Chapter 2, Welcome to the Land of Lincoln: Saturday, June 28, 1997
We spent most of the evening making arrangements. The earliest flights out of London were full, but I managed to get space on a British Airways jet leaving just after noon the next day. I rented a car for the drive from Chicago to Rockford and reserved adjoining rooms at a Marriott. That done, I commenced on a frenzy of packing.
I had forgotten the delights of being married to a wizard. Remus watched in amusement as I ran around in circles for five minutes, then intervened and suggested we try a little teamwork. I had no idea what he meant until he pointed his wand at the various clothes I’d strewn about the bedroom, and within seconds they had folded themselves and sat in neat piles in the suitcase.
Hermione took the news of our sudden change of plans in her stride. Her equanimity was a little unnerving, to be honest. Travel to another country rather than spend the week in London? No problem. Throw herself into schoolwork rather than deal with the death of her parents? Sure, why not? Having been in her shoes at one time, I could remember a stretch when I’d been ready to choke anyone who breathed hard in my direction. I supposed it was possible that Hermione might have glided through that stage already, but I doubted it.
Then there was the matter of passports. Remus had no passport and Hermione’s had been misplaced somewhere in the shuffle following her parents‘ deaths, and as much as I love both my native land and my newly adopted country, neither one will allow us in without passports. I dug mine out and showed it to Remus, and within minutes he had transfigured a couple of playing cards from our desk drawer to look just like the real McCoy.
It was nearly twelve-thirty in the morning before Roger called back, but this time he had relatively good things to report: the surgery had gone smoothly and Billy was holding his own. I exhaled in relief at the news. I told Roger that we would be flying over as soon as we got some sleep. Billy would be pleased, he said.
The flight was like all transcontinental flights, consisting of waiting, sitting, more sitting, more waiting. It’s especially hard when your loved one is ill and you want to get there as soon as possible. It strikes you just how big the world is and how far from home you really are. I was too on-edge to concentrate on any one thing; Hermione was engrossed in the in-flight movie, while Remus leafed through Muggle magazines and tried to nap. By the time the plane touched down at Chicago O’Hare, I was both tired and anxious.
My anxiety wasn’t helped when I realized, while waiting in the rental car queue, that my Illinois driver’s license had expired back in January. I hadn’t driven since renting a car shortly after I’d arrived in Britain, and it never occurred to me to make sure my license was still valid. Luckily, magic is good for more than transfiguring playing cards into passports. Remus merely winked, held out his hand for the now-defunct laminated card, and headed for the men’s room. He returned a few minutes later with my driver’s license, which now declared itself to be valid for another two years.
“Very impressive,” I murmured as we moved another step closer to the counter. “But what took you so long? British magic harder to use in America?”
“Of course not. I had to go. It was a long flight.”
In due time, we were outfitted with a red Jeep Grand Cherokee and pointed towards Rockford, Illinois. The weather was hot, the traffic was heavy, and I hadn’t driven for a very long time. It was an odd sensation, crossing from my new life in Britain to the one I’d left behind. As I drove west on Interstate 80 through the heartland of America, my two traveling companions chattered away in their English accents about ways to defeat Voldemort. It was downright eerie.
Rockford is a little over an hour from Chicago, and I was just beginning to feel comfortable on an interstate again when we arrived. I pulled to a stop in front of our motel and turned off the engine.
“We’re here.” The announcement was hardly necessary, yet it seemed appropriate, given that we’d come halfway around the world today.
Remus climbed out of the front passenger’s seat, stretching in a hurried attempt to work out the kinks of several thousand miles.
“Makes riding a broom look relatively painless by comparison, doesn’t it?” he said with a grin.
“I can’t wait until I get my Apparition license this summer,” Hermione piped up, blinking as she stepped into the bright sunshine. “Floo travel is okay in a pinch, but Apparating is so much nicer.”
The Midwest summer heat hit us at once. The thermometer in the Jeep had hovered at ninety during the entire trip, and now, devoid of air conditioning, it felt like it. I’m sure that Remus and Hermione were taken aback, but I’d been through many a Midwestern summer, and with the blast of hot air came a wave of pleasant childhood memories.
“Wow!” Hermione shaded her eyes, peering around. “Is it always this hot here?”
“Only in the summer,” I quipped, leading the way into the lobby. It felt like I had been traveling for three days instead of one, and I wanted to change out of my traveling clothes and wash the grime from my face NOW.
