Title: Transformation
Author: Arsenic
Rating: PG-13
Fandom/Pairing: HP RL/KS (plus several side pairings)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by JK Rowling, Bloomsbury, Scholastic and Warner Brothers, I am merely infringing on their property rights in order to have a little fun.
Summary: Remus is still in a cycle of starting over. Kingsley's been pining for quite some time.

AN: First off, this story was something I wrote to try and work through my issues with Remus. Hopefully it will have worked. As such, there's not really much of a plot, sorry. Secondly, I know very little about the British monetary system, nor have I ever been in a McDonalds overseas (the last one I was in stateside was something like ten years ago). If any of that stuff rings completely untrue, I apologize. Recently the lovely Hetre made me aware that in fact, Swahili does not have a clicking sound to it, that is the Bantu family of languages. Thanks to her for this info and sorry for the mistake.

Thanks to nine_dragonned for sponsoring this story by donating to the John Kerry campaign. This story was already being written at the time he promised to put in for it and I deeply appreciate his support, both of me and the campaign.

*

There were two sides to everything, Remus knew; the good and the bad. It wasn't unusual for one to heavily outweigh the other, but both sides were always present.

He liked to think of having been given an Order of Merlin First Class as a good thing. He had survived the death of James, the faux betrayal of Sirius, the death of a regained Sirius, and his own revenge on Peter to acquire it. It had in fact been awarded to him for Meritorious Service to the Order, aka, the bringing down of several of Voldemort's front-liners, most notably Peter. If he was going to experience the gut-wrenching pain of killing a one time friend, regardless of circumstance, Remus thought it was only appropriate that he be allowed to think of his reward for doing so as a good thing.

The unfortunate downside to being given a medal was that unlike most people who were, Remus's fame was bundled with notoriety. Remus was The Werewolf Who Had Been Awarded An Order of Merlin. As werewolf rights had been a conveniently ignored topic in the aftermath of the war, when large chunks of the Ministry was dead or ready to go into retirement and the entire structure was undergoing an overhaul, Remus had the scant comfort that now when he was turned away from jobs, the refusal was polite. It was a step above where he'd been before.

Remus had been released into his own care from St. Mungo's nearly a month after the official end of fighting. In the last hours of battle, he'd killed Nott, but not before the man had managed a high-impact curse, shattering part of Remus's pelvis and the upper bone in his right leg. Even with expert care from Mungo's, he was left with a limp and faint twinges of pain whenever he exerted himself too much or his body began to tire. Transformations were excruciating.

For the first few months Remus had used the money from the Merlin to keep himself in inns, as most flats wouldn't rent to him. During the full he would stay out in the any of the several Forests that Britain hosted, depending on where he was at the time. Even when he could get in touch with Hermione, Severus's successor for making the wolfsbane, the number of people willing to let a werewolf stay under their roof were few and far between and Remus had yet to find any.

The money had long since run out, though, and jobs were not just hard to find, they were non-existent.

Which was why, when he came across Kingsley in the street and Kingsley offered, "Take tea with me?" Remus politely declined.

"I'd love to, honestly, but I've, um, got to be going. Some other time?" Remus meant it, it would just have to be much later, when he'd figured out his finances.

Kingsley's smile twisted in a way that Remus knew. Determination had kicked in. "Where are you off to? We haven't seen each other in months. Since the ceremony, I'd say."

Remus struggled with the inclination to throw a Confundus and hobble off. "Errands. I've put them off till the last second again. Irresponsible of me."

"Then allow me to come along. It would hardly hurt for me to skip tea." The comment wasn't said in the way a woman would say it, with a denigrating look at his body, which in no way deserved denigration. Instead it was just a statement of fact. "I'm free for the hour."

Remus was hardly a stranger to lying, having practiced it as an art for most of his life. His hatred for the practice grew with every untrue word to leave his mouth. The work involved was overwhelming. "It's werewolf stuff, I can hardly expect that you would-"

"What, exactly, does a werewolf do, that the rest of us don't?" Kingsley raised an eyebrow, sharp and observant.

Remus thought that perhaps it was his curse to know people who would actually question that, rather than just running off scared. He then berated himself for inverting things that way. "Look, honestly, it's not that I wouldn't like to have tea with you, it's just that now isn't a good time for me."

Kingsley kept eye-contact. "Nor, would I guess, have the last couple of months or so been."

"Money's a bit tight," Remus said. "Everyone knowing, and such."

"I could-"

"I would prefer you didn't." Sirius had once yelled at Remus about his pride, but there were very few things Remus wasn't and had never been willing to give up, even for the people he loved. That was one of them. "I've been thinking of a solution. I'll owl you and you'll get your tea."

"What is this solution of yours?"

"I've been thinking it might be time to explore my Muggle heritage."

Kingsley tilted his head. "I was lead to believe your parents raised you in the wizarding world, despite your mum being Muggle."

"They did but I'm a fairly competent human being, I'd like to think I can figure things out on my own. It's in my blood. Harry did just fine coming to us despite his adverse upbringing."

"Harry was eleven," Kingsley said, not unkindly.

Remus allowed a brief flash of the terror this choice inspired in him to show before regaining his composure. "Reassure me, my friend."

"Take tea with me, and I surely will."

Remus quickly juggled what he needed more, his pride or a few of someone besides his own platitudes. He came to a decision. "Had somewhere in mind, did you?"

*

"Will you stay in London?" Kingsley asked, offering the sugar.

Remus took a cube. "I haven't decided. It's a bit overwhelming."

"But closer to Harry and Hermione and the rest of us." Kingsley squeezed a slice of lemon into his cup and stirred counter-clockwise.

"I was going to do a list of pros and cons."

Kingsley took a sip. "What does one do in the Muggle world? I'm quite sure they told us in Muggle Studies, but that feels like millennium ago and the more I learn about Muggles the more I realize that everything I was taught was complete shite."

Remus smiled into his tea. "Mum always had a good laugh at some of the things dad thought about Muggles. I suppose he took the same class."

"What did your mum do?"

"She was an architect. Met my dad at a Muggle museum exhibit on castles. They both loved castles. Dad worked for the Ministry creating the spells used to hide large wizarding structures and gatherings. The two of them were something whenever the topic of buildings came up."

"Muggles have architects, then." Kingsley looked as though this fact were going to take a bit of processing.

"Muggles, in large part, have most of the things we have, just in a different way. They have Healers that they call doctors who heal by way of science, which is the Muggle word for trying to figure out how things work the way they do. They have shops with shopkeepers and bars with bartenders and teachers and government officials. They just go about their jobs in different ways than most wizards do."

"So you could teach?"

Remus pursed his lips. "I don't think I know anything that Muggles prefer taught in their schools."

"Then what?"

"I haven't figured it all out yet," Remus said. "It has to be something that doesn't require much Muggle education, as by their standards I've only finished up through grade school. Also something that requires little experience, since I'm sorely lacking in that from their eyes as well. I'm sure I can make up my resume so as to not seem like I was twiddling my thumbs all these years, but whether they'll actually buy it enough to hire me, that's something completely else."

Kingsley leaned back in his seat. "I admire you. I'm not entirely sure I could do the same given a similar set of circumstances."

James had once told him much the same thing in the words of a child. Remus's response had not much changed. "You'd be surprised." His lips quirked upward in a teasing smile. "Is that pureblood arrogance I detect?"

Something passed over Kingsley's face, a joke to which Remus was not privy. Curious, he asked, "What?"

"Just odd to hear myself referred to as pureblood."

"Have a crazy Muggle aunt that nobody talks about but everyone except me knows about?"

"My great-grandfather on my mother's side was Muggle-born."

Remus shook his head. Muggles died too young for Kingsley to have even known these great-grandparents but the "stain" to his wizarding line would probably last several millennia.

"Besides," Kingsley said, "most of my family descends from the Caribbean."

Which shouldn't have meant anything in a conversation about wizarding and non-wizarding blood, but Remus well knew that wizarding pedigree had more to it than merely how long one's ancestors had held a wand. There was class and nationality and prestige to consider as well. "You're a shame to the wizarding community is what you are."

Kingsley leaned up again, pouring himself some more tea. "I suppose there's nothing to be done but live with it."

Remus held out his own cup in a silent supplication for more. "No, there really isn't."

*

Kingsley found him nearly a month after their unexpected rendezvous, which impressed Remus to no end as he wasn't entirely sure he could have found himself. Renting the small flat he had taken in Glasgow had been one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of his life. He still hadn't entirely gotten the knack of the telephone or the bus lines or the entire Muggle monetary system.

For the moment he was working at a fast food place, since it seemed that they allowed anyone to do that. They wouldn't let him near a cash register, a point of great relief to Remus, and obviously thought him a complete mental incompetent, but it would do until he could get his Muggle feet firmly beneath him.

Kingsley showed up at Remus's workplace, staring up at the menu boards with a faintly perplexed look. Remus asked for a smoke break, which made his boss -- Nathalie, a girl fifteen years his junior who was bitter and surprisingly good-hearted all at once -- say, "You don't smoke."

Well, no, but Remus had thought it was slang for wanting fifteen minutes off. "A friend of mine's on the floor. I wanted to say hi."

Nathalie's eyebrows shot up. "Uh, okay."

It was only then that Remus realized he had never once mentioned having either friends or family. "Fifteen minutes?"

"Ten, it's kinda busy." She looked apologetic, but Remus also knew she wouldn't budge.

"Good enough." He exited out the employee's only door and pulled Kingsley out of line. Kingsley didn't argue, just followed Remus out the side door.

Kingsley seemed at a loss to say anything for a second before he burst out with, "What's a hamburger?" and then Remus knew he'd just had too many things to say, or rather, ask.

"Meat patty, an American Muggle thing. Not the best quality here, I'd go for the chicken if you're actually going to eat."

"Should I?"

"Absolutely not."

Answering the unasked question, Kingsley said, "Hermione's quite the thing at finding her way around the Muggle world."

