When all else fails, go with chocolate
Remus was lying awake in his bed again, having another sleepless night.
Those seemed to happen more often than he'd care to admit lately. Not to mention there was hardly a moment the last few days when he wasn't battling himself. He couldn't take notes in class because his mind kept wandering, put the wrong ingredients in his cauldron four times in the last potions class, and accidentally turned Sirius's hair into seaweed in transfiguration. James asked him twice if he had indigestion at lunch when he was just sitting there, stealing a look at her from the other side of the table. He hoped he didn't have the same dopey expression James got when he was staring at Lily.
His friends noticed what this was all about of course, and told him to get over himself and just ask Lisa out already. Because it's that easy to disregard some pretty important facts! If he were normal he would do so in a heartbeat, but there were other things to consider! He couldn't just leap into this without looking, or he'd only hurt himself and her. But the most frustrating part was that it was all within his reach. She told him she wanted to be with him, and that alone made him so happy he felt ready to take on a hundred Dementors. All he had to do was go and talk to her. But he couldn't.
Remus sighed and threw off the covers. There wouldn't be any sleep for him tonight. He reached over to his nightstand to take the copy of Great Expectations he was reading before bed and headed down into the common room. The place was deserted and he made for the armchair near the fire, when his eyes chanced upon the staircase to the girls' dormitory. His stomach wiggled again. She was so close... if he wanted to, he could freeze the charm on the stairs. If that didn't work, he could always borrow James' broom and fly up to the window...
He shook his head violently, getting red in the face, and walked to the chair briskly. What kind of gormless ideas were those?! He couldn't just walk into the girls' dormitory! In the middle of the night, no less! Sirius must be rubbing off on him. But he didn't have to actually go into the dorm to talk to Lisa...
He stopped dead in his tracks just before sitting down and turned to stare at the staircase indecisively. He didn't have to tell her he was a werewolf. Not right away, at any rate. They could be together for a little while, and after all, with Voldemort rampaging outside, shouldn't they get whatever happiness they could while still in school? They could have a semi-normal relationship... drenched in lies.
Remus sighed deeply and ran a hand through his hair. How had he let things get this far? This wasn't supposed to happen, werewolves don't fall inlove with pretty girls. And pretty girls most certainly don't fall inlove with werewolves. This would only end badly, especially for her. And even if it didn't end with her running and screaming in horror, where could this go? After they left Hogwarts, he would have to face the wizarding world's prejudice head on, and she would get tired of it pretty quickly. He couldn't ask her to put up with everything that would come with dating a werewolf. Romance just... wasn't meant for creatures like him.
The second weekend of April was fast approaching, and that meant only one thing – Quidditch!
After winning the postponed match with Slytherin by a very slim difference, Gryffindor was scheduled to have their second game with Hufflepuff on the 10th. James was pushing the team harder than ever, and Lisa couldn't be happier about it – flying always made her feel better. Plus, having something to concentrate on was a welcomed outlet for all of her pent up emotions. Remus had apparently decided to go the route of 'pretending that kiss never happened', though he did seem a bit more lost in thought lately. They continued talking and acting like normal, but he went back to avoiding being alone with her as much as possible. Well, if that's the way he wanted things to be, then fine. She couldn't force him into anything, and at least she got to continue being friends with him.
Lisa was going to turn seventeen on Thursday, so she and Dorcas decided to sneak out to Hogsmeade for some fun (and to escape all the looks people were giving her).
"What'll it be?" Dorcas asked, as the two of them stood in the middle of the High Street indecisively.
"I don't know," the Gryffindor muttered. "I actually... wanted to get something for Remus while we're here."
"Lupin? What for?"
"He got me something really sweet for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, but with... everything going on... I missed his. So I just wanted to return the flavor. Will you help me pick something?"
"Sure, why not?" Dorcas shrugged. "What will you get him then?"
"I have no idea." Lisa couldn't think of anything big enough.
"Alright, let's... let's start with the basics. Is there anything he likes in particular?"
"Fat chance of finding any of that around here. Anything else?"
