Chapter 2: Settling In
Saturday, March 8
“Happy weekend,” I said, pulling up a chair to the kitchen table. “Sleep all right?”
“Like the proverbial log. You?” Remus turned from the stove to hand me a plate laden with a couple of eggs and a slab of ham.
“Me, too. Didn’t I hear you up and about awful early, though?”
“That would be Mad-Eye. He was up at the crack of dawn. Left the house before I even got to the shower.”
“He went home?” I asked hopefully.
“No,” Remus said flatly, turning off the gas burners before bringing his own plate over to the table. “He said he was going off for his ‘morning constitutional’. In other words, he‘s making the rounds of his sources.”
“You mean he’s actually missing a meal?” I joked.
Remus snorted at this. Alastor Moody, who was apparently no closer to moving back home now than the day he’d arrived, had made a habit of helping himself to our food all week. He also seemed to think that fate was downright kind by providing a couple of cooks for his stay.
Then there was the intimacy issue. In the five days we’d been at Grimmauld Place, Remus and I had yet to complete marital relations successfully. My husband was not taking it well. By his own admission, he’d had nothing resembling an active sex life until meeting me (“Werewolves aren‘t the hottest dates in town, Kailin.”), and to have it thwarted by the presence of Mad-Eye Moody in the same house was a particularly low blow.
It was, I admit, partially my fault. The day after we moved in, Remus and I relocated our sleeping quarters to a bedroom farther from where Mad-Eye slept. Things went smoothly when we climbed into bed that night: he kissed me tenderly and I responded with a flare of passion. Then a fit of coughing from down the hall reminded us that we weren’t alone at number twelve. I remembered the previous night’s fiasco and did the worst thing possible, the thing I had sworn not to do: I started giggling. I couldn’t help it. The thought of the wildly colorful ex-Auror watching the antics on our side of the bedroom wall with the help of his magical eye was simply too much to contemplate.
And since then, any attempt to have sex under the roof at number twelve had met with the same ridiculous results. In short, we would both be relieved when Moody finally left.
“I thought I’d contact Mr. Najib today,” Remus said now. “See how repairs are progressing at the flat.”
“Good idea. I wouldn’t get your hopes up, though.” I suspected that that my husband had little experience with Muggle construction projects. Everything I’ve ever heard about them is that the time required for completion invariably runs over the original estimate, not to mention what happens to the costs. At least we didn’t have to pay to have the flat repaired.
“Well, for your sake, I hope we’re home before the next full moon.”
“Me? Why me?” I asked blankly.
“Think, dear heart. If I’m incapacitated, how will you get in and out of this house?”
My jaw dropped as I contemplated this unhappy bit of reality. Without Remus, I was unable to so much as see number twelve, let alone get inside the place. The thought sent me racing immediately for my purse. I returned to the kitchen moments later, digging around in my bag until I produced the small calendar I carried with me.
“Let’s see,” I said, running my finger down the page for March. “The next full moon is on the -”
“- twenty-ninth, yes, I know. If we’re not home by then, you’ll need to make other arrangements for that night.”
I sighed. The twenty-ninth was a work night. But, I told myself, that might not be so bad. If I had to stay at a hotel, I could at least find one that was close to my job. Number twelve, while being a free refuge, had the distinct disadvantage of being a long way from the London Heart Hospital. We’d chosen our flat because it was near the Tube and made for an easy commute, plus it was also in a nice neighborhood. Grimmauld Place was neither. It took a good forty minutes longer to get to and from work now, a waste of time both before work, when I was keen on grabbing a few more minutes’ sleep, and after work, when I was bone weary and wanted to crash and burn at the earliest opportunity.
“Say,” I said, still looking at the calendar, “our monthly anniversary is coming up soon.”
“Oh?” Remus grinned. “What do you have in mind for this month?”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.” I know that it’s one of those goofy newlywed things, but every month since our wedding I had celebrated the anniversary by cooking a romantic meal. One month I’d done Italian, another Chinese, but always something different. It had developed into a fine tradition.
“Why don’t we eat out this time?” he suggested. “You don’t want to deal with that on top of everything else.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with something. I just want to keep everything as normal as possible.”
I would have to start planning now. My primary concern was not the menu, but the monstrous oven that sat behind me. It was a ghastly thing that belched fire every time I tried to light it. It’s not even a case of the stove being magical versus Muggle. The oven was purely temperamental and more than a little evil. I’d burned a pot and singed a few arm hairs during the past week, with the result that Remus was now doing most of the cooking.