"Not surprising." Remus tried to decide whether it bothered him that he'd been found.

"She'll be out in a week to give you the wolfsbane."

Remus frowned. "I haven't paid her for the last four batches. Severus was at least getting his salary augmented, last I heard she was barely eeking out enough to eat."

"Harry nudged the university into upping her stipend, so she's a bit better off, and she doesn't do it for the money."

"Sometimes when you talk about Harry like that, as in Harry Potter, Founder and Head of the Department for Wizarding Tolerance and member of the Wizengamot, I can't even remember that I know him."

"You should owl him, he talks about you all the time."

"Maybe when I'm a little more settled." Remus looked at his watch. "I have to be back in there soon."

Kingsley didn't waste any time. "I'd like to see your place."

Remus shook his head. "No you wouldn't."

"Well then I'd like you to see mine. Dinner on Friday?"

"I work."

"Saturday?"

Remus looked away.

"When do you not work?"

"I should be free Monday evening. Unless they offer overtime." Remus fidgeted. "The pay isn't great."

Kingsley's expression made it clear that there were about a million things he could say to that. Kindly, he kept silent. "Monday then. Seven at my place. I trust you know where it is?"

"Unless you've moved since the end of the war."

"I enjoy a bit of stability now and then."

Remus thought it must be nice to know how stability felt well enough to enjoy it. He nodded. "Monday then." He slipped back inside the door, hoping to make it back in nine minutes. He really didn't need Nathalie peeved with him.

*

Hermione's owl, Casseopeia, was a gargantuan thing. Nobody knew where Cass came from, she had fluttered weakly into Hogwart's owlery one day, bleeding and hungry in the midst of a war wherein bleeding and hungry wasn't an unusual state of being for anyone or anything. Hermione had been the one to take the time to care for her, and Cass hadn't dreamed of being anyone else's owl since.

Cass began bringing Remus the wolfsbane, twice a day every day. At the same time that Remus loved the visits, getting to run his hands over the surprisingly soft feathers Cass supported, responding to her imploring pecks for treats, feeling like he was still connected with the only world he really knew, Remus spent a lot of time hoping that his neighbors didn't start getting curious about Cass. A monstrous owl flying about in the daytime wasn't something Muggles were used to seeing.

The full moon was in a week and every muscle in Remus's body was reminding him of this fact. Which in turn forced Remus to think about the fact that he had not yet accumulated even one day's worth of sick time. He could use the flu excuse this month, taking unpaid leave, then see if he could get his two days a week off in a row with one day of sick time for the following months. There would be a pattern to his sick leave, something the company manual recommended against, but it was his best bet so far as Remus was concerned.

Trying to put all of this out of his mind, Remus managed to down the still foul-tasting dose of wolfsbane and follow it up with four of the painkillers he'd bought at a local pharmacy. The recommended dosage was two, but the pain in his injury, exacerbated by standing on his feet all day, every day, didnít respond to such a paltry amount. A magical topical rub or internal analgesic would have been better, but it also would have been more expensive, and Remus was only keeping himself housed and fed by eating the discounted food at his workplace for both of his meals each day and putting his salary toward rent.

Remus hopped in the shower, having to stop himself from rubbing his skin right off in an effort to get rid of the grease and processed meat scent that he could smell on himself all the time now, regardless of how clean he was. He had to remind himself that Kingsley wouldn't be able to smell it, no matter how overwhelming it seemed in his heightened senses.

Remus picked out his nicest robe. He only had two, so really, it was the one he hadn't worn every day for nearly six months, as opposed to the one he had. The feeling of sinking into it was sheer heaven. His uniform was supposed to be starched and Remus missed the sensation of being able to glide about inside his clothes. Also, it was much easier to hide a wand with extra inches of cloth everywhere than it was in all the clothing of which Muggles seemed so fond. Remus tucked his wand into a sleeve pocket. He Apparated quickly before he let go, dropping his hand from the wand when he reappeared in the spot for which he'd been aiming.

Kingsley's house was precisely as Remus remembered it. Although Kingsley worked in London proper, he lived in a wizarding suburb outside of it. His house was what Remus's mum had once called a "Victorian one-story" and his dad had laughed, correcting her, "Those are teacup houses," so named for their somewhat fragile appearance and tiny size.

Inside the teacup was a kitchen, an entertaining room, a dining room, a master bedroom and bath, and a guest room that had been converted into a library. Each room was filled with pictures of coworkers, family (of which Kingsley seemed to have a regular squadron's worth) and friends. Along with the pictures were countless knickknacks and artifacts. The first time Remus had ever come over, sent there on business for the Order, he had stared rather impolitely at several of the objects until Kingsley had explained that they were memorabilia from his "misspent youth," the years after Hogwarts when he hadn't been sure of what to do with himself and had traveled from continent to continent taking odd jobs and trying to figure things out.

Despite all the stuff that Kingsley had accumulated in his small living space, he was well organized. Remus hadn't been over that often, but he had never once walked in to find a mess, and most of his Order visits had been completely unannounced.

Remus called, "Kingsley?"

Kingsley shouted, "In the kitchen."

Remus followed his nose. At the doorway to the kitchen he said, "Smells fantastic."

Kingsley took the compliment with a wry smile but said, "I think your sense of smell may need to be recalibrated."

While this was certainly a possibility after several long weeks working in an institution that fed people more grease than meal, Remus was pretty confident in what he was sniffing at the moment. "What's for dinner?"

"Broiled chicken, steamed spinach and sweet potato casserole." Kingsley glanced up at Remus.

Remus gave his nod of approval. In truth there wasn't really anything that Kingsley could have said that Remus could imagine turning down. "Close to done?"

Kingsley looked at the clock on the wall. "Ten more minutes, maybe. Something to drink while you wait?"

"Pumpkin juice?" Remus asked, without much hope. Most wizards grew out of their taste for the drink and only kept it around if there were kids in the house. It was one of the things Remus missed most about the wizarding world. Pumpkin juice just wasn't regularly available in Muggle grocery marts.

Kingsley opened a Cooled Cabinet and dragged out a pints worth of the requested beverage. He rummaged up two glasses and poured some for each of them. Remus took his, about to take a sip when he noticed Kingsley holding his out, ready for a toast.

Remus held his up. Kingsley said, "To things in common."

Remus tipped his glass against Kingsley's and did everything he could not to chug down his juice.

*

"What was your favorite?" Remus had never left the British Isles. Listening to Kinsgley's stories was like enjoying fairy tales about another world.

Kingsley's brow furrowed. "I donít know that I have one. My grandmother's village had the friendliest people, and Zaire held the most adventure and the rain forests of South America were the most gorgeous. But other places provided different kinds of bests and mosts and I would probably return to any of them given a chance. Well, maybe not Moscow. Me and my lover of the time got stuck there for a month in the dead of winter and as fascinating as the place is, that's not a memory I care to relive." Kingsley shuddered. "What about you? You have a favorite place?"

Remus cut into his chicken with renewed interest and precision. "I haven't really been much of anywhere."

"That wasn't really a prerequisite for answering the question. There are plenty of places here that you have been."

Remus thought about it. "Mum used to take me to her home every summer for a week. Her family was from Llanelli. All year long my family lived right outside of London so that Dad could get to work easily and the break was really nice. Llanelli's more countryside than anything and the people have accents so thick it was hard to understand them half the time, but I always had a good time. We stopped going when my gran died."

"I've never been to Wales."

Remus laughed. "Of course not. Around the world three times over but not next door."

Kingsley smiled in acknowledgment. "How long's it been since you've gone back?"

Remus tried to count, then gave up. "At least thirty years. It's probably not even all I remember it being."

"Childhood does have a way of mutating memories. I've seen pictures of Wales though, it's quite something. There's probably a good ounce of truth at least to what you remember."

Remus hoped so; he prized his good memories as most people prized their houses or children. He chewed on some of the sweet potato casserole, luxuriating in the cinnamon and nutmeg that Kingsley had added. "Dinner is excellent."

"Then you'll come back for more?"

Remus sighed inwardly. This part of the conversation had been inevitable but he had still been hoping to avoid it. "Understand, I find your hospitality-"

"Charming? Comforting? Lovely?"

"Overwhelming."

Kingsley sighed. "Do you remember when I came to Hogwarts?"

Remus thought for a moment until a picture of a tall twelve year old with ears too big for his head and sharp eyes came to mind. "You were three years behind me. Ravenclaw, right?"

"As Ravenclaw as they came. I'm not sure I knew anything but books existed until my fourth year."

Although he dreaded the answer, Remus was compelled to ask, "What happened your fourth year?"

"I was being picked on by some Slytherins. Younger Slytherins to boot, and a Prefect came around the corner and put an end to it right quick."

Hopelessly, Remus asked, "A Ravenclaw Prefect?"

"Remus."

Ashamed, Remus admitted, "I donít even remember."

"It was probably something you did all the time. But I wasn't used to getting rescued, and I fell completely head over heels for the cute seventh-year Gryffindor Prefect with gold-brown eyes and floppy hair and his nose always in a book."

"I've changed a lot-"

"Not in the ways that matter. Have dinner with me again. Give me a chance."

Kingsley was so imploring it occurred to Remus that for once, it was somebody else who was the charity case, even if that somebody was the one doing all the paying. "We're already way past chance, here."

Kingsley smiled slowly and uncertainly at that. "Then give me a try?"

Remus relented. "I'll be back for another dinner, in any case."

Kingsley nodded, turning his head slightly so that Remus couldn't see his expression. "Now, you up for dessert?"

*

Remus loved being in his right mind as a wolf for a million reasons, not the least of which was his ability to control the urge to eat any human in sniffing distance. Most of all was the fact that he had the sense to do things like move himself to the loo before transforming back, knowing that his human form was not as good at accepting the pain as his wolf form and would most likely spend the first twenty minutes or so vomiting in reaction to the agony. What had been bad as a child had only gotten worse as his body aged. Add the faded curse in, and the result was unadulterated hell.