We checked in, and I was relieved to find that there were no messages from Roger waiting for me. No news was good news: Billy had evidently made it through the night all right.
In short order, we were ensconced in adjoining rooms on the second floor. I was in the middle of splashing cold water on my face when Hermione knocked on the shared door to say that she’d already scanned the motel map, found the location of the pool, and could she change into her suit and go on down? I assured her that she could indeed head for the pool. She was being a good sport about this whole trip, and I didn’t want her to feel to obligated hang around while I made plans to head to the hospital.
I picked up the telephone to dial Uncle Roger‘s cell phone number, prodding Remus with my foot as I did so. He was stretched out on the bed, looking every bit the victim of too little sleep and too many time zones, and I doubted that I looked much better. The fact that it was late afternoon in Illinois meant that it was midnight in Britain, and we had a ways to go before calling it a day.
“You okay?” I asked as I punched in the numbers.
“Of course. I could jog a mile or two, couldn’t you?” Remus rubbed both eyes wearily. “How do you suppose Hermione has the energy to swim?”
“She’s a teenage girl. She’s not swimming, she’s lounging on the side of the pool to improve her tan.”
“Hermione? She’s probably lounging in the shade, reading. Besides, we’re British, remember? ‘Pasty’ is our normal skin tone,” Remus said, yawning widely. “You can’t improve what you don’t have.”
“Good point. That reminds me: we’ll need some sunscreen,” I said thoughtfully. “You two aren’t used to this kind of heat or sun. You’ll look like lobsters before the week is out.”
“That should be good for undercover work with the Order. I’m sure none of the Death Eaters would notice a bright red werewolf trailing them.”
His offhand remark hung in the air. I knew that Remus did a variety of chores for the Order of the Phoenix, most of which were unknown to me. I was not privy to Order business, yet he had assured me that none of his activities were wildly dangerous. Trailing Death Eaters, on the other hand, sounded hazardous.
The sound of electronic ringing in my ear was replaced by some clicks and then, Uncle Roger’s voice.
“Hi, Roger, it’s Kailin. We’re here, at the Marriott. How’s Billy?”
“Doing pretty well, actually. They’re planning on moving him out of Intensive Care tomorrow morning if he continues to improve.”
That was par for the course, I informed Roger, then told him we’d meet him at the hospital after we had something to eat. As soon as I hung up the phone, however, my mind wandered back to the conversation with Remus.
“Is that what you do?” I asked carefully.
“Is what I do - what?” Remus looked puzzled, clearly trying to figure out what I was asking.
“Trailing Death Eaters,” I said. “You said a sunburn would be bad cover when you’re trailing Death Eaters.” The concern must have shown on my face, because he broke into a smile and reached for my hand at once.
“It’s not exactly like that,” he said. “You’ve been watching too many Muggle spy movies. I - what’s that?” Remus broke off, listening hard.
It took a moment before I heard the faint tapping noise coming from the window. We looked at each other, then Remus hoisted himself off the bed and went to investigate. He drew back the curtains I’d closed a few minutes earlier.
A large tawny owl was sitting on the ledge, eyeing us impatiently.
“What now? Don‘t tell me Voldemort decided to make a move the minute I left the country,” Remus muttered, trying the window and finding it locked. He reached into his trouser pocket and pulled out his wand.
“Here.” I intervened, quickly locating the lock and opening the window manually. The owl hopped inside, offering a leg. “Don’t tell me this poor bird flew all the way from Britain,” I muttered as my husband detached the message. “And what would it have done if we were in some high rise with windows that you couldn‘t open?”
Remus ignored me, fishing in his pocket for a Knut and starting to place it in the small pouch on the owl’s other leg. The bird frowned, if such a thing is possible, and tried to nip his fingers.
“Well, I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I don’t know the going rate for post in the States.”
He found another Knut and, apparently satisfied this time, the owl allowed him to put the two coins in the pouch. It took wing immediately.
I closed the window, not wanting to allow any more hot air into the room. Remus had already unrolled the parchment and begun to read. Almost at once, his expression changed from curious to concerned.
“What is it?” I asked anxiously. “Is it Voldemort?”
He shook his head. “It’s a message from Arthur.”
“Is there something wrong with one of the Weasleys? Not Molly…” Now I was worried. Molly had become my best friend in the past year.
“No.” Remus sank back down on the edge of the bed. He handed me the note with obvious reluctance. “This requires a bit of explaining, I’m afraid.”