“What about Mad-Eye?” he reminded me. “Are you going to invite him?”
“Hell will freeze,” I said loftily. I had no intention of entertaining a third party at our anniversary dinner.
“We’ve got what, another week?” Remus mused. “Well, if he’s not gone by then, I’ll tell him flat out to get lost that night.”
I dug into my eggs and ham. “What say we get out of this house today?”
“Absolutely. Did you have something in mind?”
“I wouldn’t mind a bit of shopping. I could use a few odds and ends: toiletries, a couple pairs of socks.” Despite Remus’ best intentions, I didn’t have enough of what I needed to get by during our exile.
“Might as well buy a pair of pajamas while you‘re at it,” Remus grunted sourly.
“You know that we’ll laugh about this someday,” I reminded him, grinning.
The weather was sunny but cold, almost a mockery of the fact that spring was only two weeks away. Still, our day turned out quite enjoyable. We shopped for essentials, had a lovely lunch, then made the rounds of a few antique stores.
When we arrived back at Grimmauld Place, I put my purchases away, save for one: an oversized sweatshirt, adorned with a picture of two handsome timber wolves that had caught my eye. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have looked twice at it, let alone bought it. But now I was now married to a man who turned into a wolf on a regular basis, and it seemed a nice connection. As Remus had been elsewhere in the store at the time, he hadn’t seen it yet. I donned it immediately and went downstairs to show him.
“What do you think?” I asked, pirouetting casually in front of him.
The smile I’d been expecting failed to appear.
“Where did you find that?” he asked, staring at the shirt.
“That shop on Willett where we got the socks.”
“I didn’t know that you were fond of wolves,” Remus said coolly.
“Well, I’m not really. There‘s only one wolf that I care about,” I said with a mischievous grin. “Do you like it?”
“In a word, no. You said that when you stayed at the Weasleys’, you looked through some of their books and textbooks.”
“Then you saw pictures of werewolves. We don’t look like that and you know it. We’re not fluffy and cute.”
“I didn’t say you were,” I began, but Remus wasn’t through.
“I turn into a monster every month. Why would you possibly want to celebrate that?”
“I’m not celebrating it. I just - I thought -” I could tell by the look on my husband’s face that no explanation was apparently good enough. At once I headed back toward the stairs. “Sorry,” I muttered. “I’ll take it off.”
I returned to our bedroom and pulled off the shirt, tossing it into a wad in the corner. So cute, fluffy wolves were out, were they? Yes, I’d seen pictures of werewolves, and no, they were not adorable. The way Remus acted, I thought viciously, you would think that I’d bought it just to taunt him about his condition. I stood in the middle of the floor, arms akimbo and thoroughly annoyed, looking about for the shirt I’d worn shopping.
A moment later, I heard footsteps. Remus knocked lightly on the doorframe.
“May I come in?“
“Of course you can come in. It’s your room, too, ” I said crossly. Where was the stupid shirt?
He walked in, hands in his pockets. “I owe you an explanation, Kailin. I was rather rude just now, and I‘m sorry for that.”
I shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. It’s just a shirt. I thought I’d show my support for werewolves, that’s all. I didn’t mean anything by it, but if you don’t like it, I won’t wear it.”
“But that’s just it, don’t you see? You’re not showing your support for werewolves by wearing that thing.”
“It was a Muggle store, Remus,” I pointed out. “They didn’t have any shirts with pictures of werewolves on them.” I finally spotted my old shirt and plucked it from under the bag with my other purchases.
“Sit down.” Remus took the shirt from my hands and gestured toward the bed.
The last thing I wanted was a lecture with me clad only in a bra and blue jeans. “But -”
“Sit,” he ordered, and this time I dropped gracelessly onto the edge of the bed. “You think that just because we have the Wolfsbane Potion now, it‘s no problem. All I have to do is drink it, lock myself in the spare room for the night, sleep it off for a day, and life is just fine.”
“Well, that’s what you do, isn‘t it?” I pointed out.
“That’s what it looks like to you. It’s a bit different from my side of the locked door. It’s not as easy as all that. The Wolfsbane Potion has changed my life all right, but do you realize that it was created primarily as a means of protection for the rest of the world? They didn’t go looking for something to help werewolves. They wanted something that would protect the wizarding populace. The fact that it makes our lives easier is simply a byproduct. No one cares if we’re happy as long as they’re safe from what we can do to them.
