The boy wrote in the diary whenever he could. It was a chore but he did get some enjoyment communicating with another being that knew of his unique circumstance. It had become a comfort to put his thoughts down. He was so very worried.
Has my mother been released? May I see her soon?
She has and you will be able to see her as soon as she is better.
Is she sick? Has something happened to her, lord?
She will be fine. We hope for recovery. The Ministry and those in Azkaban were cruel and heartless toward your mother. She sends her love and wishes for you to do something for her.
As Barnabus wrote to the Dark Lord over the weeks after receiving the magical diary he’d begun to forget the frightening and horrible being at the other end of the parchment. He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named was so understanding and sympathetic. He seemed to empathize with his frustration that he was still not able to see his beloved mother. She’d been freed with the others, the Dark Lord had told him. He rejoiced in the knowledge that she was no longer in that hateful place.
What? What does she need? I’ll do anything for her.
We, she and I and the others would like you to find a place for us in Wolvin. She will be closer to you there. She will be able to change into a werewolf in secret. The Ministry is always close by here. We will be safer in Wolvin. It should be set away from the rest so as to be undisturbed by the muggle born amongst you.
How? How can I do this?
Find a way. Tell no one. Hurry. Your mother is weak and needs you near her. This is her wish, to be near you. It must be secret. No one must find her or us. They will kill us rather than risk another escape from prison.
For weeks Barnabus had traveled around the countryside in search of a place that would be out of the way of other’s eyes. He’d secretly taken one of the thestrals named Galvan because that creature of all the thestrals rarely came near humans and kept largely to the forest. Galvan would not be missed. He’d been able to slip away.
Kate had been curious about his disappearances at first but he’d put her off. She wasn’t allowed into the forest except at the change time. She was afraid of the thestrals because she couldn’t see them. He’d told her that they might attack her and she’d believed him.
Barnabus thought his efforts would be rewarded. He dreamed of a time when his mother could experience the change out in the open there in Wolvin. He would be so grateful to the Dark Lord. His mother running free was all that he hoped for.
What of the other werewolves?
What about them?
If you come here, will you kill them? The Gray’s have been very kind and they’ve told me how it was before, that you hunted them because they were werewolves.
You doubt me? Is this possible? I, who am now taking care of your mother, a werewolf in her delicate health?
Find us a safe haven and all will be forgiven. You will be reunited with your mother.
It was difficult to find a house that was isolated from the others. The people of Wolvin were a social group and tended to cluster their houses together. There were no stand-alone structures that he could find from above. Each family seemed to build near each other. Companionship and family were inbred within the community.
He became desperate as the weeks went on when he couldn’t find even a shack that seemed set apart. It had been difficult to leave the school without being noticed. His friend Kate always seemed to notice when he went into the forest. By February the diary had become more beseeching and his mother had grown weaker.
I cannot find an isolated place. The families live close together.
Try harder; perhaps find a place with only a few families? Your mother grows frailer daily without you.
What else has happened? What news of Wolvin?
The wizard Lupin seems here to stay. He’s been teaching us lessons in the Dark Arts and protection. I’ve heard them talking recently. They’ve begun looking for you here in Wolvin.
Watch him closely and John Gray, as well. Everything, I must know everything.
Remus had been living with the Gray’s off and on for over a month and a half and had to admit that it was a pleasure to be a part of their family. He’d been teaching again as per the Gray’s request to pay for his room and board and was enjoying himself immensely. It was not much of a strain compared with teaching the much larger classes at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry but they had enough for three Quidditch teams if everyone played and the students in general were talented and hardworking. There was no house rivalry because there were no houses. That was a welcome difference. The Gray’s boarded five students from outside Wolvin, which included the mysterious Barnabus but primarily students came from the neighborhood of Wolvin. Students also began attending the school as soon as they showed signs of magical talents. There were a few students as young as eight.
All students were witches or wizards and all were werewolves.