I glanced from him to the parchment and began to read.
Remus, I’m terribly sorry to interrupt your holiday, but I thought you should know. Lucius Malfoy is incensed over the incident at King’s Cross yesterday. He has registered a complaint against you with the Ministry. I don’t know that he intends to press charges, but this could create a sticky situation for you. I just wanted to give you a bit of a heads-up about it, and will let you know what develops.
How was the trip in the Muggle aeroplane? I’ve heard that when they close the door, it’s rather like being shut up in a coffin. Is that true?
“What incident at King’s Cross?” I demanded.
Remus wearily massaged the bridge of his nose with one hand. “It’s to do with Lucius Malfoy, I‘m afraid.”
“What about Malfoy?” I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that had nothing to do with the effects of traveling clear across the Atlantic.
“I told you he was there,“ Remus reminded me. “What I didn’t tell you was that we had a little - altercation. He -”
“Altercation!” I blurted, the sinking feeling now flirting with the beginnings of panic. “What -”
“Please, Kailin, let me finish,” Remus said sharply.
I took a shaky breath and forced myself to sit in the easy chair next to the bed. “I’m sorry. Go ahead.”
“To make a long story short, Malfoy spotted me there and deliberately provoked me.”
“He stood next to me as we waited for the train to pull in, acting the innocent. Then he started making remarks like ‘isn’t it a blessing that attacks on Muggles are on the increase, perhaps we’ll be rid of their kind some day’. Things of that sort.”
“And?” I asked warily.
“I started to pull my wand on him.” Remus took one look at my horror-stricken face and added, “But Arthur was right there. He stopped me from actually doing any more than that, of course.”
“You pulled your wand on him? In public? What did he do?” I had learned early on that wizards were not allowed to use their wands in Muggle public places. And it was never a smart move to threaten Lucius Malfoy. My husband had done this? Remus Lupin, who could always be counted on for clear, rational thought?
Remus didn’t speak for a long moment, then he smiled faintly. “Well, he was rather surprised, for starters. I think he caught on about the time Arthur was pinning my arms to my sides and I was calling him a murdering son of a bitch - Malfoy, that is, not Arthur.”
“You called Lucius Malfoy a murdering son of a bitch?” I said, bemused.
“My God, Kailin, the man stood there, smirking, and all I could think of was how I felt when I came down the lane and saw that cottage burning. I thought I had lost you forever!”
“But he’s been trying to pass himself off as a saint lately. Surely saying those things in public wouldn’t help his new image.”
“No, he wouldn’t want to tarnish the new Lucius, would he?” Remus cracked, his smile fading completely. “Nobody else heard him, Kailin. Only Arthur and me.”
To tell the truth, now that the moment of surprise was past, I was somewhat impressed. I couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit flattered that Remus had defended my honor against the likes of Malfoy. Still…
“What does Arthur mean here -” I pointed to the note, “- about Malfoy making a complaint about you?”
Remus thought carefully before answering. “It means he’s reported me to the Werewolf Registry.”
“And that means….?”
“It means I’ll probably be classified as an undesirable. That is,” he amended, “more undesirable than I am already. Of course, I have so few rights anyway, it‘s not like they can take away much more.”
“Could they make you give up your magic?” I asked, wide-eyed. I’d heard rumors about such a thing. When it came to bigotry, the British wizarding government was nearly unparalleled. There was no telling how low they could stoop.
“Of course not. Where did you ever get that idea?”
“I don’t know.”
“They can‘t do that,” Remus assured me, stretching out on the bed and staring pensively at the ceiling. “Although they might slap a curfew on me or make me report in to the Registry every month.”
I considered this. “You know, at times like this it’s really hard for me to remember that Malfoy’s going to get his comeuppance some day. If only we’d been able to press charges after the fire.”
“It just wasn’t possible, Kailin.”
“I know.” Malfoy had admitted to Severus Snape that he had caused the fire that nearly killed me. But in the end, this confession had yielded nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing who was behind the crime. To accuse Malfoy with that as proof was to expose Snape as a spy for Order. And in this wizarding war, the stakes were much higher than my own injustices.
“Did I hear you mention lunch?” Remus asked, changing the subject. “Or dinner, or whatever mealtime it actually is?”
“Yes, but I have no idea what to eat. I’m not sure I’m actually hungry, but I should eat something, I suppose. Let’s go by the pool and check with Hermione first.”
And for the moment, thoughts of Lucius Malfoy were pushed aside.