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It was easy to throw myself back into work and forget about what happened with Brandon at the wedding after returning to London. Muggle travel might be slow and irritating, but it does wonders for making one feel as if they really are going halfway across the world. What happened in Australia just felt like it was no longer relevant. However, I still felt awful about Dillan and wished we could make up and go back to the way things were. The feelings I'd felt after kissing Brendan hadn't gone away, despite the long journey to London.

As always, work was a welcomed distraction. I was delighted to find that Kaden Dursley hadn't destroyed my potion experiments and all were fine when I returned. Kaden seemed very relieved at my satisfaction and then asked if I'd start teaching him how to brew Wolfsbane potion on his own. I told him I would after the new year in order to give myself a few months dedicated to my new potion.

A week after I returned Liane began observing me. She spent two hours a day with me, every other day, in order to get a feel for every aspect of my job (or rather, two jobs). She was very quiet at first, hardly saying two words during the first week, only scribbling furiously on her clipboard. The second week she began to talk and asked me questions about brewing and patients. She was absolutely fascinated by my brewing room and the cauldrons of aconite with various additives.

My first set of cauldrons proved useless. None of the additives I'd used helped the aconite to remain in its useful state despite the spell I'd put on it. The spell I used simulated the chemical processes of the human body and the way a person's metabolism worked. I used the fastest metabolism speed possible on the spell, since werewolves with the new strain seemed to have particularly fast metabolisms. I suspected that was the reason why regular Wolfsbane did not work.

“So, you just keep trying new ingredients until one works?” Liane asked as she watched me.

“Pretty much,” I said as I poured aconite into each cauldron. “There's an infinite amount of possibilities since it might not be one ingredient that does the trick. It might be more than one or even as many as ten or twenty. I just have to hope that I hit on the right one sooner rather than later.”

“How do you pick the ingredients?”

“Each ingredient has different properties and is used for different things, so I've chosen ingredients that are used in other potions in order to keep the potion in a person's body for a longer period of time. I made a list of various possibilities and now I'm just going through them. Once I find one that seems to work, I'll add other inactive ingredients to turn it into a potion and then send it off for testing.”

“And then Matt will be able to try it?”

“If the testing goes well, yes,” I said.

“Can I help you brew?” Liane asked.

“Sorry,” I replied. “You're only allowed to observe at this point.”

Liane sighed. I could tell she was impatient, but that was a good sign. She was determined and that would only help her.

After I got the cauldrons set up I walked Liane back to the Floo and Apparition room and headed back to my study to change. I was due for dinner at Victoire's that night. Teddy was on a mission and she needed help with the twins. It was hard to believe they were already four months old. So much had happened since they were born that it felt like it'd been years and yet only days at the same time. It was the perfect night to spend with Victoire since I needed advice about Dillan.

I arrived at Victoire's an hour later, armed with a pizza, a jug of pumpkin juice, and a box of biscuits. That was how I did dinner. Victoire had cousins who cooked and they could provide her and her kids with homemade meals. Me, I was good for pizza and other takeaway.

Victoire answered the door with one twin in her arms and I heard the other one screaming somewhere in the house. I figured the one in her arms was Remus. He'd always been the quieter one.

“Amy, come in,” Victoire said.

I followed her inside and shut the door behind us. As soon as I set the food on the table she handed me Remus and hurried upstairs to get Henri. Sophie was on the floor coloring in a large outline of what I guessed was her. Except she'd colored her hair bright pink.

“Daddy's a metmorph,” Sophie said as she stood up. “I want to be one.”

I laughed. “A metamorphmagus?”

“Yeah, that. He can change his hair whenever he wants. So in this picture I'm one, too. Did you bring biscuits?”

“Yes. Chocolate chip.”

“Good!” Sophie grinned. “We ran out days ago and Mum won't go buy more. She says taking the twins to the store without Daddy would drive her to an early grave, whatever that means.”

I laughed again. “They're in the kitchen. If you go quick, you can sneak one before dinner, before your mum comes back downstairs with Henri.”

Sophie giggled and took off for the kitchen. I really was an awful influence on her. Victoire should've chosen one of her cousins to be her godmother.