The entire area encompassing hundreds of acres of hilly land was part of Wolvin and the forefathers of the county and the village had seen fit to protect the population from the prying eyes of the Ministry as well as the larger muggle community outside the Wolvin boundaries. Essentially, over the last five hundred years, Wolvin had become a haven unto itself. While the magical community at large struggled with hiding itself from the more populated muggle community, the village and county of Wolvin kept itself apart for its protection from all of them. They had developed a culture that incorporated their muggle community with their magical folk. The werewolves were by and large muggles as a group. All knew that if either the wizarding world or the muggle world were to discover their secret society of werewolves that they would all be destroyed. They kept allegiance to the Wolvin code of secrecy from a very early age out of self-preservation, first and love of their unique culture, second.
Remus felt that he’d died and gone to heaven. It was that simple. He’d struggled with his difference from the wizarding world his entire life and in Wolvin he had no struggle. It had been only with the Marauders that he’d ever felt that he belonged in a group. Here in Wolvin he was respected, an individual who’d made a reputation and a success in the outside world. The people of Wolvin looked upon him with admiration and thankfulness. He was one of their own.
Remus found himself basking in the acceptance. He had never belonged anywhere as he belonged here. It was heart wrenching to realize that there’d been a large gaping hole in his life before that he’d never acknowledged. He wasn’t sure if he could ever fully go back to it. For what was he really but a very lonely man with a burden of responsibility for old friends destroyed by war? Here in Wolvin he felt hope. He was completely smitten with this new community and wanted more than he’d ever dreamed possible to stay with them and build a life there.
But, he only dared wish for such a life in small snatches of time when he was alone with his thoughts.
“I told you that it would be this way,” said John Gray in early February as the two sat talking over fire whiskey in the comfortable parlor. The hearth fire was lit. It had become their custom to sit and discuss the world in the evening and they had become good friends.
“It continually amazes me, though. The ease with which all here in Wolvin maintain their werewolf identities.” Remus tipped his head back in his chair. “I’d like to live here when the war is over.”
“You’re more than welcome, as you know,” said John chuckling. “The wife would have my guts for garters if I didn’t encourage you to move here permanently now.”
Remus laughed. “Agatha is persuasive, I’ll give you that,” he said. “But I have obligations beyond Wolvin, my friendship with those of the Order and my promise to Harry.” He thought again of his friend Sirius alone in the house at Grimmauld Place. He must return soon to make sure that all was well. It had been over two weeks since his last visit and Sirius’ letters had become extremely melancholy in tone.
“Aye,” said John nodding. “But we’ll beat this new He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named somehow.” He nodded again and watched the fire silently.
His daughter Kate walked in with her ever-silent friend Barnabus. Remus had observed that the two seemed inseparable and yet were complete opposites in temperament. Kate was shy when you first met her but became an effervescent chatterbox almost immediately while Barnabus hardly ever spoke. He was a handsome boy but he often had a look of sullen tortured silence about him. He was a strange young man and though he reminded Remus of Harry in some ways, he was not Harry. Every time the boy was near him his werewolf instincts became heightened and he felt as if he was being watched.
“Dad,” said Kate. “May Barnabus and I go with you tomorrow? Mum said you’d be going to the north.”
John looked surprised. He and Remus had been visiting every house in the county checking for any information of outside intruders. It was slow work but it was imperative if Voldemort and his Death Eaters planned to use Wolvin’s haven as a base of operations. “Why in the world would you two want to come?” he asked.
“No special reason,” said Kate evasively. “We just thought it might be fun to go with you.”
“Don’t you have school work to do?” asked John.
Kate shrugged. “Not really,” she said looking sheepishly at Remus. “Exams aren’t for ages yet and it’s too cold for flying.” She looked over at Barnabus who’d been the one to suggest that they ask to go. He was looking at his shoes and said nothing. “We just thought it would be fun and Barnabus hasn’t seen the northern part of the county yet.”
Remus watched Barnabus. The boy looked down at the ground. Even in class he was silent and never looked him in the eye. When he did his spells and incantations he hardly ever faltered, though. He was a talented young wizard but there was something odd about him. It niggled, the odd sensation of awareness of threat whenever the boy was nearby.
“Would you really like to come with us, Barnabus?” he asked prodding the boy. “What could possibly be of interest?”
The boy looked up at Remus surprised to be called upon for an opinion. Remus smiled at the startled boy suddenly feeling guilty for his suspicions. He was only a youngster unsure of himself and terribly shy. Remus could certainly remember the angst of his own teenage years.
“I-I just thought that we could travel a little,” said Barnabus.
