Chapter 2: Blood and Chocolate
Remus visited his friend beyond the fence every other day, weather and Daniel Babio permitting. Laden with books and other paraphernalia, he fulfilled her craving for elaborate literature. While the barrier bore down upon them like the Berlin Wall, a friendship gradually emerged. A few long talks and an exchange of personal information, allowed the two lonely individuals to become the loyalest of comrades. Daniel, however, lurked in the depth of shadows. He was not about to let years of misery dissipate so easily. The criminal inside of him found offenses to get Taylor in trouble for. Sticking tacks on the nurse's chair, pools of glue in the infants' cribs. Taylor often found herself scrubbing floors and memorizing house rules. She could not afford a good defense lawyer.
Everyday life of the orphanage, however, was avoidable. Ten year olds on good behavior were allowed to leave the property every Saturday. In the spring and summer, most visited parks or the public pool before returning back for their private schooling. Taylor sought her freedom in a different place: Mr. Katsinsky's General Store. Located at the end of Vintage Avenue, the little shop bustled as busy as any Marks and Spencer. There, Mr. Katsinsky himself, fatigued and grey, tossed her a few coins, if she helped him stock the shelves. Last Christmas was when he gave her Stevenson's book and a few chocolates for being diligent in her work.
Keeping an old man company and stocking shelves was easier than scrubbing floors. Occasionally, she would even have the pleasure of running into Remus. Without the fence or adults to hinder their conversation, they explored the expanse of imagination.
"I must confess, Taylor, I have an addiction for Cadbury chocolate." Remus chuckled as he sifted through the candy rack.
"Both Mayan and Aztec royals used chocolate during their religious ceremonies. They drank chocolate. Unsweetened. It was more precious than gold to them." Taylor organized the shelf thoughtlessly and brought the candy to the front.
"Well, it's plenty good. I don't think I will start sacrificing men, women, and children anytime soon though." Mr. Katsinsky hobbled by and patted Remus on the head with his withering hand.
"There's a good lad. Not barbaric like them animals in the rainforests."
Taylor rolled her eyes.
In late July, while completing her morning chores, Taylor heard the nurse call for her. It was the usual loud and livid squawk emitted by rainforest parrots or haggard old women. Hastily, she put the sponges and the bucket against the wall, and scuttled toward office; the pictures on the way laughed indifferently to her situation. Afraid of another punishment, she flattened her dress. Cleanliness looked more innocent. Once through the door, however, she was shocked to see Remus with a man and woman.
Oh! Did I get him in trouble? An "um" was all she could muster. Remus motioned for her to come closer.
"Hello, Taylor. We are Remus's parents." His mother smiled warmly at her. "We've heard a lot about you." Crap. What have you heard ma'am? That your son runs around town with a poor orphan girl?
"The Lupins were hoping to adopt you, Taylor." The nurse seemed thrilled at the idea. Getting Daniel or Taylor out of her hair would be a blessing. She may be able to have tacks in her desk again.
Her face flushed and she could not believe her ears. Adopt? Me?
"We have an extra room for you." Mr. Lupin explained. "And we can move all of your things, whenever you are ready."
"I've always dreamed of having a little girl. And Remus would love—" Taylor cut Mrs. Lupin off with a rushed hug. The woman smiled down and embraced the girl.
"Oh! Yes! Please!" Taylor felt like Odysseus bound for Ithaca.
"Aren't you excited?" Remus bounced consistently for the next few days. Her enthusiasm wavered in and out of style. Thoughts lingered to her father, who must be somewhere thinking about her. If she was not by the fence, how could she see him coming? She reasoned with herself. The Lupins live in town. If my father comes back, he'll find me. All he'd have to do is ask the nurse.
She nodded and smiled back at her ecstatic friend, "Taylor Lupin. Wow, I actually kinda like it."
After the weeks of standard paperwork, the nurse set her free. Daniel Babio watched sourly from behind the fence as the family bundled into a small vehicle.
Walking over the threshold into a new home turned Taylor's insides to hot magma. Self-doubt, pleasure, and anticipation gurgled in her abdomen. She had previously been adopted, though the circumstances were completely irreverent to her current position. A few months with an elderly couple ended in a lot of fuss about missing heirlooms. A few weeks with a family of seven disintegrated into pumpkin pie all over the walls and furniture. She did not appear to have any luck with getting settled into new households.
The Lupins' home was, however, quite pleasant. Small in area, but intimate. Three rooms, a single bathroom, a small kitchen, and a small living room all fit into a narrow two story townhouse. In almost every corner was a houseplant. Oak wood tables and stair banisters shimmered warmly to welcome visitors. My own room! She would not have to worry about Daniel putting dead insects in her sheets anymore.