“And yes, the transformation isn’t as bad with the potion as it was without it, but it’s still excruciatingly painful. You have no idea how hard I work at not making any noise when I transform. It would be a lot easier to scream and moan and groan, but I’d just as soon you not have to hear it. And,” Remus added as an afterthought, “I suppose it‘s my way of trying not to give in to the beast until I bloody well have to.”
A chill crept down my back. I hadn’t known what precipitated the development of the Wolfsbane Potion, but it made perfect sense, given what I’d learned about the wizarding world and its prejudices. As for the transformation itself, I suspected that I was indeed guilty of dismissing what Hermione Granger had told me once was ‘positively horrifying’.
I had willingly married Remus because the thirty-six hours he spent closeted away were, in fact, completely uneventful.
Uneventful for me. A lump rose in my throat.
“I know it’s only one night out of twenty-eight,” he went on, “but I’m still trapped in another body and there’s nothing I can ever do about it. And as much as I would like to pick up where I left off as soon as I change back, the only choice I have is to crawl into bed and wait. I’m still trapped, only in my own body this time.
“All the fluffy, pretty wolves in the world have absolutely nothing to do with me. Nothing,” Remus said, looking at me so directly that it made me want to squirm. “I know you didn’t intend it as demeaning or insulting, but stuff like that shirt trivializes what I go through each month. And I hope you didn’t spend a lot on it, because I’d really prefer that you not wear it anymore.”
I nodded, my vision obscured by a sudden film of tears. “I’m sorry,” I said, my voice tremulous. “I won’t.”
He put an arm around me and pulled me close. “Now I’ve made you cry,” he said, sighing. “I didn’t mean to do that, dear heart.”
“I know,” I said, swiping at a lone tear that coursed down my cheek. “I do love you all month, you know, not just most of the month.”
“You have no idea what a glorious thing that is for me,” Remus murmured.
“I was thinking earlier,” I sniffled. “I think that we’re both outsiders in the wizarding world.”
“In what way?”
“Well, you’re a werewolf and I’m a Muggle, and we’ll always be looked down on just because of who we are.”
He chuckled. “I do believe you’re right.”
“I’m always right,” I teased, my equilibrium returning. “Well, maybe not always. But usually.”
Remus laughed then, and tilted my chin up to kiss me.
I reached up to caress his cheek. A year ago, I’d only just arrived in Britain and Remus Lupin was still three months into my future. I loved him dearly, and while there was no doubt in my mind that we were meant to be together, there was still the fact that we had much to learn about one another. There were so many missteps along the path…
Remus pulled me closer, his hands sliding along my back with only the bra strap to stop then. Yes, I thought, my mind reacting to the heat building up within me. Please… He began to deepen the kiss and -
Mrs. Black’s portrait screeched from the front hall.
“Get out of my home, you vile, deformed man, you enemy of wizardkind, you evil -”
“Shut UP, you old bat!” Moody thundered.
There was the sound of the heavy drapes being flung back over the portrait. The noise abruptly stopped, followed by the step-stump of Mad-Eye‘s footfalls on the stairway.
Remus groaned aloud and flung himself backwards onto the bed.
Saturday, March 15
I surveyed the dining room table: candles lit, places set (two - Moody had finally cleared out day before yesterday), and a bottle of wine chilled and waiting. It was perfect.
“Spaghetti’s ready,” Remus announced, carrying a steaming bowl into the room.
“Great. I’ll get the salad.”
We’d compromised on the dinner. Since Remus was the only one of us who could manage the temperamental oven, he volunteered to cook the main course. The salad, having absolutely no connection whatsoever to the stove, became my responsibility. It would not be the fanciest dinner we’d had to celebrate our anniversary, but I was sure it would be one of the most memorable, given our circumstances.
I brought the salad bowl and bread basket in from the kitchen just as Remus was opening the bottle of wine. What invariably took me several minutes of fiddling with the corkscrew took him only three seconds with a wand.
“You never fail to amaze me,” I told him as I took my seat. “Who knew magic could be so useful?”
Remus poised the bottle over my glass. “And to think that I spent seven years at Hogwarts just for this.”
Soon both glasses were filled and Remus, sitting across the table from me, solemnly raised his in the air.
“To us,” he said. “To the past seven months and all the happiness they’ve brought.”
“To us,” I echoed. “To learning to adapt and grow and put up with the curves life throws us.”
“Amen.” Remus took a drink, and I did the same.
And then we heard the front door creak open.
“What now?” Remus said wearily, putting his glass down and climbing to his feet. “I swear, if that’s Mad-Eye again, -”
He left the rest of the sentence dangling as he headed for the front hall. I followed, wondering who - or what - was there.