Remus had taken the risk of Silencing his apartment, even though Charming Muggle spaces was technically illegal. If the Ministry caught him at it there'd be hell to pay, but luckily with the amount of friends he had in high places and the lingering sense of "well, he does have an Order of Merlin," most of the time they turned a blind eye to Remus's offenses. Additionally, he thought it might be better to have the Ministry dogging him than have Muggles showing up at his doorstep to ask about the thrice-damned yelling three evenings and three mornings a month.

When he was finished voiding, Remus hung over the porcelain rim of the toilet until he felt sturdy enough to drag himself (literally, there was no walking on his leg at this point, even had he summoned the strength to stand) to bed. Next to his bed, he found the phone with one hand. He brought it up in front of him and dialed the numbers the way he'd learned from watching one of his coworkers. The ringing was loud in his ear, too loud, and a voice answered, "McDonald's, this is Lio, how can I help you?"

Lio was the nineteen year old son of a girl who had decided to be something called a hippie about a decade too late, from what he had told Remus. This evidently meant that she needed taking care of, so Lio staffed the window and anything else that needed staffing forty hours a week and spent the rest of his time putting himself through night school in politics at the local Uni. He had only admitted to this major after Remus had spent some time cajoling him, mumbling something about, "Mum rubbed off a little too much, I guess." For all that, Remus had been able to divine that he adored his mum and hadn't moved out from her place less due to financial reasoning and more due to the fact that he couldn't bear to leave her to her own devices.

"Lio?" Remus asked, a bit redundantly, but he wasn't feeling at his best.

"Shit, Remus, that you? You sound like wrathful hell cooled over."

"Understatement."

"Stay where you are, I'll tell'em you can't make it."

"Sorry."

"Not at all, rest up."

Remus hung the phone up carefully, not wanting to be subjected to the sound he had once found out it makes when left off the hook for too long. He moved just enough for his entire body to be on the bed and then stopped.

The smart thing to do at this point would be to get some water, take a few painkillers, just to soften the edges of the pain, and make himself eat so that he didn't wake up nauseated on top of everything else.

As it was with every month, Remus thought all of this through in about a second. The next second he fell asleep, so tired that his eyes were still closing even as his subconscious took over.

*

Remus awoke to the awareness that someone was in his apartment. This was partly due to the fact that he could smell and hear her, despite her attempts to be quiet, and partly due to the chiming of the Protection Charm he had put on the place, figuring that so long as he was breaking the rules he might as well break quite a few and make it worth his while.

Hermione reached out and Spelled the Charm silent. He asked, "How'd you get in?" already knowing the answer.

She sat gingerly on the edge of the bed. "Not your best work, professor."

He wrinkled his nose at her, or at least tried. His face wasn't responding to commands anymore than the rest of his body. "Remus, or Lupin at the very least. They're mostly to keep Muggles out."

"Mostly," Hermione said. "You look awful."

Remus wanted to reply in kind, but grad school agreed with Hermione. "What are you doing here?"

"Lost track of the days. Meant to be here yesterday evening and this morning to help you out. I'll be more on top of things next month."

"Hermione-"

Hermione ran over his objections like the Hogwarts Express encountering a bunny. "Harry's gonna try and show either tomorrow or next month, he takes on too much, which I consequently yell at him for and he routinely ignores me about. Still, he's going to try. Kingsley will definitely be by this evening. He wanted to come last night, but then got an emergency call on some activity up north that needed checking. False alarm, so he was back this morning, filling out mounds of paperwork. Ginny, Neville, the twins, Ron and Tonks have all owled about being let in on the Remus-is-our-friend schedule, so by next month we should have something worked out for the whole year, with contingencies in case things go wrong."

Remus blinked, closing his eyes for rather longer than an average blink.

Hermione asked, "Glass of water?"

At a loss to do anything else, Remus said, "Please."

Hermione left and returned with the requested glass. She propped him up gently and held the glass until it was evident that he could handle it. He drank cautiously. She waited until he had swallowed. "Eggs and toast, maybe? I donít know what you can handle."

"You can cook, right?"

"Of the grad school assortment. Donít worry, eggs and toast are right up my alley."

"No salt added."

Hermione nodded and left him to his own devices for a bit while she mucked about in the kitchen, attempting to find all the cookware. Remus managed a trip to the bathroom so slowly that by the time he returned, she was waiting for him. Kindly, she didn't say a word, just, "I couldn't find any sort of table thingie."

Remus said, "My lap'll work just fine."

She caught him up on her life, her voice low and even the way she had kept it throughout the entire morning -- afternoon? Remus snuck a peak at the clock, afternoon -- and politely didn't ask questions about his own.

Remus dutifully cleaned his plate. "How's Cass?"

"Sulky I wouldn't bring her along. But Muggle area and all that, I didn't think it was wise."

Hermione gathered up the plate and the empty glass on the side table. "More?"

Remus shook his head. "Another bout of sleep, I think. Host of the year, I am."

"Didn't come to be entertained, git. Mind if I borrow your sofa?"

"It's lumpy."

"Excellent, it'll feel just like home."

Despite how he felt, Remus knew he was smiling when he fell back asleep.

*

Remus made his way into the kitchen when he woke up, intent on making himself at least drink something else before transforming again. Also, the note Hermione had left indicated that the Wolfsbane was waiting there for him.

Wolfsbane wasn't the only thing waiting. No sooner had Remus passed the threshold into his kitchen than Kingsley turned from the stove, "She said you should eat again. Threatened to experiment on my freshly removed entrails if I didn't stand my ground."

Remus didn't really want to be the cause of Kingsley having his insides rearranged after an intense prodding. "What are you making? Nothing solid, I hope."

"She mentioned that might be a mistake. Pumpkin soup with some saffron. Picked up the recipeÖum, somewhere that I'm not remembering right just now. You like pumpkin juice, though, so I thought-"

"Sounds really good." Which surprised Remus, because food didn't generally sound good right before a transformation, it sounded necessary.

Kingsley spooned some into two bowls and set them both on the table. "She said you should probably take the bane after, despite it probably being more pleasant to take first and then get rid of the taste."

"I know, Severus was endlessly warning me about the dangers of chasing it with anything."

"Well, knowing Severus, he was probably being a bit dire." Kingsley sat down.

Remus dropped into the chair nearest the second bowl. "Particularly given his personal opinion of me."

Kingsley shrugged. "Severus had more bark than any person I've ever met and an abundance of ineffectual bite. It annoyed him more that you were never swayed by either of these things than anything else."

"I almost killed him once," Remus said. "Stupid joke Sirius played."

Kingsley was unimpressed. "I know. He used to have nightmares about it every once in awhile and he was a fucking mess after nightmares, so he'd tell a person anything-" Kingsley looked up at a completely flabbergasted Remus. "You didn't know?"

"That you were lovers? No, I must have been out of the loop at that time."

"Not lovers. Bed partners, I suppose. Carnally compatible. Friends. I miss him."

Remus nodded. "I'm sorry."

"I like to think he's more content now. Just, it's a nice thing to believe. He was never veryÖhappy."

"No." Remus returned to eating his soup, slowly. "This is quite good."

Kingsley made a small sound of appreciation. "I'm staying here tonight."

It took Remus a second. "Like hell you are."

"I trust Hermione's potion-brewing abilities. Perhaps even more than I trusted Severus', and that's saying quite a bit."

"You're not staying." Remus didn't think this was really about Hermione.

"It's something you need."

"What would you know about it?"

"That it's something I need."

Remus cursed the fact that he'd never been very good at denying anyone much of anything, much less the things they considered essential. "If I eat you, there shall be no remorse, none whatsoever. And no shagging when they put me down and I join you in the afterlife."

Kingsley took another bite. "We'll renegotiate on the last at a later point in time."

Remus sighed and bent his head over his soup bowl in a stance of determination.

*

He didn't eat Kingsley, which turned out to be more convenient for both of them. Kingsley rubbed Remus's back while he voided, cleaned him up with freshly dampened warm flannels, moved him to the bed, watched with ill-disguised interest as Remus did his morning telephone call, and stayed until Remus was asleep.

Remus awoke to another body in his bed.

Harry jerked awake at the slight waking motion of Remus, then smiled sheepishly. "War reflexes."

Remus said, "Hullo."

"Donít tell anyone I'm here, yeah? I'm supposed to be reading up on a dispute between two of my sub-departments, but I've already figured out my strategy for dealing with it, which mostly involves letting them all kill each other and then putting my friends in the newly available jobs. Instead I thought I'd nip out and come check up on you. It's been forever since you've come to see me and you know it's hell for me to get out here, so I'm convinced you're avoiding me. I was well into creating a whole new pool of psychoses around the idea that my family figures always leave me, but Luna suggested that perhaps it was best if I go and see you before doing that and Hermione told me I was a moron, so here I am."

Remus blinked. "I've been avoiding everyone."

The enormous amount of relief in Harry's, "Oh," was at once comical and a foundation upon which Remus was sure he would later be building monuments of guilt.

"Things have been a bitÖ I haven't been at a place where I've been feeling very social."

"Want me to leave?"

Even if Harry hadn't looked like making the suggestion was the hardest thing he'd ever done up to and involving killing Voldemort, Remus's answer would still have been, "No. Tell me what's going on with you."

When put up to it, Harry could talk. Remus suspected it came from years of having nobody who would listen and then more years of having secrets that couldn't be shared. Harry prattled on about the headache that was World Cup Organization this year, with every Department at every other Department's throat; the fact that there seemed to be some kind of viral outbreak in one of the magical communities in rural Ireland that had Harry worried; the fact that Hermione was a bloody stubborn wench about taking money from him and he was going to have to find her a part-time job that would overpay her because her stipend only stretched so far; the breed of flowers that Neville was creating for Ginny; the latest Wizard's Chess Tournament wherein Ron had thoroughly trounced everyone, and of course, "I'm thinking about proposing. To Luna, y'know."

Remus fought the urge to say, "No, not Minerva?" choosing to go with the high road of, "Have a ring?"