Sophie returned a minute later with her mouth covered in chocolate. I grabbed a tissue and wiped it off just as Victoire came downstairs with Henri. She noticed the grin on Sophie's face and sighed. She figured it out. Nothing got past Victoire.

We settled down at the table and ate the pizza, which was now slightly cold. Victoire only had to get up twice to change diapers, which was probably some kind of record. After we finished she fed the twins while I read a few books to Sophie. We put her to bed around eight and a half hour later both twins were asleep, too.

“Merlin,” Victoire said as she collapsed on the couch. “It's actually quiet. Teddy will never believe me when I tell him later.”

“When is he due back?”

“In two days,” Victoire said. “Can't come soon enough.”

“I bet,” I replied.

“How was Kenzie's wedding?” she asked. “I've hardly seen you since.”

I groaned. “I've meant to talk to you about that.”

“What happened?” she asked anxiously. “Kenzie's okay, right?”

“Oh, it's not Kenzie. It's all me. The wedding was beautiful, Kenzie's very happy. I've had a few owls from her since. It's so convenient she married a wizard.”

“So crazy, though,” Victoire said. “Very weird coincidence.”

“Very,” I agreed.

“What happened with you, then?” she asked.

“Oh, it was bad,” I said, and then proceeded to tell her the entire Brandon story, from the beginning.

“And he expected you to spend the night with him?” Victoire asked incredulously. “What a pig!”

“That's what I thought!” I said. “But I feel awful about kissing him. I can blame it on the booze all I want but I didn't stop him at first and I definitely kissed back.”

“Amy,” Victoire said as she leaned in close and looked me in the eyes, “you and Dillan are broken up. You're allowed to kiss other blokes. You're allowed to have sex with them, if you want.”

“I don't want to kiss other blokes and I definitely don't want to have sex with them,” I said. My eyes were tearing up. “I want Dillan back.”

Victoire smirked. “I wondered how long you'd take to admit that.”

I groaned. “Is it really that obvious?”

“It's all over your face,” Victoire said with a smile. “I've never seen you happier as when you were with Dillan.”

“You know how you asked me if I'd marry him if he asked? And I said I think I would?”

Victoire nodded and shifted positions on the couch.

“I would marry him, no thinking involved. If he burst in your house right now and asked me, I'd marry him,” I confessed. “Is that bad?”

“Merlin, no. Why would that be bad?”

“Because of everything I've kept from him. He made it clear he doesn't want to be with me if I'm keeping secrets.”

“Then you're just going to have to tell him.”

“Not to mention the fact that I work too much for his liking,” I said. “And I can't tell him, not without Matt's permission, at least.”

“The working thing is just something you're going to have to work on,” Victoire said, and then giggled at her own choice of words. “As for Matt's lycanthropy, don't you think he'd want you to be happy?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said.

“And do you trust Dillan completely?”

“Of course,” I said. It wasn't until I said it out loud that I realized I did. I trusted Dillan completely and I knew he would keep Matt's secret. Nor would it bother him in the slightest. “Then why am I so worried?”

“Because you care about your brother,” Victoire said. “And because the only person you've ever told about it is me.”

That was true. I hadn't thought about it that way. “I suppose you're right.”

“Don't let him slip away, Amy,” Victoire said. “Dillan's one of the good guys.”

“But what about the fact that he gave me an ultimatum?” I asked.

“To be honest, I think his demanding to know what you've been keeping from him is just a mask for his insecurities about the fact that you work all the time. He wants to be important in your life. He probably feels like you put work above him.”

“I sort of do,” I said quietly. “But only because my work relates to Matt.”

“Then you need to explain that to him.”

“You think he'll understand?” I asked.

“There's only one way to find out.”

“So you don't think I should hold the ultimatum against him?”

“I wouldn't,” Victoire said. “He just wants to be a full part of your life. And I'd guess he feels pretty bad about your breakup, too.”

“I guess I need to talk to him,” I replied. “Thanks...for the advice.”

“No problem. Might as well put my experience of seven years of marriage to good use.”