A man and woman were standing just beneath Mrs. Black’s portrait, locked in a passionate embrace. From the frenzied groping that was taking place, I could tell that they’d been desperate for this moment of privacy when they could let their hormones soar. Little did they know that their hormones were about to be grounded.
Remus cleared his throat loudly. There was a shriek, and Nymphadora Tonks leapt guiltily backwards. I recognized the man as Connor McAllister, a fellow Auror and rather new recruit to the Order of the Phoenix. Both were red-cheeked and flustered and desperately trying to look wholly innocent. Meanwhile, the curtains shrouding the portrait of Mrs. Black flew open and the elderly woman in the painting started spewing a stream of invectives that would have made a sailor blush. It took the three of them - Remus, Tonks, and Connor - to wrench the curtains closed so that quiet could reign once more.
“Might I ask what you’re doing here?” Remus asked the pair pleasantly.
“Remus! Kailin!” Tonks sounded as though she could think of nothing finer than discovering the two of us there. “What a surprise! I - we - didn‘t expect anyone to be here tonight.”
“Hello, Lupin. Mrs. Lupin.” McAllister eyed us uneasily. “We - uh - we’re on the way to the theater.”
“So you thought you’d stop by here for a quick shag before curtain time?” Remus asked conversationally.
The expressions on the couple’s faces told me that he’d hit the bull’s eye.
Remus turned to Tonks. “And the problem with your flat is…?”
“My roommate’s sick with a cold,” Tonks said lamely. “I ran into Mad-Eye this morning, and he said that he’d moved back home, so we thought - that is, I thought - that no one would be here.”
“Didn’t Mad-Eye mention that we’re living here until our flat’s repaired?” I asked.
“Well, no,” Tonks said.
Remus sighed, running a hand through his hair in frustration. I understood what he was thinking. Moody was well-known for disclosing only parts of a story - “Never tell anyone more than they need to know. Gives you a bit of leverage which you might be needin’ some day.” - and I could easily picture the scene which would take place sometime later when Remus confronted him.
“But why didn’t you tell them that we were staying here, Mad-Eye?”
“Didn’t ask me that, now did they?”
There was an uncomfortable pause. Tonks and McAllister were looking at us as though they hoped we’d abandon the premises, while Remus and I expected that they’d turn around at once and leave. Instead, no one moved. When the silence was on the verge of becoming ridiculous, I cursed inwardly: I would have to act the gracious hostess.
“Have you eaten?” I asked. “We were just sitting down.”
“Actually, no.” Tonks’ eyes lit up. “We’d planned to, but - well, we just didn’t get around to it. What‘re you having?”
Connor was blushing again, and I had a good idea why they didn’t get around to it. Remus, I noted, was scowling at this latest turn of events.
“Spaghetti,” he muttered. “I’ll get more plates.”
“I’ll get the wine glasses,” I said, pretending that I couldn’t be more pleased.
“Ooh, wine!” Tonks exclaimed. “You two celebrating something?”
We didn’t answer. Remus and I exchanged dark glances and headed towards the kitchen. Once there, we busied ourselves collecting more plates and silverware and glasses.
“Why did you ask them to stay?” he hissed to me.
“Technically, I didn’t. I just asked if they had eaten.”
“Well, that turned out brilliantly, didn’t it?”
“What was I supposed to do?” I demanded in a low voice. “You could have told them to leave, you know.”
“Or we could have just gone out to dinner like I’d originally suggested,” Remus said icily.
I was startled into silence by the amount of anger in his tone. Glancing sideways at him, I saw only an unreadable mask of resignation on my husband’s face.
Dinner was less than comfortable. The four of us ate in silence for the most part. Tonks regarded the two of us surreptitiously, it having finally dawned on her that she’d interrupted something personal and important. Connor McAllister was busy concentrating on his plate.
The couple finally departed after I’d assured them half a dozen times that they really didn’t need to help us clean up. Remus normally does the dishes; I find it a luxury to sit back and relax after a long day, and besides, dishwashing isn’t as big a production for a wizard as it is for the rest of us mortals. Tonight, however, I could tell that Remus was still tight-lipped and tense, and I suspected that he’d just as soon hurl the plates across the room as wash them. I offered to help.
“No need. I’m fine here.” Remus said flatly.
I doubted that. He was, I noticed, washing the pots and pans the Muggle way instead of using magic. It was apparently therapeutic, almost as if he could scour our problems away just by scraping off bits of gooey pasta.
“I think they felt a little guilty about showing up here,“ I ventured.