"Not yet, the thought is sort of in its infant stages. I'm not even sure she'd say yes. She can be very independent."

More independent than anyone Remus had ever met, Kingsley and all. "Your mother was too. She would've liked Luna."

Harry smiled at that. "I have to get back soon. Can I come back and talk about this some more?"

Remus wished James were here to do this. He wasn't though, so Remus squeezed Harry's shoulder as tightly as his hand would allow, and said, "Any time I'm here."

*

Remus was in the kitchen hydrating and talking himself into taking the last batch of Wolfsbane when Kingsley hurried into the apartment. He set a take-away bag on the table and said, "Sorry I'm late. Work stuff."

Remus was still puzzling over how he'd manage to break the wards that quickly. They weren't terribly strong, but strong enough. "Did I give you a key?"

Kingsley began unloading the bag. "Hermione made a copy then did some detective work and wove the Spell you were using into it. It's for use among what she has dubbed the Full Moon Team or FMT, either way."

Remus thought it was high time he started picking less intelligent friends. At the moment though, he had other worries. "What'd you bring?"

"Egg drop soup for you. Eat up."

Remus did as instructed, mostly to avoid the hassle of arguing about it. "Oh, hey, this is good, where'd you find this?"

"My corner of the world. Muggle place out by the Ministry. I'll show you sometime."

Remus hadn't had the money or time to search out good restaurants in years. It was mostly wishful thinking that he would sometime in the near future, but Remus liked the feeling of optimism every once in a while. "Mm, thanks for dinner."

"I'm staying again tonight."

As Kingsley had emerged unscathed from the first experiment, Remus had rather expected that to follow. "I know."

"You're quite large as a wolf. For being so small as a human, that is."

Remus frowned. "I'm not that small, I've just had the bad luck to be friends with abnormally large people."

Kingsley looked doubtful, but merely went back to work on his lo mein, acting as though he had suddenly forgotten how to use his chop sticks and needed all his concentration merely to move the food into his mouth. Remus said, "Maybe I'm kinda small. But you try going through painful transformations every month as a kid and starving for large periods of your adult life and see how big you turn out. You're probably the favorite of every mother figure in your family and they feed you every time you show up within twelve kilometers of their doors."

Kingsley blushed guiltily. Remus poked at the air in triumph. "See, I knew it."

Kingsley's, "I like small," was quiet, but strong enough to shut Remus right up.

Remus finished his soup and stood up to throw it away. He downed the wolfsbane, working not to let it come back up, and said, "I'm gonna go lay down."

Kingsley came in a few minutes later and curled up around Remus's back. Remus said, "You don't want- When I start-"

"I'll move. Let me wait here."

Remus wanted to protest. Really, he did.

*

Nathalie took one look at Remus when he walked in on the fourth morning and whatever she had been about to say changed to, "Lio and Gretta said you had the flu. What'd the bug eat and then regurgitate you?"

Gretta was the high schooler who was saving money for her own fender guitar and sound system. She'd answered the phone the second and third day Remus had called.

Remus smiled weakly. "Nicer description than I would've come up with."

"Jesus. I was thinking about trying to train you on register today, but it can wait. For fuck's sake, eat something, would you?"

Nathalie was lenient about Gretta's body piercings and Lio doing his homework on the job and Remus's inability to figure out Muggle money and a whole bunch of other things mostly so that she could swear a whole bunch without any of her employees calling her a hypocrite. It evidently worked, since Marc, who had worked there even longer than Nathalie and referred to himself as a lifer, said she had one of the lowest turnover rates for the company in the isles.

Marc was as friendly as a puppy and the biggest underachiever Remus had ever met in his entire life. The customers adored him.

"Hamburger assembly, then?"

Nathalie looked like she had her doubts. "You're sure you're not still carrying anything? You look like utter shite."

Remus thought about telling her what he had wasn't contagious, but that wasn't strictly true so all he said was, "Positive. Promise."

Nathalie waved a hand. "Go to then. But no overtime this week. Not until you start looking human again."

Remus winced at that, turning away so she couldn't see. Luckily, she didn't pursue the issue, just let him get to work. It occurred to him that while the actual problems getting around the lycanthropy were going to be different in the Muggle world, they might be more multiple than Remus had previously assumed.

Generally, Remus was pretty good at thinking out everything ahead of time, he didn't have a lot of room for mistakes in his life. Still, he had been somewhat desperate when he had moved into the Muggle world and all the cracks that he hadn't bothered to fill in were starting to show.

Remus worked diligently at putting together people's sandwiches so that they were ready and waiting, spread, sprinkle, pile and wrap. Over and over again. The art was trying not to think, not to breathe, not to be there.

On the upside, Remus was getting better at all of that.

*

Kingsley took advantage of Remus's inability to get overtime, snatching him up for a quiet evening out later in the week. Kingsley said, "Where I'm heading is a bit far, if I give you the coordinates are you all right Apparating blind?"

Remus figured that if Kingsley intended him harm he'd been presented with much easier opportunities to inflict it. "That's fine. You won't tell me where we're off to?"

"No." Kingsley listed off the coordinates.

Remus followed Kingsley's Apparative jumps (there were two involved) by mere seconds, landing somewhere much warmer than where they had started. Remus shaded his eyes against the late evening sun. "Where are we?"

"Sicily."

Of course we are. Remus followed Kingsley as he made his way over a small hill. The sight that greeted him at the top was a spread of a town that reminded him of Hogsmeade, but without all the reinforcements that came in so useful in the dead of winter. The town smelled of magic and heat and, well, tomatoes, but Remus sensed that had to do with the growing fields scattered about.

The restaurant was a few structures into the actual town. Kingsley walked in first. A maÓtrť'd was waiting in the front. Kingsley greeted him in Italian. Remus quietly worked a Translation Charm and came into understanding just as Kingsley was asking how things were going this particular evening.

"Quite well, sir. Did you have reservations?"

"For two, under Shacklebolt."

The man consulted a list. "Indeed. Come this way."

The table was against the back wall, but the entire place wasn't very large, so it was as central as anything else. The tablecloth was lace and there was a candle burning for ambience. Remus seated himself. "Sorta fancy, wouldn't you say?"

"For a first date?" Kingsley shrugged. "Not really."

"This isn't our first-"

"The other two don't count, you hadn't submitted to bearing my presence as a suitor just yet."

Remus raised an eyebrow but didn't say anything. Instead he opened the menu and thought, thank Merlin for Translative Spells. He decided on a type of parpadalle, informed Kingsley of his choice and said, "Order for me, yeah? I'm just going to butcher it and embarrass both of us."

Kingsley closed his menu. "Maybe yourself. I'm smarter than to get embarrassed by effort on someone's part."

"When did you learn to speak Italian?"

"At home, actually, my father had a fondness for languages. He spoke far more than I could ever hope to, even if I studied forever. His favorite was Latvian. I donít know that he ever even found a true use for it, but he loved the way it sounded."

Remus smiled. He understood the love of completely useless knowledge, he'd been prey to it more than once. "Your mum and dad were a bit odd for the pureblood set, weren't they?"

"Every pureblood I've ever met worth his or her salt has been."

The feeling of Padfoot's fur underneath Remus' fingers was nearly visceral and he had to take a breath before he could say, "True."

"My favorite is Swahili."

"With the clicks?" Remus hadn't heard much Swahili, he wasn't even entirely sure he wasn't getting the language mixed up with something entirely different.

"With the clicks." Kingsley laughed, but he wasn't laughing at Remus. Kingsley rarely laughed at anything so much as with things. It was one of the first things Remus had noticed while working in The Order with him.

"Is it hard to do, make those sounds with your throat?"

"It gets easier. I've come to think of other things we do with our throat as substantially harder."

Remus looked down at his plate and concentrated on keeping his thoughts pure. When he glanced back up, it was blatantly apparent that Kingsley was doing neither of those things. Remus laughed.

*

Remus liked his friends, truly he did, but sometimes he was forced to ask himself, "Am I intimately connected with a group of morons?"

The Tuesday afternoon following the full was one of these times. He was on fry duty, mostly paying attention enough to make sure that he wasn't killed in some awful oil revolt incident and that the fries weren't burnt beyond recognition but not much else. Which was why Lio, who was handling register, had to nudge him and say, "There's people asking for you. A whole bunch of 'em."

Luckily, Lio's inner meter for what was bizarre in life had been dulled early by the antics of his mother, whom Remus had recently met and adored even if he was pretty sure she should never have been allowed to raise another human being. Then again, Lio had turned out pretty well. On the other side of the cash register counter stood Neville, his hand in Ginny's. Behind them, Luna was staring intently at the menu board. Padma had her arm around Percy's waist. Percy had what was obviously meant to be his Nothing Going On Here expression on, which of course only drew more attention from the (thankfully) few patrons of the restaurant at that time of day. Hermione was there with Draco, since, as Remus understood it, they were doing their on-again thing after having been off-again for the past three months. Draco looked about one step short of panic. In fact, Remus would have bet that he'd had more aplomb while explaining to his dad that, "I have a feeling the only deaths we're going to be eating when this is all over are our own." Ron was laughing at something with a girl Remus didnít recognize. He thought he remembered Harry saying something about Ron picking up a Ukrainian girl at one of his chess tournaments, but Remus had mistaken that as implicating a one night stand. Either he'd been wrong, or this was someone else.

On the upside, Hermione had evidently coordinated their outfits so that they wouldn't look like a traveling sideshow extravaganza. On the downside, she hadn't prepared them much more than that.

Padma was asking questions about how the lights on the menu board worked, and Percy was coming up with an explanation that Remus was pretty sure he wouldn't understand even with the aid of psychotropic drugs. Luna was fingering something up her sleeve absently that Remus could only hope was a wand and not one of the creatures she had a habit of picking up in random places. Neville was smiling like he had stolen something and was worried about getting caught. One-upping them all, Ron was very loudly mispronouncing every item on the menu in order to show off to Maybe Ukrainian Girl.

