Disclaimer: Gee, I wish. Not a one of ‘em’s mine. Well…not the ones that count, anyway.
Chapter 1, A Visitor and a Visit: Friday, June 27, 1997
I peered at my watch and took another look out the living room window: Remus and Hermione should be here at any moment, provided that the Hogwarts Express wasn’t late - although, according to my husband, such a thing had never happened and was unlikely to take place today. The train always departed on time and arrived on time, making it one of the constants of the British wizarding world.
I’d wanted to go to King’s Cross with Remus. After all, we had met there exactly a year ago, and I’d been looking forward to reminiscing at the very spot where he had come to my rescue. On the other hand, I saw his point when he refused to take me along: run into Lucius Malfoy, and my cover would be blown. And I was all in favor of Malfoy continuing to believe me dead, burned alive in a house fire he’d set just for the thrill of ridding the world of one more Muggle. While I couldn’t imagine Lucius Malfoy as the sort of doting parent who personally met his son’s train, I didn’t dare risk being seen. He was one nasty piece of work, and I never wanted our paths to cross again. I’d have to wax romantic at King’s Cross another time.
Ten months had passed since Malfoy managed to convince the wizarding authorities that he was Voldemort’s victim instead of devoted follower. Not a soul in the Order of the Phoenix believed the story that he’d been under the Imperius Curse, and thereby forced to take part in the melee at the Ministry of Magic last June. Rather, it was taken as gospel truth that a large sum of money had changed hands somewhere along the line in exchange for his freedom.
In an even more bizarre twist, Lucius Malfoy had become a model citizen ever since his release from Azkaban. He donated money to St. Mungo’s Hospital and volunteered to serve in various capacities at the Ministry. Over the past months, he had steadily insinuated himself into positions of influence. While it was clear to me that he was up to no good, many in the wizarding world perceived Malfoy with something akin to sympathy: he’d been hurt by the big bad Dark Lord, and now he was on the side of the right. In short, it was not a good situation.
For me personally, the past year had been the most incredible of my life. I came to Britain a single woman, intent on visiting the sites and learning more about my late British grandmother. What I discovered was that my Grandma Marva McLain had graduated from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in 1941, a fully-fledged - and previously unknown to most all of my family - witch. Along the way, I’d met Remus Lupin and fallen deeply in love. We’d been married ten months now - our wedding falling, coincidentally, on the same day that Lucius Malfoy was released from prison.
A movement outside caught my eye, and I saw Remus and Hermione turn the corner onto Bannister Row. Remus was towing a school trunk and shouldering one tote, while Hermione carried her suitcase. The girl was staring at the ground as they walked, and if the two of them were engaged in conversation, it wasn’t obvious. I noticed the slump of her shoulders and fancied I could see a general air of dejection from this distance.
And I wondered if this were such a good idea after all.
It was just six months since Hermione Granger’s parents had been cruelly murdered by Death Eaters. Remus and I had gone to the funeral and watched as the girl sat stoically, eschewing the support of several blood relatives to cling to Harry Potter on one side and Ron Weasley on the other. That wasn‘t surprising; Hermione’s Muggle kin had been told that Hugh and Helena Granger were killed by burglars, and only the wizarding contingent at the funeral knew the truth. Clearly, Hermione needed comfort from people who understood what had actually happened.
During the ensuing months, however, Hermione’s grief had caused nary a ripple in her grade point average. Some marveled at her resilience and determination; others, such as her Gryffindor mentor Minerva McGonagall, thought she was plunging herself deeper in her studies in order to avoid facing reality. I agreed with Minerva. I’d been a junior in college when my parents died in a car crash - not, granted, identical circumstances, but the end result was the same. I knew firsthand how hard it was to face life when one’s support system was suddenly gone, to dread the summer vacations and holiday breaks anticipated by everyone else in the world, to wonder who would be there to applaud when I received my diploma.
Back in February, Remus and I intended to offer to host Hermione for a week during Hogwarts’ summer break. But then we were forced from our home for a month, and the idea was temporarily shelved. By the time we got around to asking, Arthur and Molly Weasley had already opened their home to Hermione, and I assumed that a week at the Lupins’ would pale in comparison to the delights of the Burrow. The Weasley household was chaotic enough that just about anything could be pushed from one’s mind while there.
Surprisingly, Hermione chose to begin her summer holiday with us, and I arranged to take a week off work. We had nothing definite planned in the way of entertainment. The full moon was just past, the weather was nice, and I didn’t want Hermione to think we’d thoroughly programmed her week with the intent of keeping her from dwelling on her loss.
Out on the sidewalk, Remus glanced up towards our flat and spotted me standing in the window. I smiled and waved. He responded with a half-hearted smile, leaving me to wonder what that could mean. Well, I’d find out soon enough.
“Hello, Hermione,” I said as I opened the door for the two of them.
“Kailin!” Hermione threw her arms around me. “So nice to see you again! Thank you so much for having me over.”