I laughed and one of the babies started crying upstairs. Victoire groaned and got up.

“Sounds like Remus,” she said. “So, you're definitely going to talk to him?”

“Yeah, I'll talk to him,” I assured her.

Victoire grinned. “Good. I'll be right back.”

Dillan and I really did need to talk and we needed to talk soon. But first, I needed to talk to Matt because no matter how much I trusted Dillan, I could not tell him about Matt's lycanthropy without Matt's permission. I'd have to talk to him away from Mum and Dad because as much as the two of them liked Dillan, there was no way they'd approve of me telling him about Matt's lycanthropy.

***


A couple days later I paid a visit to Matt's flat in order to talk to him and opened the door to find him and Al cleaning. Not just picking up their dirty robes and throwing them into baskets like they do before their mothers visit, but actual, legitimate cleaning. Albus was even wielding a vacuum and was hoovering the floor. Matt was scrubbing the stove.

“What have I walked in on?” I shouted over the vacuum.

Al shut off the vacuum. “We're cleaning!” he exclaimed.

“I got that. But why? You two haven't cleaned this flat, well, ever.”

“Al's mum stopped by,” Matt said. “She said if we didn't clean this place up we weren't allowed to the Burrow for dinner anymore. You've tasted his Nana Molly's cooking. It's well worth a bit of tidying up.”

He definitely had a point there. “But you're using a vacuum and sponges. You'd make it a lot easier on yourselves if you used magic.”

“Er, we've discovered that neither of us are any good at cleaning spells,” Albus muttered. “So instead I transfigured a lamp into a vacuum and Matt went out and bought cleaning supplies. Care to help?”

“Absolutely not. This is your mess. Matt, could you take a break? I need to talk to you.”

“Sure,” he said as he set down the sponge and led me into his bedroom.

I shut the door behind us. Matt's bedroom had always been the cleanest part of the flat he shared with Albus Potter, but now it looked messy since the rest of the flat was getting cleaned. I shoved aside a pile of books on the bed and sat down.

“What's up?” Matt asked as he sat down next to me. “Finish that potion yet?”

I smirked. “I'm working on it. You'll be the first to know. I need to talk to you about Dillan.”

“Shouldn't you talk to Victoire? Or Rose?” Matt asked skeptically.

“No, it's not that sort of thing.” I took a deep breath. “I miss him. I want to get back together with him. But I need to be honest with him, about everything. About work and the reasons I work so much and do the work I do.”

Matt nodded. “You need to tell him I'm a werewolf.”

“Only if you're okay with it,” I said quickly.

Matt smiled. “Tell him. He makes you happy and I want you to be happy. And I trust him.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. I'd mostly known Matt wouldn't have a problem with me telling Dillan about his lycanthropy, but the bit of doubt had been there. “Are you sure?”

“Positive,” Matt said. “And it'll make my life a lot easier once the two of you are back together.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because my friends love his pub and I couldn't go back after he broke up with you. I'd be a terrible brother.”

“You could've gone back,” I told him. “And we're not back together yet.”

“You will be,” Matt said. “Soon.”

Why was it that everyone else seemed to understand mine and Dillan's relationship more than I did? It didn't make any sense.

I went back to my own flat immediately after Matt and I finished talking, not wanting to be roped into cleaning out the fridge or something. I made myself a cup of instant noodles and settled onto the couch and was ready to read the most recent issue of Potion Master's Monthly, when my fireplace lit up green and Kaden Dursley's head appeared amidst the flames.

“Amy, Amy!” he shouted. “You've got to get back to Mungo's!”

“Why, what's happened?” I asked, thinking the worst, such as some massive explosion that resulted in dozens of injuries.

“It's your cauldrons!” he said. “I was testing them like you'd asked me to and I looked at the results and compared them with the results from the past few days and the aconite, it's still there!”

I practically spilled my noodles all over myself and the couch. “Seriously? But today's the last day for results to be taken. Since the aconite's still there, that means....”

“That the active ingredients should work!” Kaden said.