Not for the first time, but perhaps more desperately than ever before, Remus wished he knew how to work the register.

Chris, the fourth son in an Irish Catholic family with approximately four hundred and three offspring, took pity on Remus. "Go help Lio with your friends, I'll watch the fries."

"I'm sure Lio can-"

"Glad you are, 'cause I'm not. Go help him. Seriously. I was on sandwich duty anyway. They can be done at the same time."

This was true, Remus had done it several times when they were understaffed, so he nodded and went to assist the somewhat flustered if not at all upset Lio. He started by calling Hermione to the front. "You have the money?"

Hermione sighed. "I'd better order for everyone too, huh?"

Remus' eyes were somewhat pleading. She nodded. "All right, any suggestions?"

"Well, Lio's a vegetarian and will only eat our salads, which he says are at least filling if not much else. Oh, and he likes the granola cup thinger."

Hermione looked up at the board. "Is that the official term?"

Remus ignored her. "The Chicken McNuggets aren't real chicken per se, but they're tasty enough for what they are. All ice cream treats are strictly above board and the fries are a highlight. Other than that it's all at your own risk."

Hermione took a quick glance at the group, shrugged and said, "Three piece McNugget and a garden salad for everyone. And uh, chocolate shakes to go around."

Lio did a quick mental count and typed everything into the register. He told Hermione the total and she paid with an ease that Remus envied. He now had all the denominations figured out, but counting and keeping that in mind was still no breeze. She looked up at him, "Got a break coming to you?"

"I can take mine in half-an-hour."

"Find us."

Somehow, Remus didn't think it would be that hard.

*

Luna held her shake out when Remus joined them at the four tables they had pushed together. "Saved some for you."

Remus took it, drained the last third hungrily and said, "Thanks" with an only mildly functioning frozen tongue.

Hermione frowned. "Want me to go get you something?"

Remus shook his head. "I seriously can't eat another thing from here at this moment. The shakes are safe because I don't have them all that often, but anything else threatens nausea at the mere thought of digesting it."

"But you are eating, right?" Neville had turned into a complete mother hen. Between him and Ginny, the next generation of Longbottoms were going to be the most well-fed, well-mannered, well-clothed kids Hogwarts had ever seen.

"I get enough," Remus said. It was honest, but only barely. At this moment, Kingsley was his main source of non-McDonald's originated food.

"Is it weird, working for Muggles?" Padma asked.

"No weirder than working for wizards. Just different. I think in some ways they pay more attention to things, because it's harder for them to just leave things be and expect them to get done the way we sometimes can."

Padma nodded. Remus turned an eye to Ron. "So, introductions, maybe?"

Ron smacked himself on the forehead. "Sorry. Tatyana Gutskaya, Remus Lupin. Remus, Tatyana."

Remus shook Tatyana's hand. She had a big grin and tiny hands that she used to expressive effect when talking. She said, "Fantastic to meet you," her accent so heavy it took Remus a few minutes to decode what she was trying to communicate.

He nodded. "You as well. The two of you meet playing chess?"

Ron flushed but said nonchalantly, "We met while she was kicking my arse."

"He is a fast learner, though. Since we have been playing regularly, it is not so easy to beat him anymore."

Ron had once told Remus that half of chess was understanding strategy and the other half was understanding your opponent. Somewhere along the way Ron had grown surprisingly good at reading people. Remus wondered if that philosophy was why Ron had basically quit dating anyone who didn't play chess.

Remus, knowing full well what he was doing, turned his attention to Percy. "Harry says the Ministry's a bit crazy these days, with the Cup."

Percy went off on what, compared to his glory days, was a rather diluted rant about the idiocy of some department or another until Padma laughingly cut in with, "Well, I'm sure you'll get it sorted, dear."

It still surprised Remus, but she always sounded sincerely confident under the light mockery and he always responded easily with a, "Right, well, I will," and kissed her.

Ginny grinned and said, "So I'm pregnant," which caused Remus to splutter for several minutes on end before managing, "That's brilliant, when's he or she due?"

"They're due in about seven months time. We wanted to be sure before telling anyone."

Remus nodded his understanding. "They?"

Neville was glowing so hard Remus was tempted to turn off the lights and see if he was still visible. "Twins," he announced.

"Wow. Congratulations, you two."

Draco told Remus solemnly, "They're planning on naming both children after me. Draco I and Draco II."

Neville choked on his milkshake and Ginny stuck her tongue out. Hermione rolled her eyes. "Then I'm going to curse him in his sleep so that I never have to worry about having that conversation with him about my children."

"I know some good curses for that," Luna offered. Underneath the Malfoy Aura, Draco looked worried. Then, as if she hadn't said anything at all, Luna focused on Remus. "You're coming to dinner soon, right? I think Harry said he remembered to invite you, but he lies about stuff like that, because he forgets and then feels badly that he forgot."

Remus covered for Harry. "He asked, but we didn't set a date."

Luna giggled. "Liar. Well, Saturday, maybe? Saturdays are best for us."

"Saturday it is."

Luna nodded in satisfaction. Remus stood. "I have to be getting back. Thanks for the visit."

Everybody but Draco chimed, "Any time." Draco said, "Well, this fulfills my once yearly penitential trip into the Muggle world, thanks for providing a ready location."

Remus took one look at Hermione and wondered how long Draco had to enjoy his reproductive system.

*

After a month and a half of walking home in the evening, Remus found out that the small pet shop he passed daily -- nestled among a row of furniture and shoe and stationary places -- was privately owned.

There were puppies in one window, birds in the other and Remus had stopped to look, perhaps put a finger to the window, perhaps think, Sirius with just a touch of longing when a Newfoundland pup tried to push its head through the glass to Remus's hand. It was dusk and the shop was well past closed, but he heard a tinkling sound, similar to a bell hung over a shop window and looked to see a girl popping her head out the door.

Girl was probably a bit of an underestimation, although to Remus she looked it. In her late twenties or so with her hair extremely short, dressed in a pair of patched up jeans that Remus came to realize were that way due to extreme amounts of nearly everyday wear, and a scent that hinted at rain underneath the smell of all the animals she handled during the day, she had yelled, "Come have a look."

Remus had shaken his head. "I can't afford one." Had she been open, he would have gladly taken her up on the offer, but she wasn't and he wasn't one to waste other people's time needlessly.

"I live above the shop, it's not like I have plans anyway."

Remus hesitated, but the puppy was chasing its tail, frantic in its efforts to catch the as-of-yet underdeveloped appendage, and he stepped inside. The shopkeeper held out her hand, "Janine Spindle."

Remus shook the hand. "Remus Lupin."

She looked impressed. "Not everyday you meet someone with an appellate like that. You from around here, Mr. Lupin?"

"Remus. Northern England."

"Close enough. Now, let me see, you wanted to pet Mr. Black right here, I think it was." She lifted the squirming puppy out of the cage and dumped him into Remus' waiting arms.

"Mr. Black?" Remus just managed the question.

Janine shrugged. "Don't like to name 'em, since most owners automatically change the name anyway, so I generally call 'em by color or breed. Mr. Newfoundland's a bit long, yeah?"

Remus couldn't disagree. He lifted the bundle of fur to his face and nuzzled the soft head. "You run this place by yourself?"

"Didn't used to. My mum and dad started the place, but mum died of cancer when I was six, and dad kept the place going, raised me to take care of it. He retired and moved to sunny Spain last winter when he started developing arthritis, so here I am. I'm hoping to get married and rope some poor sod into looking after it with me, but so far I'm not having much luck on that scale." She grinned ruefully at this admission. "Suppose it would help if I let the hair grow out a bit and actually went places once in a while, but running a business isn't easy, truth be told."

No, Remus didn't imagine it was. "A full time employee might be less trouble than a husband."

"If you can find the right one. That was my first thought after dad packed up, but I've been through three and they all looked perfectly brilliant on paper and none of them panned out. So it's back to seventeen hour days for me until I can find someone who I can actually trust to stick around, not steal the cat food, show up on time, refrain from getting high until after business hours and oh, actually like pets."

Remus smiled sympathetically at her.

Jokingly she asked, "Don't suppose you're looking for a job?"

Figuring it couldn't hurt, Remus asked, "What's the pay?"

She blinked. "Um. Nine pounds an hour starting. No benefits though, I mean, other than a store discount."

"Can I get three days in a row off each month? I can always tell you in advance when it's going to need to be."

"You willing to work a fifty hour week most weeks?"

"I'm up for sixty," Remus answered honestly. It was what he'd been trying for at the McDonalds, and he hated it there.

"There's something wrong with you, isn't there? You've just been released from prison or you're dying and just need something to tide you over for a few months or you're an illegal immigrant, right?"

"I have my secrets," Remus said, "but none of those are them."

"And you have valid ID and can prove all of this?"

Remus secretly thanked Merlin for the fact of his mother having been a Muggle and Hermione having known how to manipulate the system well enough to get him all of that. "I do."

Janine asked, "When can you start?"

Not sure he really believed what was happening, Remus decided to test reality, "I need to give my current workplace two weeks."

"You're a fucking gem. Sure, you have two weeks and a day. I'd better see you then."

Remus frowned. "You donít know anything about me. Not really."

"I know you're considerate enough to give notice and that you don't have problems with long hours, that you hold dogs correctly and you didn't want to trouble me with a customer when I was closed. I'd say that's a pretty good place to start, wouldn't you?"

Somewhere along the way, Remus had learned that sometimes the only way to get what he wanted was to take a chance. He sensed she knew this fact as well. "As good as any, probably."

*

Despite Nathalie's edict that he not work overtime, Remus had been picking up a few extra hours here and there. Which was why on Saturday evening he only managed to get off thirty minutes before he was supposed to be at Harry and Luna's place. Remus slipped into the bathroom at the end of his shift, Apparated to his flat, and hoped like Hades that nobody noticed anything.