“It’s very isolated up there isn’t it, John?” said Remus. “Only a few families.”
“Only a few up there, that’s right. But you never know and I haven’t seen one of the families in more than a year. I think that we’ll be gone all day, Kate.” He laughed at his daughter’s pouting face. “You’re bound to get bored and I won’t take kindly to your whinging.”
“I promise that I won’t complain, father,” said Kate.
“All right then, we’ll leave in the morning,” said John. Kate hugged her father in thanks and both she and Barnabus left the room with her skipping and he plodding slowly behind.
“He’s a rather troubled young man, isn’t he?” said Remus after they’d gone.
“He’s had a hard life that boy, I think,” said John. “His father was killed by a muggle in a hunting accident and then his mother disappeared soon after from what I understand. He won’t talk about it. He just showed up one day and well, you know Agatha. She wasn’t about to turn the poor boy away. No werewolf should be without a pack.” He allowed a half smile thinking of his wife’s generosity.
Remus laughed. How he admired the Gray’s and their life together. “She has a munificent spirit,” he said.
John chuckled. “That and a liberal gift of the gab,” he said.
The next morning the four headed north in the car. Remus was again impressed by the mode of transportation. John could certainly apparate but as he explained to Remus, it was more personal by car and you could see more of the countryside. If there were any changes out there in Wolvin County then he’d better spot them while traveling by car. Remus had to admit that it made sense. He’d become more and more acclimated to the muggle ways that even the wizard’s had in Wolvin. They used muggle money, and even had radios and telephones.
By afternoon they’d visited five families and had found only the usual rumors of some who had seen the wizard Malfoy with the long white hair and the cane in town. No other stranger had been noticed and as far as they could find all was right in the northern part of the county. It looked as if Voldemort hadn’t come to Wolvin after all. Their last stop was a small enclave known as Hidden Fist. It was in the most northern corner and the most isolated.
“I don’t know how many people are still there,” said John sadly. “I haven’t seen the old man at a run in ages. He and his brother were the only werewolves. Both married outsiders and lived up here. They used to come down to town for the change so as their family would be safe but he hasn’t come for a long while. I think the children moved away. Agatha’s been on at me to check in on the family.”
The car trudged up a steep lane for a distance then leveled almost immediately onto a wide plain of frozen grass where small groupings of sheep picked at a few scattered mounds of feed grass. There was a large outcropping that rose from the plain that looked like a gnarled fist with two houses built into the rock. A large barn and a few smaller outbuildings completed the pretty picture of a hidden little community.
“It’s beautiful, dad,” exclaimed Kate from the back seat.
An old man, his hair gray and his back bending in a stoop came out to greet them. John stopped the car and got out to shake the man’s hand. “Glad to see you well, Hank,” he said smiling. “We haven’t seen you into town for quite the while.”
“Nah, it’d be too far for these old legs, friend,” said the man, his voice hoarse and gravely. “The family is all gone on to their ways and I’ve no reason no more to leave.”
The children and Remus gathered around them and John made the introductions. “So you’re up here alone then?” asked John concerned for the old man.
“Me daughter lives in the next county,” said Hank. “They come by to check on their old Dad on occasion. We’ve the phone up here, mind you, lad. We muggles have our ways.” He laughed at Remus’ shocked face. He’d never heard a muggle refer to himself as one. “I’m never far away.”
“Agatha will want to hear that you’ve family about you still.”
“Aye, tell her not to worry,” said the old man chuckling. “I know how it is with wives. You come into the house for tea, then.” He started to creak toward one of the houses. It was then that Remus realized that the other house was closed up tight and had been for a long while. All the shutters were closed and the once stately porch looked uneven, the paint pealed from the railing and the steps looked dangerous. In contrast the smaller house looked neat and well kept.
As they settled into the kitchen at the table and the man tottered around readying the tea, Remus was struck by the similarity to the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. It had the same sort of central table and the same corner fire. Remus was guilt stricken suddenly thinking that this ancient old man had the same lonely pallor as Sirius. His friend was a sad lonely old man before his time.
It was hard to shake the feeling of dread through the entire rest of the visit. Though the old man had been suitably warned about Voldemort and had not seen any outsiders come his way, Remus couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling of disaster that seemed to sit upon his heart. Something was very wrong with him. The melancholy was even noticed by Kate, who commented about his silence on the way home.