"The usual things..."
"I guess with him you can't go wrong with a book?"
Lisa smirked. "Is that always your default idea? I've gotten books from you for five years straight! Besides, he'll probably get dozens of those."
Dorcas nudged her playfully. "You liked the books, don't lie. There's a Quidditch store over there..."
"You're thinking of gifts for me," Lisa said with a light laugh. "He's not that into Quidditch."
"Something from Zonko's then? Or a new pair of socks? A new quill?"
"If he wanted any of those, he'd buy them himself!"
"Then why are we here!? He can just come to Hogsmeade and buy anything else we can get him!"
"I don't know!" Lisa exclaimed helplessly. Dorcas had a point. "I just... wanted to get him something... special."
Her friend gave her a sympathetic look and pulled her towards the closest building – Madam Puddifoot's.
"Come on. No point in freezing while you make up your mind."
The place wasn't as Lisa remembered it. It was a lot less pink than during the Valentine's season (the only time she had actually set foot in there) and it was a lot emptier without all the randy teenagers snogging everywhere. She took a seat with Dorcas in a more secluded corner of the café and stared at the wall thoughtfully.
"If you wanted to give him something unique, why not make it?" Dorcas suggested after they ordered their hot chocolate.
"Because I can't make things," Lisa pouted. "Grandma showed me how to knit when I was a kid, and I already made him a scarf for Christmas. I can't do anything else."
"You're a witch. You can do magic."
"You want me to invent a spell just for him?"
"Shouldn't be too hard." Dorcas shrugged. "What did he give you that was so great anyway?"
"He, erm... enchanted an old gramophone to work within Hogwarts."
"Oh," the Slytherin said, a bit confused at the light blush that was coloring her friend's face. "That's... nice?"
"And I kissed him."
Dorcas' eyes went wide. "And you're just telling me about this now?"
Lisa sighed. "It doesn't matter. I'm tired of this, Cass. I'm tired of chasing after him and worrying about where things are going between us. I've made myself perfectly clear, so it's up to him now. And seeing how he hasn't made a move, I don't think he's ever going to."
"What're you saying? You wanna go back to Tenley?"
"I'm saying... that maybe romance isn't for me right now. He doesn't want to be with me and that's that. I think he's just too nice to come out and say it. There are more important things going on, anyway. I should be practicing my dueling and flying, not pining after someone I can't be with."
"That's not what I heard." Dorcas smirked playfully. "McKinnon spilled the beans pretty fast, even for her. She said the two of you practically snogged in the middle of the common room."
"Since when do you listen to what Marlene has to say?" Lisa grumbled. "And we weren't snogging. It was... right after Dumbledore told me. He was just trying to comfort me."
"Listen." Dorcas' face grew serious and she placed a warm hand on Lisa's shoulder. "He's mad about you. Everyone can see it."
"I don't care what everyone sees!" Lisa snapped. "Whatever his reasons are, he rejected me. Now can we please stop dwelling on it?"
Dorcas looked at her friend with concern but dropped it, and they chatted about the loads of Charms homework that was waiting for them back at the castle, and how Filch would react if he found out there was a secret passage out of Hogwarts that he didn't know about.
"You know, I almost forgot," Lisa said, pulling out a piece of parchment, tied with a green ribbon from her robes and giving it to her friend.
Dorcas took it with a suspicious look and unrolled it, only to see it was another invitation to one of Slughorn's parties, which was to take place tomorrow.
"What're you giving me this for?" she said.
"You wanted to go, right? It's tomorrow. Consider yourself my plus one."
"Really? You mean you want me to go with you?"
"Who needs men, when you have friends, right?" Lisa quipped and Dorcas gave her a giant hug.
"I can't believe you went with something so boring," Dorcas said the next evening, as the two of them entered Slughorn's office.
"He has a sweet tooth," Lisa said back defensively. "And I didn't hear any other brilliant ideas, so I had to do what I had to do."