“They should. I hope they feel wretched.”
“Are you sure I can’t get a dish towel and help you?”
An indifferent shrug. “Suit yourself.”
I found a dishtowel and began drying dishes. We worked in silence, a silence that got heavier and heavier as the minutes ticked by.
“Are you alright?’ I asked finally.
“You’re acting like this evening is my fault somehow,” I pointed out.
“Don’t be silly, Kailin. It’s not your fault.”
“Then what’s the problem? I’m not any happier that Tonks showed up that you are, but at least I’m not sulking about it.”
Remus threw the dish sponge into the soapy water. “The problem is that I’m tired of being here, all right?” he snapped. “I hate it.”
“But it’s only temporary,” I pointed out, feeling a bit ridiculous to be the one defending the Black house given how much I disliked the place.
“It doesn’t feel temporary. It feels just like my usual luck, and I’m sick of it, that’s all.”
“Your ‘usual luck’? What do you mean?”
Remus gripped the edges of the sink with both hands. “For the last seven months, I’ve been happier than I ever thought possible. I had you and a home and a little money in the bank for a change. I actually had a normal life, but now it’s like a distant memory. This is the way my life used to be, and I hate it. I hate having no privacy, I hate having no sex, and I hate living in this house!”
I wanted to point out that we’d made up for at least one of those deficiencies as soon as Moody left the premises, but I let it lie. The strength of Remus’ feelings surprised me. I’d been too busy despising the big old relic of a house to see my husband’s discontent. Just because he’d suggested staying here didn’t mean he was happy about it.
“I didn’t realize that you felt so strongly,” I said.
“You don’t know it used to be. I let people use me, because there was no reason not to. Extra shift? Ask Remus, he’ll do it. Need to impose on someone? How about Remus? He doesn’t have a life. He doesn’t care. Well, I do have a life now, and I do care.” Remus stopped to draw breath, and when he spoke, his voice was considerably quieter. “I’m sorry, Kailin. I didn’t intend to take it out on you. It’s just very frustrating for me right now.”
I nodded. “It’s hard,” I said, thinking aloud. “It’s hard being here and dealing with everything… I think we’re both stressed out.”
“You have to understand that for a very long time, misfortune was rather my lot in life. I was accustomed to it, but now that I’ve had a chance to see what life can be like…” Remus’ voice trailed off.
“Pack a bag,” I said abruptly.
“Pack a bag. We’re going to stay somewhere else tonight.” I put down the dish towel and tugged on his hand, determined now.
“Somewhere else? Where?” he asked, puzzled.
“We can’t afford to stay at a fancy hotel.” Remus was looking at me as though I’d lost my mind. “That’s why we’re here in the first place, remember?”
“We couldn’t afford to stay at a fancy hotel for a month,” I corrected. “We can certainly spend a few days at one, and frankly, I think we deserve it.”
For the first time in days, the gleam in my husband’s eyes was back.
* * *
It’s amazing what a Jacuzzi tub and a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door can do for your outlook on life. It was nearly midnight by the time Remus and I got to our room at the Rembrandt Hotel, and I was sure that neither of us would want to do more than crash in the bed until morning. But that was before we discovered the phone number for 24 hour room service and the extra-large tub with the pulsating jets. Before long, we were ensconced in the throbbing water and toasting our seven-month anniversary with a nice chilled champagne. It might not be the home-cooked meal I‘d intended, but we were celebrating in a fashion far superior to that available at number twelve.
I fingered the rim of the champagne glass and studied my husband. Remus was laying with his head thrown back on the edge of the tub, eyes closed, jaw slack with an expression of unmistakable relief on his face. “Feeling better?” I teased, poking him underwater with my foot.
“You have no idea,” he mumbled, not bothering to open his eyes. “I rather like this. I don’t suppose your salary would cover it if we lived here?”
“Not even close.”
“Wonderful things, these tubs.”
“Do wizards have anything similar?”
“Not that I know of, although the prefects‘ bathtub at Hogwarts is quite nice. There must be some sort of spell to churn up the water in a plain bathtub, but I’m not sure how you’d go about charming it to provide all these wonderful jets.” Remus shifted his body slightly to come in closer contact with one of the ’wonderful jets’. The expression on his face was one of pure bliss.
“Why don’t you invent one, then? All the wealthy wizards will buy them and we’ll get rich and then we can afford one for ourselves. Where shall we put it? What about the Riviera, or Costa del Sol? Or maybe our own Greek isle?”
“Anyplace where we have some privacy,” Remus said.