“Professor Lupin,” she said shyly. “You’re very quiet. Are you all right?”
The young girl had leaned forward in her seat and placed a hand on his shoulder. He smiled thinking that no student at Hogwarts would have dared touch a teacher in sympathy or concern. Wolvin was a much more familial place where caring between others was encouraged. He patted her hand. “No child,” he said smiling at her. “I’m just suddenly thinking of old friends, those that are also alone as the gentleman we’ve just visited.” He gently removed his shoulder from the girl’s hand. It was then that he noticed Barnabus glaring at him.
He tried not to chuckle at the boy’s obvious jealousy and was about to say something to make the boy feel better when John interrupted. “So you’ll be going back for a while, I imagine,” he said, his eyes still on the road ahead. “You’ll be going to your friend.”
Remus thought. He’d only been back for a short visit two weeks before. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t seen Sirius recently but he’d last visited for a meeting and there had been many people about. He hadn’t been alone to talk with him since Christmas and his letters had been more than a little gloomy the last few times. It was mid-February and though spring was just around the corner, it was still the cold and lonely winter with long nights where a man alone might dwell upon his lot in life.
“I think I might just leave for a few days,” said Remus finally. “We’ve found no sign of the Death Eaters and I’m concerned for my friends.” He smiled. “After all, as Kate pointed out earlier,” he looked over his shoulder at her, “we’ve ages until exam time.” Both he and John chuckled.
When Remus arrived in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place a few days later, he panicked at what he saw. Neither Molly nor any of the others had been about recently, it appeared as the kitchen table was littered with dirty plates and glasses. No fire burned in the hearth and it was cold and dark in the house. There was a musty smell mixed with the earthy odor of cigar. He stood in the center of the empty room dumbstruck by the squalor and loneliness and the difference from the warm and happy home that he’d just left.
A shadow moved and he was aware of being watched. Remus fingered his wand bringing out and ready. “Come out,” he said sternly.
Nothing happened. The shadow was still.
“Lumos!” shouted Remus and a bright light filled the dark kitchen.
Kreacher cowered in a corner, his skeletal elf body clothed in dark dirty rags.
Remus lowered his wand and the kitchen darkened again. “Where’s Sirius?”
“The thing asks us a question likes it deserves an answer,” mumbled the elf.
“I said, where is Sirius?”
The elf stepped from the shadows looking defiant.
A rage emerged in Remus that he rarely allowed. “Clean up this mess,” he bellowed. “You’re a useless excuse for a servant and you’ll see a curse on you from me if you don’t start taking care of your master.” He raised his wand and pointed it at the creature.
Kreacher threw himself prone on the floor shaking miserably. “It kills us! It kills us!”
A terrible guilt immediately consumed him and Remus lowered his wand. He’d lost his temper because of his own feelings of guilt and helplessness for his friend’s sake. He rushed from the room and hurdled up the stairs shouting for Sirius now afraid something horrible had happened to him.
“Padfoot! Padfoot!” he shouted.
Sirius wasn’t in his room. Remus bolted up to the attic shouting.
He slammed open the door into the attic room startling Buckbeak who hopped up and started squawking as if Remus were attacking it. Sirius, who’d been reading in a chair by the window jumped up to soothe the creature.
“What the hell?” growled Sirius at Remus. “What’re you shouting about?”
Remus hung his head instantly embarrassed. He’d panicked. In his imagination, he’d visualized Sirius half dead and alone with no one but the creature Kreacher to gloat over his wasting body. “I’m sorry, Padfoot,” he said sheepishly. “I thought something was wrong. Kreacher was downstairs and the place was a pit of a mess, mate. I thought …”
“You thought I was dying and you were coming to rescue me?” A thin ironic smile appeared on Sirius’ unshaven face. “I’ll admit that I’ve been better.” He walked over and threw the book that he still had in his hands onto a pile of volumes stacked next to the chair.
It was then that Remus noticed the glasses on his friend’s face. “Have you been reading?” he asked incredulously.
“Don’t you go looking so shocked,” said Sirius grimly. He threw himself into his chair. “Hermione left them for me at Christmas time. She thought that I should do a bit of reading to take my mind off things. I think she worries about my sanity.”