Dorcas rolled her eyes, just as Slughorn spotted them and they had to endure about twenty minutes of his pompous speeches, before he finally left them alone to focus on some of his other 'pets'. The two girls took the opportunity to get a fill of Butterbeer and indulge in a bit of gossip about what everyone was wearing and who was coming with who. Unfortunately, another group of girls huddled along the wall had a similar idea.
"I mean, sullying her bloodline like that... it's just a darn shame," they heard a tall Slytherin girl say, followed by approving comments from the three others she was talking with. "She is part of The Sacred Twenty-Eight and she goes out with a mudblood?"
"Maybe she was counting on her sister to keep the line pure, so she could roll in the sheets with whomever she wanted."
Lisa's hand froze just as she was bringing the goblet to her lips. Her family was a part of 'The Sacred Twenty-Eight', a moronic registry for supposedly all truly pureblood families.
"Possibly, but why would she want that Hufflepuff, Tenley? He's not even that popular."
"That's not the only one she's been with. Haven't you heard? She's been walking down dark hallways with Black, having love-spats with Potter, and there's even talk she spent the night in Remus Lupin's bed!"
"Why she went for Lupin in particular is beyond me. Black I understand, he at least is handsome and has much better status, and same goes for Potter, even if they are both blood traitors, and Tenley is at least acceptably good-looking. But Lupin? Pale and gaunt and always with his nose stuck in a book. Why would anyone date him, if both Potter and Black are always around?"
Lisa's hand shook and some Butterbeer spilled onto the floor.
"You're not seriously falling for this, are you?" Dorcas whispered in her ear. "They're obviously trying to bait you!"
"Well, it's working," Lisa growled through gritted teeth.
"And you know, now that the little brat is dead, she's gonna have to step up to the plate, doesn't she? Pureblood women should not be wasted in times like these, when filth is corrupting so many respectable family trees."
The anger flared red-hot in Lisa's chest and she whipped around and splashed her drink right at the Slytherin's face. For a second, the girl only stared in horror at her ruined dress, as the whole room went silent. Then she lunged herself at Lisa, burying both of her claw-like hands in her hair and pulling with all the strength of a mountain troll. The two stumbled through the room, engaged in an intense struggle, until there was a flash of light and the Slytherin was thrown back, painfully taking with her a whole fistful of hair.
Looking around the office, Lisa saw Dorcas' wand was out and all of the Slytherin girls were scattered on the ground with varying injuries.
"Looks like this party's over," Dorcas said, placing a hand on Lisa's back. "Let's go."
And before Slughorn could even utter anything about points, they slipped out the door. As they were leaving, Lisa threw one last look at the girl whose dress she ruined, and for a moment, it seemed like she was grinning.
Severus Snape wrinkled his nose in disgust as he entered he Hog's Head Inn.
"Couldn't find a dirtier place fort the meeting?" he sneered at Rosier.
"I do not pick the rendezvous point," Rosier replied flatly and headed to a table in the corner, followed by Mulciber, Avery and Wilkes. Snape stood at the door for a second longer, before swallowing his revulsion and sitting down as well.
They sipped Firewhisky in silence for about fifteen minutes, waiting for their contacts to arrive. Finally, the door opened to allow the aristocratic figure of Lucius Malfoy to enter the dingy pub. He also grimaced upon sweeping the room with his pale, scrutinizing gaze and headed to the Slytherin's table, joined by a burly wizard with a long, twisted face and chin-length brown hair, and a thickset man with neat black hair and a haughty look about him.
"Severus. Evan," Lucius said in greeting as he sat down, flanked by the other two. "I believe you've met Rodolphus, Evan? He married your cousin Bellatrix recently." Rosier nodded in acknowledgement to the haughty wizard and got a similar gesture in return. "And this is Antonin Dolohov. He is one of the Dark Lord's closest confidants." Dolohov gave them a self-important grin.
"And why is the Dark Lord sending us someone of such importance?" Snape questioned, not able to completely do away with the notes of sarcasm in his voice. "Shouldn't you be doing more... important things?"
"The Dark Lord is tired of your sluggish progress," Dolohov said, grinning even wider. "He sent me to personally remind you that He has given you a task. A task, which is still incomplete."
