door to God-knows-who just about the time the robe vanished into thin air. My mouth was dry as I inched over to the door.
I heard footsteps coming up the stairs, footsteps that sounded very much like they were made by someone other than my husband.
I backed silently away from the door. The prudent thing to do would be to stay right here until Remus returned. But the last thing I wanted was to be trapped in this room with nowhere to run. And this tiled sanctuary held absolutely nothing in the way of weaponry. I scanned the room frantically, finding nothing more menacing than an ancient long-handled bath brush. It would be no defense whatsoever against anyone who might be creeping around number twelve. Still, I felt the need to have a something in my hand, useless or not.
I crept back to the door, listening hard. If the visitor wasn’t Remus, perhaps he or she had gone up to the next floor, bypassing me entirely. But no: I heard a floorboard creak somewhere down the hall. My heart pounding, I summoned my courage and opened the door a crack, bath brush at the ready.
I had only the briefest glimpse of a man’s figure spinning my way.
There was a brief flash of light. I shrieked and toppled backwards against the wall as the bath brush flew out of my hand and clattered to the floor. An instant later, I realized I was staring straight into Mad-Eye Moody‘s determined, contorted face.
I was not surprised at all to discover that my legs would no longer support me. I sank to the floor, gasping for air as waves of relief and excess adrenaline washed over me.
“Oh. Sorry, girlie,” Moody grunted, pocketing his wand at once and extending a hand to help me up.
I really wanted to just sit there for a few moments until I stopped shaking, but instead accepted his offer to help me to my feet.
“God in heaven, Mad-Eye, did you have to scare the daylights out of me like that?” I croaked.
“How’d I know you weren’t a Death Eater?” he demanded irately. “An’ what’re you doing here, anyway? House is lit up like a Christmas tree. Where’s Lupin?”
I explained briefly about the fire at the flat. Moody snorted and turned back into the hall.
“Could be an attack,” he said bluntly. “I’m surprised you didn’t contact the Order.”
“It was just a grease fire,” I assured him. “And it wasn’t even in our flat.”
“That’s just what they’d want you to think.”
I was about to point out that if Death Eaters were truly interested in attacking, they’d start a fire in our flat and not on the floor below it, when I realized that Moody was picking up a duffel bag.
“What are you doing here?” I asked curiously.
“Overheard a couple of ‘em planning a meeting,” he said. “They spotted me, an’ I thought I’d best lay up here for a while in case they got ideas.”
Could Death Eaters have followed him here? I was on the verge of genuine concern when I remembered that Moody had a history of seeing danger where none existed. According to Remus, discerning the genuine threats from Mad-Eye’s imaginary ones could keep a witch or wizard busy full-time.
“If I were you,” Moody continued, his back to me, “I’d find your clothes. That robe’s beginning to go a tad transparent, girl…”
I remembered Mad-Eye’s magical eye at the same time I felt the robe start to dissipate, and I hurled the bathroom door shut. By the time Remus returned ten minutes later, I was fully dressed in my now-dry scrubs and waiting in the kitchen.
“Thought you’d still be in the tub,” he said, heaving my large suitcase onto the table.
I explained about Mad-Eye’s presence while I inspected the bag‘s contents. There seemed to be, thank goodness, enough of the things I needed instead of the mismatches I’d feared. Except there were -
“No pajamas?” I looked at my husband questioningly.
“Oh. Sorry.” Remus looked blank for a moment, then smiled mischievously. “Not really necessary though, are they?”
“Creep,“ I muttered, sliding my arms around his waist and cozying up to his chest.
“Mmmm,” Remus mumbled into my hair as he pulled me close. “You’re nice and warm. It’s devilishly nasty out there tonight.”
“Go take a bath,” I said, releasing him. “It feels fabulous. Where’s your bag?”
“In the hall. I’ll take the two upstairs and say hello to Mad-Eye, and then it’s definitely my turn for the tub. You get ready for bed.”
“That won’t take long,” I pointed out sarcastically, and Remus shot me a wickedly suggestive smile as he headed out of the room.
The enormous bedroom we’d chosen was evidently number twelve’s master suite. While Remus soaked in the tub, I made up the massive, ornate bed with sheets and blankets that I found in the closet. I knew I should be grateful that we had a warm, dry place to stay, and free of charge at that. But it wasn’t home, and I felt sure that the next few weeks would feel like one long, enforced exile. I would take our plain little flat any day over the decaying opulence of this house.
Fifteen minutes later, Remus extinguished the gaslights and crawled under the covers next to me. He smelled of the same scented bubbles that I’d enjoyed earlier, and I inhaled deeply.
“You smell good,” I murmured. “Enjoy the bath?”
“A hot bath on a cold night has to be one of life’s finer pleasures. I think I’ll live.”
I heard the sound of Mad-Eye Moody stumping down the hall and past our door to the next one. The door opened briefly, squeaked shut. Everyone was evidently turning in for the night.
“How in the world does a magical eye work?“
“Magic,” Remus mumbled in my ear.
Ask a silly question, get a silly answer. “But it’s so bizarre. He can actually see out the back of his head?”
There was a soft chuckle in the dark. “Effective deterrent to any misbehavior, isn’t it?”
“Is it true that he can see through walls?”
“Yes, although he has to do it purposefully. It would drive you crazy if you saw that way all the time.”
“Makes sense.” My questions answered, I closed my eyes and snuggled closer to my husband for warmth. I didn’t think any more about Mad-Eye Moody, but evidently Remus did. We were in the heat of passion when, quite suddenly, he groaned aloud in frustration and rolled onto his back.
“What’s wrong?” I was startled by the abrupt change in direction.
“I can’t do it,” he said miserably. “I keep thinking of Moody. He’s right next door, for Merlin’s sake. I’m sure he’s not deliberately looking through the bloody wall, but - I mean - what if he was?”
I wanted to laugh, but quickly thought better of it. I’ve learned over the years that laughter, no matter how appropriate, is never a good idea whenever the fragile male ego hangs in the balance.
“It’s okay.” I tried to be reassuring.
“Sorry. This is silly, I know.” Remus closed his eyes and massaged the bridge of his nose.
“It’s all right. It‘s been a long day. We‘re both exhausted.”
“True.” There was a long pause and then, “How long did you say he’s staying?”
“He didn’t specify exactly. He just said ‘a while’.”
“Oh.” The unhappy note in Remus’ voice was hard to miss.
“We could move to another room,” I said, reaching to throw back the covers.
Remus caught my hand and held it. “Tomorrow,” he said regretfully. “Let’s get some sleep.”