Remus ran a hand through his hair laughing with relief. He walked over and sat in the chair opposite Sirius. “I’d no idea that you read much. You’ve always taken the piss out of me when I did.”
Sirius smirked. “The glasses help,” he said. “And there’s only so much of Kreacher’s company that I can stomach.”
Remus laughed again. Sirius was not so bad off as he’d imagined. He was too thin still and a little grayer but he was a sight better than after he’d escaped from Azkaban. “So what are you being so studious about?” he asked.
“I’ve been reading muggle literature,” said Sirius casually. “I’d never bothered with the stuff before and I let’s face it, I don’t know much about muggles in general.” He looked at the large pile of books. “Hermione said that it would do me good to read about other people’s lives and well, it has helped the loneliness a bit.” He laughed. “I’ve been reading an American bloke’s book. It’s my kind of story, really. All about war and the like. Hemingway is his name. I like this stuff. We should have it in the wizarding world. I wonder why there isn’t much in the way of fiction.”
“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” said Remus in disbelief.
“Dunno,” answered Remus. “I just never thought that I’d see the day that you would read anything for pleasure.”
“There wasn’t much to read in Azkaban,” said Sirius frowning. “At least in this prison I can come up here to see the sun shine and escape into stories of someone else’s life.”
“I always said that Hermione was a very clever witch,” said Remus.
“The poetry’s rubbish, mind you, but the stories are damned good,” said Sirius cheerily. “Dumbledore’s even condescended to send me some of his books. It figures that he’d read the muggles.”
“You never cease to amaze, Padfoot,” said Remus.
“Hmmm…” said Sirius musing.
Remus watched his friend with a secret grin. “I’ve become pretty adept with the muggles these last few months myself, Padfoot. In Wolvin, most of the people aren’t wizards at all. I’m famished. Fancy a curry, do you?”
“There’s this food that every muggle Englishman eats. It’s called curry. It’s quite good.”
“Food in general sounds tasty. I can’t say that I’m much of a cook. Kreacher’s hopeless.”
“How about if we send a quick owl to Tonks and have us a makeshift party?” said Remus happily. “I haven’t seen her in ages.”
“She’s busy watching at the Malfoy’s,” said sourly. “There’s something going on there this weekend.”
“You don’t want to know.” His friend’s face closed up.
“What? Tell me.”
“Felicity’s there, at the Malfoys,” said Sirius grinding his teeth. “With Snape.”
“I don’t joke about Snivellus, mate,” said Sirius narrowing his eyes on his friend. “Felicity’s all right and all but this supposed friendship between she and Snape strikes me as odd.”
Remus grimaced. “Yes, it’s odd. That would be an understatement.” He vividly remembered Felicity’s opening up her soul to him. He knew what was in her heart. “I’d be more worried about why they were at the Malfoy’s at this particular time. Voldemort and his Death Eaters have been strangely quiet since their escape from Azkaban. They aren’t in Wolvin as we thought that they would be. It’s just odd that she’s not allowed to leave Hogwarts to even attend a secret meeting of the Order or to visit her father and yet she’s at the Malfoy’s this weekend. Why?”
“Interesting…perhaps the Death Eaters have finally gathered?”
“Where’s Tonks stationed?” Asked Remus concerned now.
“In the tree,” Sirius snickered, “she hates being stuck in that tree for hours on end.”
“It means that I can’t get close to her without being seen.” He smiled. “It’s times like these that I wish that I was an animagus.”
Sirius perked up. “I’d be happy to…”
“Don’t be daft, man. Malfoy’s the one that spotted you at the station. Everyone knows that you’re a black dog.” Remus thought hard. Maybe a simple levitation spell was all that was really needed. “Perhaps I’ll just go and hang about for a while just in case,” he said rising. “I won’t be long and I’ll bring you back a curry. You’ll like it.” He strode for the door worried about Felicity now that Sirius looked fine enough.
He turned at the door to see his friend’s face glaring at him. “Everyone’s always leaving me,” he said sullenly.
“Read your stories, Padfoot,” said Remus. “I’ll be back with food.” He closed the door behind him and raced back down the stairs.
Cheers, Pru Prior :----)
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