He showered in three minutes flat, brushed his teeth, and put on the nicest robe he owned. He walked down to the corner shop a block from his flat, bought Luna the oddest looking flowers they had for sale, walked back up to his flat and Apparated from there to his dinner appointment.

Despite the rush, he was early. Luna took the flowers, said something in Latin that Remus had never heard before, and kissed him. "We're just waiting for our other guest. Something to drink?"

Remus followed her into the kitchen, where Harry was watching the pots fearfully, as though they might self-destruct with no warning. Harry had once confided that while he was completely comfortable with the Muggle fashion of cooking and entirely confident in magic overall, the combination thereof, namely magical cooking, put him on edge.

Remus requested a glass of water. Luna tugged at Harry's shirt. "Would you get that? Then take him in the other room and talk. It's too hot in here anyway."

Harry looked endlessly relieved as he summoned a glass and filled it from the tap. He handed it to Remus then lead the way into the sitting room. Remus sat across from where Harry had settled on the sofa and took a sip. "Who else is coming?"

Harry sat so still that Remus knew he wanted to fidget. "We invited Kingsley."

Remus swallowed carefully so as not to choke. "Ah."

"I kind of wanted- I mean, obviously I work with the man and he's saved my life a dozen or so times, so it's not like I could disapprove, or even that my opinion would matter, but it was important to, you know, me, that I see-"

"Your opinion does matter." To everyone on most days, Remus thought, but most particularly to him. It was no good silently accepting the duties of both father and godfather if he was going to shirk them whenever it was most convenient for him.

"I wanted to see how he treats you."

There was too much to say to that, so Remus changed the subject. "Have you asked her?"

Harry lowered his voice. "The main problem as far as I'm concerned is that I want the asking to be as brilliant and as special as she is, and I haven't a clue of how to accomplish that."

"She loves you because you forget to ask people to dinner and go to work each day with the idea that you might be able to change the world, just a part of it, and because when she suggests something you go along with it if it's not too much to ask and even sometimes when it is. Not because you're constantly showing her excitement."

"But she is constantly showing me that. There's not a time when I come home to her when she doesnít say or do something that changes the world, or maybe the way I see things, or maybe just the moment. But things change."

"Maybe she likes that with you, occasionally, things stay the same."

Harry looked doubtful, but as though it was an idea he was willing to consider. He had opened his mouth to say something else when there was a CRACK and Kingsley said, "Evening all."

Remus wanted to hear what Harry had to say, he did, but it was asking too much for him not to grin and say, "We were waiting," back.

Harry's eyes suggested just how perfectly he understood.

*

Kingsley followed Remus into the hall after things had been topped off with a night cap. "Can I follow you home?"

"The place is a mess."

"Will you follow me home, then?"

Remus took a deep breath and exhaled the instinct to beg off. "I have to be at work early tomorrow."

"I have alarms. Several. There was a time in my life when it took the effort of thousands to wake me and in those years my family made sure I was well supplied with waking mechanisms of doom."

Remus had seen Kingsley wake only once. The man had been crashing at 12 Grimmauld after a particularly grueling assignment. A member of the Order had come into the house and before the door had even shut, Kingsley had been awake. He hadn't so much as moved, but Remus could hear the difference in his breathing pattern. It was hard to imagine a time when even something screaming at him violently couldn't rouse him. Not for the first time since all this had begun, Remus wished he could remember that boy who so obviously remembered him. "You sure you want to be woken that early?"

"It's a consequence I'm willing to handle."

Remus said, "I'm sort of nervous, here."

Kingsley said, "I'd noticed that, yeah."

"Right," Remus said, and then Apparated before he could get nervous enough to leave parts of himself across the English countryside.

Kingsley was right behind him, both seconds wise and physically, his arms wrapping around Remus's waist, loose and warm. "You come off as so bloody fragile. But you must not be, not with the breaking apart and reforming all the time."

There were different types of fragile, Remus knew, and he was afraid to breath, afraid of what even that tiny movement might spark. Afraid that he might want everything that followed. Want was a dangerous proposition in the life of a werewolf.

Kingsley said, "I want."

Remus said, "Yes," because it was what he was used to saying.

Kingsley's hands dragged upward from Remus' hips, along his back, pushing up at his too-long hair, making access for Kingsley's mouth. Kingsley kissed once, twice, paused and said, "I'll need something more than that," before a third kiss, "but I can be patient."

This was a trait Remus had not often encountered in his lovers. He had long found a type of hit-and-run system to getting laid worked best for him. No promises, no secrets, no anything other than an orgasm or, just maybe, two. That system had fallen apart after he'd been revealed at large as a werewolf, as misconceptions about the spread of lycanthropy were rampant and everybody automatically assumed that Remus had an oral fetish. Remus had gone to having one night stands with Muggles, but Muggles were afraid of things that Remus knew nothing about and their complete ignorance of his situation or even the possibility for it felt too much an omission of the truth to be continued.

All in all, it had been awhile.

Kingsley's mouth stalled at the base of his neck, his teeth pinching lightly at the skin on his back, stretching over his vertebrate. The small sting disappeared and Kingsley said, "Look, just stay, right?"

Remus frowned, confused. "You don't want-"

"Not like this, anyhow."

"I'm just tired." Well, two of those words were the truth. His body was tired of monthly interruptions in its circle of health, his leg begged to be given a rest from eight to sixteen hour days and his mind needed the type of vacation of which Remus had only heard tell.

"Me too. Let's sleep."

Kingsley pulled Remus's robe from his shoulders and navigated him swiftly toward the bed. Remus toed off his own shoes and climbed in. The mattress was of much higher quality than his and his back seemed to lengthen of its own accord, his legs stretching out as much as room and injury would allow. A rustle of sound and Kingsley was beside him, large and unthreatening. By way of thanks, Remus rolled into him and fell asleep within the space of a breath.

*

Janine looked surprised when she found Remus waiting for her to open the store on the morning they had agreed on as a starting date. She unlocked the door and pulled it open for him. "You showed."

"Yes." Remus said it slowly, trying to figure out where exactly the wonder in the whole situation was coming from before finishing this pronouncement.

"Donít say it like it always happens. It doesn't. Marks for dependability. So far at least. C'mon, I'll show you around."

She took him in the back and pointed at things. "All right, the food is all in either bags or tubs. Everything is labeled, so assuming you're literate and can tell a cat from a dog from a bird from a hamster from a fish, we'll be fine. Everything is fed in the morning, and the litter boxes in the kittens' cages are changed at that time as well. I generally get up and walk the puppies before I start opening, so I may or may not be here when you get here most mornings. I mean, I'll be here so long as you don't have a key, but once we get you situated with one, I'll probably be a bit less predictable. While they're out and about, the paper on the bottom of their cages needs to be switched out and the cages cleaned up. The cleaning supplies are in here," Janine opened the door to a small janitorial closet jam-packed with tile cleaner, glass cleaner, all-purpose antiseptic spray and more.

"The water comes from there," she threw her hand in the general direction of a small sink, "and it's important to keep an eye on all the tanks, because as babies they drink a lot. I think I'm going to teach you cash register as we go along, so I'll just leave that for now. I do most of the ordering and that sort of paperwork crap in the evenings, but if you're ever interested in sticking around, I'd love to have a paperwork grunt."

"Maybe later on," Remus said, already feeling his stomach clench at the thought of the ringing machine that handled Muggle cash with a familiarity he was sure he would never feel.

"All right then, feeding. I'll handle the fish this morning, I'll explain later this afternoon how to do it, but for the moment, they're the most complicated of the lot, so I'll take it on. Can you get the kits, pups and all the rodents?"

Remus nodded and headed to where he remembered seeing the food kept for all the mammals. Reading directions carefully he doled correct portions out, starting with the kittens, who were the easiest, moving onto the dogs, which were slightly more varied due to size and breed, and ending with the rodents, of which there were more types than the previous two species.

Unlike the humans he'd been serving for a little over a month now, the animals didn't say mean things to him while waiting for their food, just made yipping or plaintive noises and tried to gnaw on his fingers if he got too close. It was a vast improvement.

Janine showed him where the cleaning supplies for the actual shop were and set to washing the windows while he mopped the floors. At nine, she flipped the shop sign to "open" and unlocked the door. "It's usually a good hour or so before anyone shows up. I generally try to Windex the front of the cages. You wanna get the fish tanks for me?"

Remus polished while looking at all the varieties of fish. There were tiny, plain golden ones and much larger ones that when he asked, Janine told him were miniature sharks. Remus was about to ask why anybody would want something like that in their house when he remembered sleeping in Kingsley's arms again two nights before.

Customers filed into the store slowly, then more rapidly around noon. Remus watched as Janine patiently answered questions and helped customers to look at the animals they were mulling over purchasing. Remus made a mental note to have Hermione help him out with the Muggle library so that he could learn more about all the animals in the store. Janine seemed to know everything there was possible to know, but Remus didn't feel comfortable asking as many questions as would have been necessary to attach onto that type of knowledge.

On his lunch break, he read the guide to Newfoundlands that he found in the small book rack Janine kept in one corner. She now had three Newfoundland puppies for sale, none of them being the one Remus had played with when he had stopped in before. Evidently, they were popular with the rural families that sometimes came into town for a weekend in the big city.

By the end of the day Remus had learned more about cash register than he had in thirty at McDonald's. Janine had him watch and explained all the items that showed up on the screen of the computer that doubled as a register. She didn't have him touch the keys or the money once.

He helped her clean up and make sure all the merchandise was happy before stepping out of the front door. She stuck her head out the door before locking it. "How was your first day?"

Remus was worn out from helping countless children play with different animals without hurting or losing them, he was dizzy from the amount of questions he hadn't been able to answer, his hands smelled like ammonia and he wanted nothing more to fall into his bed.

The customers had been polite and when they hadn't, Janine had become considerably less helpful. She was easy to work with, patient with his questions and obviously cared about this place and the service it provided. Remus smiled, tired and lax though it may have been. "Fantastic."

Janine's answering smile was soft. "I'll see you in the morning."