Snape held the Death Eater's stare with equal intensity. "It's out of our control. We cannot act, until we have everything we need."
"Then you must get it, and do so quickly," Lucius said. "He is losing patience."
"I cannot control when a potion is done brewing!" Snape snapped. "It will be done when it's done, and not before."
"No need to get so flippant, Severus," Lucius said calmly. "We are only here to relate orders. Have you made any progress on locating the item?"
Snape and Rosier exchanged looks.
"I see," Lucius said quietly. "In that case, I suggest you get a move on. He's waited long enough."
"Hogwarts is a big castle," Rosier said in response. "The Dark Lord knows it will take more than a few months to search it thoroughly. And as Severus pointed out, we need the potion if we mean to search all the common rooms."
"If it was in a common room, it would have been found by now," Rodolphus threw in.
"Regardless of that, searching the school under Dumbledore's nose requites more than a little covert sneaking around and subtlety. We are doing what we can, under the circumstances," Rosier added.
"I'll be sure to tell the Dark Lord that," Lucius said with more than a few mocking tones in his voice and turned his gaze to Snape. "How far have you gotten with the werewolf?"
"I told you," Snape growled, "that he wouldn't listen to me. Lupin hates my guts, and it won't matter what I say or what threats you make—"
"That is your concern," Rodolphus interjected. "The Dark Lord is not interested in excuses. He wants results."
"Well then maybe He should ask someone who wouldn't get hexed on sight as soon as he approached him!" Snape sputtered.
"We have a plan," Wilkes interrupted out of nowhere. "But it needs the potion to finish brewing. It will only be a few days now. Lupin will do the Dark Lord's bidding, whether he wants to or not."
"I'll hold you to that," Dolohov said, fixing Wilkes with a cold stare, voice dripping with threat. "Remember, He does not tolerate failure. And neither do I."
"We will not disappoint him," Rosier said firmly.
'I wonder if he really is sick this time,' Lisa thought to herself, piling sausages on her plate before the match with Hufflepuff on Sunday, already in her Quidditch robes. Remus was gone for the last three days and Madam Pomfrey wouldn't let her into the Hospital Wing, so she had to send him the Honeydukes chocolate she got him through Gwen, and after asking James about it, she learned he wasn't going to show up for the match either. That was to be expected of course, as the moon would be full tonight. Lisa wondered if some full moons were worse than others and just how many people knew about it. His friends, surely, since they covered for him so fiercely, Snape, who someone was keeping quiet, Madam Pomfrey, Dumbledore too, probably, and at least some teachers, she presumed...
Suddenly, her musings were interrupted by James, who planted himself next to her.
"About Remus," he said, cutting straight to the chase. "Do you fancy him?"
She dropped her fork. "What!? Why would... where did that come fr—"
"Because he does." James looked her straight in the eyes. "But he's holding himself back. I'm telling you, because he's one of my best friends and I want him to be happy, but he won't let himself. You can't ask me why, but it's a stupid reason. He's got it in his head that no one would even want him, but we all know that's rubbish. I saw the two of you together after you got the news."
"We've tried reasoning with him, but it's not working. Maybe you'll be able to knock some sense into him."
Lisa looked at her sausages, not truly seeing them. If he wasn't pushing her away because he didn't have feelings for her, then why...? Even though she had uncovered his (hopefully) biggest secret, there were still unexplainable things about him. Now that she knew, she had put together what the whole threatening scene in the Library back in November was about, and it made sense why Snape was so obsessed with him, but... what about the scars? And the thing Snape wanted him to do? Were those connected to his lycanthropy at all? Or were they completely unrelated secrets? James said his reasons were stupid, but she wouldn't describe being a werewolf as stupid, so that probably wasn't it.
"What exactly do you want me to do, James? He already knows how I feel about him. How am I supposed to convince him his reason is stupid, when I don't even know what I'm talking about?"
"You'll figure it out." James grinned, giving her a pat on the back. "Let's go, shall we? There's a game that needs winning."