And yet, an aspect of the house seemed unreal. She barely knew her new parents. What were their occupations? Where are they from? Why are they so eager to let me into their home?
Her brother gave her the grand tour, which did not last very long. Like his new sibling, Remus had never had much luck at making friends at the public school. Instinctually, he was eager to show her around to his favorite places, play his favorite games, and talk incessantly. But the goddess Fortuna did not watch over Taylor in the weeks to come. Instead, Invidia crawled in through open windows and whispered darkness into Remus's ears. It became exasperating to watch his beloved parents fawn over the newcomer. He was especially defensive about his mother, who spent copious hours talking to Taylor about the newest fashions and timeless movies.
As Remus's jealousy grew, so too did his impatience for her quirky facts. Taylor was a fathomless pool of historical knowledge. Roman, Mayan, Greek, and Sumerian cultural facts flowed over her tongue with liquid ease. She beat him at board games and analyzed books intensely. Everything Remus excelled in was comparatively dampened when Taylor showed her true ability.
Despite their recent quarrels, the family ate dinner together on a regular basis. Nearly a year of family dinners culminated into one fateful July night.
"Pass the spuds, Taylor?" Remus asked. Taylor pushed the bowl closer to him.
"How was your day at work?" Mrs. Lupin addressed her husband as she cut into the plated lamb.
"It was…" Mr. Lupin trailed off. Since his arrival home that evening, he was distant. He shook off his daze. "I had to deny Greyback's parole today at the hearing. He just did not seem genuinely able to control his actions." Mrs. Lupin touched her husband's arm.
"It's not your fault dear. You did your best—" A fluttering of air landed onto the table. Taylor jumped back, alarmed to see a rusty colored owl on the table, snapping its beak at the mashed potatoes. With a sudden change in character, Remus broke out into a face-splitting grin. He quickly grabbed at the envelope, setting the bird loose into the night. Without hesitation, he ripped the letter open.
Did everyone not just see the owl that flew in through the window? Taylor sat erect in her chair.
Her brother read over his glasses. "Dear Mr. Lupin. We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!" Mrs. Lupin got up and clasped her son to her chest.
"Congratulations Remus! Your father and I are so proud." Remus beamed, but only until another owl, white with brown spots, landed on the back of Taylor's chair. Silence stifled the air. Taylor stood up from her seat and stared at the wise bird, worried the creature would snap at her appendages if she moved to fast. Instead, it nipped off the envelope, stole off a piece of lamb from Remus's plate, and fluttered up the fireplace.
Remus dropped his letter and his body began to shake. "Open it." He whispered darkly. Mrs. Lupin took a step toward Taylor, but paused to look back at her husband. Both appeared genuinely shocked. Taylor picked up the letter and opened it carefully.
"I've been accepted to Hogw—"
"THE BLOODY HELL YOU ARE! YOU NEVER SAID YOU WERE FROM A MAGICAL FAMILY!" Remus roared, immensely upset to see he was bested by his sister again.
"Magic? Witchcraft?" The words felt oddly sane. Only magic could not be real. Magic was reserved for fantasy books and ancient myths. She looked to Remus, who was waiting for her retort. "I am not sure what any of this is." To Remus, her confession was a fierce lie.
He slammed his hands down on the table. The kind oak wood shuttered under his envy. His father, who recovered from the surprise, shot him a serious look laced with chastisement. "I think you need to calm down, sport." Remus clenched his fists, taking his eyes off Taylor.
"I'm going to bed." No one stopped him.
In an hour, Taylor's world buzzed with new truths. The Lupins explained the letter's significance and proved magic real by pulling out their wands. Mr. Lupin levitated the water glasses, just after transforming a candlestick into a toad. I am dreaming. Or I've gone daft.
"You'll go to Hogwarts and learn everything! How to use a wand, how to make potions, and everything about magical creatures." Mrs. Lupin sighed in awed. It was obvious Remus's mother was nonmagical. This is absolutely amazing. Why didn't Remus ever tell me?
Taylor climbed up the stairs, toward her room in disbelief. Real magic. It sounded paradoxical. She needed to talk to Remus, and make the situation right. He could not hate her forever. The adventure would be better experienced if they became the dynamic duo again. With a light hand she rapped on his bedroom door. Silence echoed back a response. Inviting herself in, she cracked the door a sliver. The room was humid and warmer than usual, until she noticed the window was open. Remus was gone.
The Lupins were alerted once Taylor was sure Remus was missing. Together they searched the neighborhood, but he disappeared like ice into fire. With panic heightening, Taylor suggested the group split up.
"We will cover more ground, he can't be too far." She explained hopefully. After gentle coaxing, the Lupins agreed. Mrs. Lupin took the family car, while Mr. Lupin and Taylor traveled on foot.