*

Draco was waiting at Remus's place when Remus came home on the afternoon before the first full. Remus eyed him. "You're joking."

Draco made a face. "The things one does for love."

Remus couldn't agree more. Draco said, "Speaking of which, Shacklebolt'll be here sometime tonight, so we won't have to deal with each other in the morning. I'm a horrid AM person."

Remus declined to comment. Draco filled in the silence with, "You look about to drop. Hermione sent some food, things she says will help."

Remus made his way into the kitchen and found the bag. It was filled with heavy slices of wheat bread slathered with peanut butter, carrot sticks, pear slices and other nutritious bits that would probably sink into his system faster and be less painful coming back up.

Draco stole a pear slice. "She wouldnít have me if I was evil incarnate, you realize."

"I didn't think the opinion of an impoverished werewolf much mattered," Remus said in between bites. "And half the time she won't have you."

"Bloody- At least Harry and Ron get all emotional and throw wide shots. You find where it's going to hurt the most every time, don't you?"

"When not bearing fangs and claws, a werewolf's defenses are few."

"I'm sorry," Draco said, and it was angry and strained and sincere. "Is that what you wanted? I'm sorry that I said things about you that were completely immature and ignorant and that I didnít figure out who my father and Voldemort were until it was far too late for me to ever leave it behind and that there are people that you loved who are dead because of that, us. That's all I have to say."

Remus held out another pear slice. "All right."

For lack of anything better to do, Draco took the offering. "All right?"

Remus walked to the sink. "I wasn't holding out for blood, just an apology. Some of the things you said were right mean you realize."

"Lupin-"

"Remus. If you're going to be calling Harry and Ron by their first names I suppose I'd best catch up with the times." Remus drew a glass of water and took a sip.

Draco took a few breaths, composing himself. It was dignified and almost completely under the surface, but Remus knew what to look for, what to sniff out. "Hermione says the change is a bit-"

"Alarming?"

"Better word. If one hasnít seen it, that is."

"It is. You don't have to stay so long as you make sure to re-ward the place correctly."

"Now I see it, your plan is to break Hermione and me up in a way that nobody will ever trace back to you."

Remus set the glass in the sink. "I'll vouch for you. I donít lie to her."

Draco snorted. "Well, not in the obvious way."

Remus raised an eyebrow.

"What would you call disappearing for long stints at a time and telling her you were fine whenever she managed to find you when in fact you were starving and homeless for most of that period?" Draco smiled. "Don't get me wrong, it's exceedingly Slytherin of you and I can't find it in myself to do anything other than admire the way you consider your life your own even when it's not working out quite the way you need it to. However, she is your friend and she does worry about you and she's too smart to be fooled even by the tidiest of lies. Potter may have killed Voldemort, but she's the brains behind the victory. She sees and understands deceit in ways that exceed anyone I've ever met. It's why she allows me forgiveness time and again. She knows I never mean to do the things I do. Too much training at too early a stage."

Remus nodded slowly. "It's more how I see the roles between us."

Draco caught on slowly. "Meaning that you being the elder, the teacher, should be the caretaker as well?"

"Something of that."

Draco packed the food back up and set it on the counter. Over the rustling of paper and plastic he said, "I'm not sure the old roles exist anymore."

*

Kingsley admitted that he was not perfect by introducing the idea to Remus when Remus' defenses were low. After Remus had taken the second night's batch of Wolfsbane, when he was still thinking, "No vomiting, ix-nay on the omiting-vay," Kingsley said, "I realize that this is completely impinging on your independence and all, but I think we ought to find you somewhere else to stay during the full. Somewhere that allows you run of the place. I know you want one of those dogs that you work with, you talk about them too much for there not to be some sort of subliminal desire, but you can't keep pets here, so I was thinking we could find you a proxy owner, someone to keep the dog who you could visit on a regular basis and then he could be around to keep you real company during the full. I mean, I realize it's not necessary for you to have animal companionship, but Hermione's been researching the mental effects of the change as a class final project, which I probably wasn't supposed to say anything about, so if you could remember that you hold my life in your hands I would appreciate that deeply. Anyway, it seems that werewolves communicate better with feline and canine species while in wolf form than humans, even with the bane and it is suggested that the mental health of a werewolf is improved by having one or many of these types of creatures in the near vicinity during a change, and really, since I have a vested interest in you being sane, I just thought I'd put the suggestion out there."

Now dizzy as well as nauseated, Remus asked, "I suppose if you've thought about this half as much as you've practiced that little speech of yours, you already have a place picked out?"

"Not empirically. We have a few options that we thought of presenting, but you're welcome to say no to all of them."

Remus forebore facetiously asking who the "we" was to say, "Your permission is deeply reassuring."

Kingsley threw him a tired glance. "You knew what I meant."

Remus decided to get over himself for a second and ask, "Have you slept at all in the recent past?" knowing full well that Kingsley had stayed with him the night before and had probably spent more time awake to make sure there weren't any problems than even dozing. He worked ten to twelve hour days, so sleep wasn't something he had an overwhelming store of to begin with.

"Can we please talk about you? I know you hate doing it, all right. I know that you have issues from here to Buckingham about your place in our world, about your place in the Muggle world, about being a burden to your friends, about really anything I could name, but I'm sitting here trying to make that better for you and you're being a bit of an arse, to be perfectly honest."

"The last time somebody tried to make this better for me it started with deceit and ended with twelve years of death and pain and loneliness. Can you understand how I might be a bit reticent to mess with how things are? I realize they're not ideal, but nobody's getting hurt."

"Except you."

"I'm a werewolf, Kingsley. There are things in life that can't be changed."

"But they can be bettered."

"You must be the Auror that everyone fears."

It made Kingsley laugh, which was the point. "Look, of the options, I think the best one is the Longbottom estate. It's large and there's nobody around except when Neville and Ginny are there, which isn't often. As for keeping the dog, honestly, I've always thought having a pet would be a novel experience. You can even name it, so long as I don't absolutely abhor the appellation, in which case we'll fight and if it's far enough into our relationship, have some lovely make up sex."

Remus said, "I'm too sick to fight you on this right now."

Kingsley said, "I know," but he had the grace to look apologetic. "Just let me try, all right? I need to."

Remus hated him. Hated. The bastard. "We're naming the dog Dipper."

"Dipper?"

"Like big and little." Remus didn't elaborate, Kingsley would either understand or he wouldnít.

"Can I call him Dip?"

"If he does stupid things. Which he will. He's a dog."

"Sounds good to me."

Remus didn't want to admit it, but it sounded good to him as well.

*

Remus screwed up on the cash register the first five times Janine left him alone to deal with financial transactions. She helped fix each problem, gave him a tip for how not to have it happen again, and kept letting him handle money. On his sixth try, the customer was extremely impatient by the time everything had been done, but it had also been handled correctly.

Janine smiled after the customer was gone, fish tank, child and all. "You deserve a cookie. I'd give you one, but all I have are dog treats."

"Tell me how the employee discount works instead."

"I didn't know you had a pet. I thought you lived in a flat."

"I don't and I do. I'm buying one, it's going to live with a friend."

"What kinda pet?"

"One of the Newfoundlands."

Janine frowned. "I've noticed you like them."

"But?" Remus came out from behind the cash register.

"They're two hundred and fifty pounds, Remus, and I know what I pay you."

Remus knew what they cost, he did work at the store. He was borderline obsessive about knowing each question a customer could want an answer to, as well as the correct response. "I was wondering if you'd let me in on a payment plan in addition to whatever the discount is."

"The discount is twenty percent."

"See, right there, two hundred pounds. Better already."

Janine narrowed her eyes. "Tell me why it is you want one so badly."

Remus grabbed a bottle of Windex and made his way to the rat cages, intent on scrubbing them free of kiddy fingerprints. The under eight crowd had been vicious with the rodent section in the after school hour that day. He wanted the action to seem decisive, but his leg had been hurting quite a bit in the aftermath of the change and it was all he could do to make it there without resting half way. "They remind me of a friend."

"A friend you grew away from, or a friend you lost?"

"Both, I suppose." Remus tried again. "Lost, really. Twice."

"I've never met anyone in my life who had more secrets I didn't want to know."

Remus was pretty sure she had no idea. "Janine-"

"Twenty pounds a month for ten months? No interest. Well, eleven months, really, once you figure in tax."

"I should be paying interest."

"If you run off before having paid entirely I shall kick myself multiple times and forever more charge interest to errant employees, yes? But for the moment, let's figure I'll get my two hundred plus tax whether it's tomorrow or in a year, and I don't really need more. I mark them up double, you know."

Remus did know, but she had to make a profit somehow. The Newfoundlands ate a lot as puppies and were high upkeep. If she hadn't managed such a good turnover rate with them, they wouldn't have been worth keeping at all. "Twenty a month. You want to take it out of my paycheck?"

"Probably easiest for everyone. Which one do you want?"

Remus couldnít help himself, he picked the runt of the current litter.

*

Dipper was the source of endless amusement for nearly everyone Remus knew, which perplexed him somewhat, as almost all of those people could lay claim to their own familiar. Neville explained, as though speaking to a young child, "Yes, but that's a familiar, this is a pet," when Remus thought to ask within his hearing distance. Remus figured that made some kind of sense that he was not privy to, and let it go. Dipper made Remus happy too, so it seemed unbecoming to deny other people the right of experiencing that.

Remus sensed that as much as he adored Dipper, Kingsley had a bit of an edge on him. Dipper had immediately taken to sleeping in Kingsley's bed and after a small burst of protest, Kingsley had given in to the whims of his new pseudo-pet. He said, "I think I'm sleeping better, but don't tell anyone. This is how rumors get started."

Remus was pretty sure rumors thought themselves right up when it came to Kingsley and didn't need any help, but he just swore himself to secrecy and went back to rolling around on the floor with a swiftly-growing forty pounds of puppy.