“Not at all. It’s our pleasure.” The enthusiastic greeting surprised me. The girl seemed perfectly happy, and I decided that if this was an act, it was pretty convincing. Meanwhile, Remus squeezed by with Hermione’s baggage - levitating it this time, now that he was out of sight of prying Muggles. “Let me show you to your room,” I told her.
I led the way through the living and dining room to the small second bedroom while Hermione offered polite compliments about our flat.
“Thanks. It’s not a mansion, but it’s just right for the two of us.” I suspected that as dentists, Hugh and Helena Granger’s home had been considerably larger and quite nicely appointed. On the other hand, in the land of socialized medicine, nothing was certain. “Here we are,” I said, ushering her into the spare bedroom.
When extending our invitation, I hadn’t mentioned to Hermione that the room where she would be staying was the one where Remus closeted himself during his monthly transformations. Not that it mattered much; I was sure that Hermione, with her fervor for social change within the wizarding world, wouldn’t care one whit about that. Besides, Remus always made sure that the room was positively immaculate once he’d rested up.
“This is lovely!” Hermione’s eyes darted about, taking in everything. She flopped onto the bed as though exhausted by the trip from Hogwarts.
Lovely? Remus and I exchanged smiles as he deposited her bags on the floor. The flat would never be destined for the glossy pages of some decorating magazine, but we had made it into a cozy home. I was happy there, and Remus, who had spent so many years in a near hand-to-mouth existence, could wax positively poetic about our flat if given the chance.
“Dinner’s in about half an hour,” I told her.
“Do you need any help?”
“Thanks, but no. Everything’s under control. Would you like to wash up before supper?” I asked.
“That would be nice, thank you.”
“Bathroom’s right across the hall.” Which was a rather pointless announcement, as we’d walked right by it just thirty seconds earlier.
“We’ll call you,” Remus told her, and followed me out of the room. The door clicked shut behind us.
I turned to my husband. “Well, she seems all right, doesn’t she?”
Remus shook his head. “I’m not sure. I think she puts on a brave front, but I don’t know that it goes very deep.”
“So how did things go at the station? Was Lucius Malfoy there?”
There was a brief silence as Remus seemed rather interested in the floorboards, then: “He was, in fact. It’s a very good thing that you weren’t there.”
I glanced at Remus and saw the frown on his face. “We’re not going to have this discussion again, are we? The one about me spending the war in the States?”
“What? No, because I know you wouldn’t pay me a bit of attention.”
“You’re right.” I grinned, aware that flashing my dimples was a sure way to avoid any argument with Remus Lupin. Sure enough: he slid his arms around me and I snuggled into his embrace.
“You’re quite good at that, you know,” he teased.
“It’s a gift.” I savored the strength of the arms holding me, the heartbeat so near to my own. How the wizarding world could refer to werewolves as half-human was, quite simply, beyond me.
Remus pushed me back to arm’s length, regarding me with the expression of deepest longing that I’ve come to treasure. “Don’t let anyone say you have no magic in you, Mrs. Lupin, for they would be quite wrong,” he said softly. “How about we practice some more for having a baby?”
I laughed. “Hold that thought. I have to get supper going.”
“What can I do? Set the table?”
Remus’ version of setting the table involved a wand and a lot of flying china. I let him get on with it while I saw to the rest of the meal. Hermione’s apparent ability to rise above her personal losses was still on my mind however, and I couldn’t help thinking aloud.
“I know that Minerva said Hermione has seemed barely affected by the murders, but seeing it now is really strange. I thought for sure that she‘d fall apart without her parents to meet her at the station.”
“I know.” Remus gave a plate a final spin before dropping it into place. “Bizarre, isn’t it? Molly Weasley was there and ready to help if need be, but Hermione flounced off the platform like she was all set for a week in Paris.”
I was about to answer when the telephone rang. Putting down the pot that I was holding in mid-air, I reached for the receiver.
“Is this Kailin Curtis? I mean, Kailin - uh - Lupin?” a man’s voice inquired. A man’s voice with an American accent.
“Yes,” I said, curious.
“Good, I thought I had the right number. I’ve never called overseas before. This is your Uncle Roger, Kailin.”
“Uncle Roger? Hi, how are you?” I was delighted, but surprised. I’d not heard from my uncle since Grandma Marvy’s funeral, and with that realization came a ripple of fear. “Oh! Is something wrong with Billy?”
“Well, sort of. That’s why I’m calling. You know he was supposed to have hip replacement surgery next week.”
“Yes, I know.” My beloved grandfather, Billy Mitchell, had been needing the operation for a long time; the combination of pain and difficulty maneuvering had kept him from attending my wedding the previous August.
“When he went for his pre-op testing today, they found that several of the arteries to his heart are blocked. They took him straight to surgery for a cardiac bypass.”
“Oh, no!” I gasped. Marvy had died from a massive heart attack. I couldn’t lose Billy, too. “Is he all right?”
“I don’t know yet. He’s still in the operating room.”
“Oh, no!” I repeated, dimly aware now that Remus had stopped what he was doing and was looking at me questioningly. I held my hand over the mouthpiece and whispered, “Grandpa Billy’s having heart surgery.”