"Be careful Taylor." Mr. Lupin ordered. The tip of his wand lit up and he ran down the block. Taylor bolted down the opposite way, toward Vintage Avenue.
"Remus!" She called out into the crisp air. What the Bloody Hell is he thinking? "Remus!" Over her shout, Taylor thought she heard another call for Remus. Paranoid, she suddenly felt uncomfortable, alone in the evening air. Moonlight dripped across the sidewalks, broken by tree and lamppost shadows. She silently thanked the full moon for lending aid in her search. A sprint turned to a jog as she stopped to look around Mr. Katsinsky's shop. The store was closed. It was clearly after midnight and there was no trace of her fugitive. Off in the remoteness, she heard a faint scream. A chilling howl followed closely.
Without commonsense, Taylor dashed down an unfamiliar street and straight into an exercise park. She froze at the entrance. A man with canine features barreled down on Remus's fragility. Blood stained the grass and her brother's screams melted into whimpered. The boy was crushed face first into the lawn. The creature's chest was wide and heaving, while his arms and legs nimbly pinned his prey. Talons covered in precious sanguine dug deep into Remus's back.
Taylor did not know what to do. None of her books ever warned her against wolfmen. She tried the first plan that came to mind.
"Hey! Hey!" She whistled as if goading someone's lost Doberman. "Poochie, poochie!" Taylor raised her hands above her head and ran a bit closer, pretending she had no fear. Instead of scaring the wolf away, it became more agitated with bloodlust. Its eyes flashed from crimson red and then back to a sick blue. The creature made a throaty laugh and moved toward Taylor. Taking a step back, realization set in. She was a new and more appealing target. The wolfman would catch her if she ran, and if she yelled for help he would silence her with his jaws. With no time to think, the creature lunged and landed on top of her snarling. Hot drool dripped from its bared fangs. Flecks of spittle landed on her nose and lips.
Taylor yelped and tried to push the animal off. She closed her eyes, ready to be swallowed like Little Red in her Grandmother's cottage. The wolfman opened its jaws to clamp down on her neck. A weight was lifted and the wolfman rolled away from her. Growling and snarling, the beast seemed to wobble blinded. His ears pricked up and he bounded into an arbor. Taylor wiped her face off and rushed to Remus's quivering body. The silver black opal pendant tossed about her neck comfortably. It had saved her life. Remus, however, was almost unrecognizable. His arm was shredded and his navy blue sweater was soaked in a dark liquid. Remus choked back sobs. He was conscious.
"Remus, just hold on." Taylor's eyes brimmed with worry and self-loathing. If she had not gotten an acceptance letter, Remus would have been asleep dreaming of Hogwarts.
"Number Twelve. Grimmauld Place. London, England." A boy of eleven stumbled through an elaborate archway. "Homier than ever." All the candles in the house were lit to a bright blaze. He did not notice where he dropped his knapsack. It was useless to him anyway. With a groan he slipped off his black rain cloak and collapsed on the couch. A letter with his name embossed upon it, sat propped upon the coffee table. "Hogwarts. Hurrah." He yawned unenthusiastically. Black hair fell into his silver gray eyes, which seemed to empty out into an unknown depth. Sirius had more important qualms on his mind than getting accepted into a school he was practically guaranteed admittance into.
"Stupid mother. Stupid brother. Stupid Elf. Stupid." He listed several names and mixed them sporadically with curse words to form a massive tossed salad of insults. With heavy thoughts he turned and faced the couch. Frustrated, he pulled out the stuffing of the sofa, rightly knowing his mother would beat him later for ruining another precious artifact from the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black. Honestly, he did not care. Why should he?
"Aw, Sirius, you're back already? Did it get too dark outside?" A sinister voice mocked him from the stairwell. "I knew you'd come back sooner or later. Though, it would have been grander if the Ministry brought you back to us in a pine box. It would have eased our mother's troubled mind to know you were finally out of the picture." Sirius glared at the couch as if it were to blame.
"Go away Regulus."
"No." He said simply, walking down the stairs. He too displayed black hair and their father's grey eyes. They could easily have passed for twins. Regulus, however, was a year older. He walked into the firelight a bit and smiled wickedly at his brother.
"I suggest you git!" In a swift motion, Sirius snapped off his shoe and chucked it at Regulus, who dodged it as if it was merely a paper ball.
"Tisk. You truly are a troubled young man." He clicked his tongue at him.
"SIRIUS!" A scream from the other room echoed. "WHERE THE HELL IS THAT LITTLE INGRATE!" Sirius sank into the couch a few inches hoping it would hide him. Regulus chuckled and patted him on the head.
"Good luck mate. She's really off her trolley this time." Sirius threw himself off the couch and walked out to see his dear old mother.