I'd had Kaden do the necessary tests that night since I needed to talk to Matt about Dillan, but I never expected them to actually yield anything. If I had I would've stayed and done them myself. My heart began to pound. This could possibly be the answer....

“How many of the cauldrons?” I asked.

Kaden grinned. “Three.”

“Which ones?”

“Numbers two, three, and six,” Kaden said.

Those were the ones with anise and powdered root of asphodel, just powdered root of asphodel, and the one with snake fangs, witch hazel, and garlic. If it was just the first two I'd say it was the powdered root of asphodel that did the trick, but that third one was just weird.

“I'll be right there,” I said as I stood up.

I quickly changed out of my pajamas and into the robes I was wearing earlier. I Flooed to St. Mungo's and within five minutes I was back in my brewing room. Kaden was standing behind the cauldrons, grinning madly, as if he'd created the successful potion himself.

I checked and double checked Kaden's results before confirming that the three cauldrons were in fact still containing aconite. All three combinations of ingredients could be used to create new versions of the Wolfsbane potion.

“Let's get started,” I said to Kaden. “The full moon is tomorrow, so none will be ready for testing by then, but if we hurry we can possibly have one of these ready by the October moon.”

Kaden eagerly went to the storage closet and pulled out three cauldrons, knocking over the rest of the cauldrons in the process. He muttered apologies as I stifled my laughter and hurried over to help him clean them up. He was a bit overenthusiastic at times.

Two hours later we had the starts of three new versions of the Wolfsbane brewing and bubbling over strong heat. They would each take a week to brew completely, but with any luck they'd be back from testing shortly after that and we'd still have time to re-brew them before the October full moon.

“Think we've done it?” Kaden asked as we cleaned up the work area.

“I don't like to get my hopes up, but I've got a good feeling about it,” I told him.

“And if one of them works, what will happen?”

“If one of them works on the initial test group-”

“That's Matt, right?”

I nodded. “And a few other adult werewolves, willing to give very experimental potions a try. Anyway, if a potion works for them it will be sent out to a potions research lab for even more stringent testing. If it passes those tests, I'll have to come up with research project to test it on a greater number of werewolves. That study will probably be run numerous times with different variables. If it continues to prove successful, I'll be able to market it as an official potion recognized by the Board of Potion Brewers and all werewolves with the new strain of lycanthropy will be able to use it.”

“That sounds like it will take a while,” Kaden said as we began to put away the clean bowls and instruments we just washed.

“It will,” I said. “At least two years, if not more. But Matt will be able to use it even before it's officially recognized, since I can brew it for him as a family member rather than a Brewer. Benefits of having a sister who's a Brewer.”

Kaden seemed relieved. “Good. I really hope one of these works.”

“Me too, Kaden, me too,” I said. “You've no idea how long I've waited for this.”

Kaden nodded. “Do you think that when you're ready to do the official study I can help you with it?”

“Of course,” I said. “You've already helped with this stage, so you're already involved. There's no turning back now.”

Kaden grinned. “I hadn't thought of that. I haven't even brewed regular Wolfsbane and I'm already helping with the new one.”

“I promise I'll start teaching you in January,” I said. “Merlin knows we need another Brewer who can brew that, especially if one of these new ones work. I can't be brewing multiple types every single month. I'd never have time to do anything else.”

“I'll be able to do it,” Kaden said adamantly. “I know it.”

“I've no doubt,” I said. “I can usually tell who's going to be able to brew it and who won't. It's a weird type of sixth sense.”

“If you didn't think I could do it, would you tell me?”

“Yes,” I said. “I've told two other Junior Brewers before. One of them proved me wrong but the other pretty much just brews pain potion and Pepper-Up potion. Wolfsbane isn't a forgiving potion. If you screw it up even a little bit it won't work and then many people suffer.”

Kaden nodded. “That's what I like about brewing. Sure it's fun, but what I really like is how it helps people. Even just the simple ones like pain potion and Pepper-Up potion.”

“Me too,” I said. “It's why I got into the field in the first place.”

Kaden nodded again and we both lapsed into silence, just watching the delicate steam wafting above the three cauldrons that possibly held the solution that I'd been looking for my whole career.


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