Roger was saying something about what time Billy had been taken to surgery, but my mind was racing as I tried to think. “What did the doctors tell you, Roger? How many arteries? What percent blockage?”
“They said five arteries, but I don’t recall exactly what percent each one was blocked. It was pretty bad, since they wouldn‘t even let him go home to pack a bag.”
“Were they - were the doctors pretty optimistic, or cautious, or - or - ” Words failed me. Here I was, a nurse who worked at the London Heart Hospital, unable to phrase a coherent question. The same questions I heard families ask daily.
“They didn’t say.”
They didn’t say. I closed my eyes, grimacing briefly. Some doctors were notorious for promising good results when it was unlikely, while others were all doom and gloom until proven otherwise. I had no idea what was really going on halfway around the world, and Roger Mitchell was no help whatsoever.
“Dad asked me to call you before they took him away,” Roger continued. “He wanted to make sure you knew.”
A lump formed in my throat. “Was he in a pretty good frame of mind?”
“Well, he was shocked, of course. We all were. But he wanted me to tell you that if anything went wrong, he’d be with Mom and that it’d be okay.”
That undid me completely. I sobbed aloud. Remus took the receiver from me while I sank into one of the dining room chairs and cried. I could hear him introducing himself, then taking down Roger’s cell phone number and the name of the hospital. By the time I had managed to compose myself, Remus had hung up the phone.
“Roger said he’d call as soon as he knows anything,” he said gently, taking the chair next to me and reaching for my hands.
I drew in a long, shuddering breath. “I’m sorry, it’s just that I lost Marvy to a heart attack, and now Billy’s having a bypass, -”
Remus reached up and gently wiped away my tears. “Do you need to be there?” he asked simply.
Be there? In Rockford, Illinois? For one brief moment, my heart soared. Then I remembered our houseguest, and my heart fell with a thud back to its usual position.
“How can I? Hermione’s here.”
“Oh.” Remus looked startled, as if he too had momentarily forgotten that we had company.
We discussed the options, which were few: fly to the States and leave Remus to entertain Hermione for a week, or contact the Weasleys and send her on to the Burrow.
“I suppose we’d better ask her what she wants to do,” I said, making a move to stand up.
“Wait a moment,” Remus said thoughtfully. “What if…”
“What if what?”
“What if,” he said, “we went with you?”
I stared at him blankly and sat back down at once. “You mean we’d all go?”
Remus was still looking thoughtful
“Why not? I don’t know about Hermione, but I’ve never been to America. And we’ve not had a proper holiday since we were married - unless you count the weekend at the hotel while the flat was being repaired.”
“Or my unexpected stay at Hogwarts,” I added, smiling ruefully. Spending a week recuperating in the hospital wing was not my idea of a good time. Neither, however, was spending a week in a hospital waiting room in Rockford, Illinois. “But what about Hermione? She’s a teenage girl. She won’t want to spend a week of her vacation hanging around a hospital.”
“She and I could do some sightseeing, but - surely you won’t need to spend every moment at the hospital, will you?”
“No, of course not. Provided Billy’s doing okay…” My voice trailed off. “Do you think Hermione would mind?”
“It would certainly be a change of scene for her. Could be just the thing she needs. Besides, I’ve never met any of your family, the full moon’s gone by, and this would be a good time to do it.”
He was slowly winning me over. “If we went, how would we get there? I’ll fly, of course, but would you and Hermione Apparate?” Apparating even short distances impressed me greatly. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to Apparate across the Atlantic.
Remus grinned and shook his head. “Afraid not, darling. Much as I hate to admit this, I don’t have the power to Apparate distances of that sort. The transformation takes too much of my strength. I’d land somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Anyway, Hermione doesn’t have her license yet. There are International Grates that you can use for that sort of travel, but the Floo Network is out right now, as you know.”
I knew. It was assumed, probably correctly, that the Floo Network was still being monitored. Despite the replacement of Cornelius Fudge with Amelia Bones from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, the Ministry remained in a fair amount of chaos. Bones was trying hard to maintain control, but the increasing number of Death Eater attacks had the wizarding populace on edge. It seemed that every issue of the Daily Prophet contained at least one letter demanding that the woman be replaced with someone who would take decisive action.
“Muggle travel,” Remus continued. “We just go to the airport and buy tickets on an airplane. We have the money.”
Well, yes, we had the money. The remainder of Marvy’s bequest sat in the bank, waiting to be used as a down payment for a house some day. Three plane fares would put a small dent in it, but nothing that was unbearable. Still, I couldn‘t help but smile at my husband’s naïve enthusiasm. Wizards were notoriously unschooled in Muggle methods of transportation. Remus had more experience than most in dealing with the Muggle world, but it was still a bit more complex than simply showing up at the airport and buying a ticket.
“What about passports?” I pointed out. “You don’t have one, do you? I don’t know about Hermione.”
“That’s what magic’s for,” Remus said, a definite twinkle in his eye.
It seemed we were headed for America.