Hermione dropped by the pet store one afternoon, during the three o'clock hour, which he had told someone was a downtime. He was pretty sure it hadn't been Hermione, but word traveled quickly, this he knew. Janine popped her head up from the straightening she was doing over in the leash and toy section to say, "Hullo, can I help?"

Remus, who was hidden, sweeping behind the fish tanks heard, "I'm looking for a Remus Lupin," and squeezed his way out to say, "Hermione."

She smiled. "I needed a break from studying and I've been wanting to give you this for a week." She handed him a book that at a quick glance seemed to be on the mental effects owning a pet had on humans. "Pretty interesting stuff."

Janine had snuck over and taken a peak over Remus's shoulder. "Oh yeah, I've read that. It's surprisingly interesting for a book written by psychologists."

Remus grinned. Other than veterinarians, Janine had a somewhat wary view of doctors in general that had to do with the treatment her mom received. Also, Janine was more the type to pick up a mystery or potboiler romance when she had the time to read, claiming that her mind had to "unhook" at some point. "High praise, from you."

Janine shrugged. "Why donít you introduce me to your friend?"

Remus grimaced. "Right, sorry. Hermione Granger, this is Janine Spindle, my boss and the owner of this shop. Hermione's wiling away time as a graduate student at the moment."

"Oh," Janine asked, "in what?"

"Physics," Hermione answered, which was her standard Muggle reply. It actually wasn't all that terribly untrue, as Hermione's main course of study was Transfigurations and according to her, at its most basic level, Transfigurations was all about Muggle physics. Remus trusted her. Transfiguration was something that came naturally to him, so he had very little understanding of its mechanics.

Janine nudged Remus. "I forbid you to socialize with idiots in your off time."

Hermione giggled. "I should get back. I told myself no more than a quick break. Plus, I have to be up at the school tonight to meet with Professor McGonagall to talk over a possible thesis. She shot the last one down cold, honestly, with good reason, since it's really something that should wait until I can publish under my full auspices, but now I'm feeling sort of itchy under the skin."

Remus put a hand on her shoulder. "You'll find the right topic, even if it's not this one. And Minerva loves hearing what you've got on your mind, even if she pretends otherwise. Trust me."

Hermione leaned forward and snuck in a hug before he had realized what was happening. "You look better here." With that last imparting of information she flew out the door, so quickly Remus would have suspected a levitation Charm was he not intimately aware of her integrity toward Muggles.

"Cute," Janine opined. "A little young, but eh, whatever works."

Remus couldn't help the burst of, "Oh dear Merlin, no," that spilled from his lips.

Janine made a face. "You have the oddest way of speaking some times. And no? Because she kinda does this thing where she looks at you and it's all adoring-"

Remus stopped her before the headache he could feel coming on was a full-blown migraine. "Schoolgirl crush. I used to be her teacher. She's just never completely shaken it off. She's with someone."

Janine began making her way back to the leashes. "Too bad, you'd make a sweet couple."

Remus didn't have the heart to feel too much loss at the situation.

*

Remus and Kingsley had two ways of touching each other when there wasn't a full moon. The full was different, it was a time out, a moment when Kingsley could put his hands anywhere he wanted and not have it questioned at all. The rest of the month meant light touches of friendship or deep touches of making out and nothing really in between.

So when Kingsley said, "I'm going to touch you now," with an edge that suggested there was no arguing with this proposition, Remus tried not to think about the change in dynamic that this represented.

Kingsley gently pushed Remus onto the sofa before wrapping his (considerably large) hands over Remus's hip, over the exact spot of the scar. The heat from his palms seeped into the echo of the wound and provided a small amount of relief from the now constant, nearly crippling throb.

Kingsley said, "We should get this looked at again. By someone else."

Remus had gotten the leg treated at Mungo's, largely because they were willing to do it for free as a service to one of the heroes of the war and he couldn't afford anything else. He still couldn't, really. "Maybe."

Kingsley didn't say anything. It worried Remus, but he was too tired to continue the line of conversation. Kingsley dug his fingers in and it should have hurt, well, it did hurt, but it was pain much like a lancing. Deep, intense, meant to heal.

Remus forced himself to breath with the pain when Kingsley moved his fingers without lightening the pressure. Kingsley said, "I want this liberty all the time."

Remus was trying to think through the agony. "I donít trust this body."

"I know, there's no reason for you too, it's betrayed you too many times. But it hasn't betrayed me, and I don't plan on allowing it to. I trust it. I trust you." Kingsley pressed in even deeper, deep enough to bring a whimper of pain from behind Remus' clenched teeth. Then he let go.

Remus released a breath that was not a sob. No, really. Then he drew one in, waiting for the pain to fade. Kingsley removed his hands, allowing the heat to seep from the scar and cool into a relatively pleasant numbness. Kingsley asked, "Better?"

Reluctantly, Remus nodded. "What did you do?"

"Little something my gran taught me. She's a Healer. I plan on introducing you to her someday, I think the two of you would get along famously. She's a big believer in touch. So am I. Your hesitancy to let me," Kingsley gestured slightly with his hands, "isÖhard."

"It's not about you." Remus rubbed at his forehead. "That sounds placating."

"You're not a placater and I know truth when I hear it, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm falling in love with you and part of the way I want to express that is with my hands."

Remus made himself breathe evenly. Finally, he asked, "I can touch back, right?"

Kingsley leaned in and kissed him. "I'm yours to take advantage of."

*

Dipper was a good companion for the werewolf. He took advantage of the sprawling Longbottom estates and even though the transformation was the same distilled agony as always, Remus lost some of the mental trepidation that had accompanied that time of the month since Lily and James had been betrayed and Remus helped to condemn the wrong person.

Most afternoons when he woke up from sleeping off the physical trauma, Kingsley was there, his arms around Remus's waist or Remus's head in his lap or some other position of comfort and protection. Remus was nearly used to the sensation, Kingsley having been more and more insistent that they wake up that way on a normal basis, regardless of how much light the moon was letting in the window at night.

There was no sex yet, nothing to even really hint at it, and Remus had finally figured out that Kingsley was waiting for him to make the first move.

Remus took a night for himself after the shop had closed. He informed Kingsley he had things that needed doing and set off for Godric's Hollow. The house was gone of course, and all that really remained were some trees and a large patch of land with three tiny grave markers. Remus placed flowers on each of them, lilies for James, daisies for Lily (her favorites), and yellow pansies for Sirius (they reminded Remus of stars).

He sat down on the earth in front of them and waited until he was ready to talk. There was a chance, he knew, that he could stay here all night and still not be ready to say a word. When the sun set and what little warmth there had been in the air stealthily crept out, Remus said, "You should know that Harry's getting married. He asked Luna Lovegood. Her mum was a Prewett. Distantly related to Molly Weasley. Good family. She'sÖunusual. You'd love her. He certainly does and she returns the sentiment and even if I didn't like her, what's the use of standing in the way of that, right?"

It was a perfect segue way, but Remus stalled. "Hermione and Draco are back together. You're probably rolling in your grave as I say this, but I think he's got your brand of Black in him, Sirius. Anyway, she's reforming him and you know her, nothing she can't do once she's set her mind to it.

"IÖdespite the people we miss, there's quite a bit of happiness to go around these days. I've been partaking myself, I guess you could say. Lily, James, I don't know if you remember Kingsley Shacklebolt, he was just getting out of school around the time Harry was born, anyway, I'm- We're dating."

Remus swallowed. "I've mourned you twice now, Paddy. The second time was perhaps easier. Even without a body," the grave was marked, not filled, "you were dead, whereas in AzkabanÖ Well, it wasn't quite the same, was it? And there was no betrayal this time, not on your part and not on mine. I've missed you so much, I- There were times when all I wanted was to find that room again, follow you, because I deserved to be where you were. Wherever that was. Even if the people there hated werewolves too. You wouldn't."

Remus rubbed at his eyes. "But Kingsley doesn't either. He stays during the transformation and doesnít shrink away when it's all over. He has funny stories and a kind smile and he's loved me for almost as long as I loved you."

"I'm happy, Paddy. Lily, James." Remus said, "I came here to tell you that. I'm not going to ask permission to keep being that way because I remember why we were friends. Even at your worst -- stupidest -- you always loved me. I'm going to take advantage of that now that you aren't here to correct my assumptions about what that means and live my life the way I need to and suppose that makes you contented."

Remus fell asleep on the ground. He woke in the early morning, when the sky was still just dark enough for the stars to be faintly visible, echoes of their real selves. He got up and walked away.

*

Kingsley stopped by the shop after they were closed on a night when Remus was helping Janine with inventory. They did a basic inventory every week, but the more complete one had to be done once every four months and took until well into the evening. Remus heard the soft knock on the glass of the door and looked up to tell whoever it was that, "We're clo- Oh." He yelled to the back. "Janine, I've got a friend here, can I let him in?"

"Yeah. How're you coming with the chew toys?"

"Almost done," he said, and went to go unlock the door.

Kingsley stepped inside and held up two enormous bags. "Went to school for dinner, wanted to see some people. Made the mistake of asking the house elves if I could bring you something."

Remus laughed. "Janine? You want something to eat?"

Janine was already making her way to the front. "What in the bloody hell smells so good? It's paradoxical to the nature of this place."

Remus took one of the bags. "Dinner."

"You bring us the restaurant?" Janine held out her hand. "Janine Spindle. Pleased to meet you."

Kingsley reached out with his free hand to shake hers. "Kingsley Shacklebolt, the pleasure's mine."

Janine sauntered over to the counter where she ducked behind to come up with the disinfectant spray. She liberally coated the surface and then scrubbed it down with several paper towels. Remus used the time to finish what he'd been counting. Kingsley pulled the offerings out of the bag, along with some plates, glasses and cutlery. Remus wondered if Kingsley had been foolish enough to mention that there would be more than one person eating. Not that Remus could talk. His family had never had near to enough money to own a house elf, even if his mum had been keen on the idea, so he was constantly making mistakes in reference to them as well.

When all the food had finally been unpacked, the three of them sat down, Remus and Janine trying to eat with some semblance of decorum. Kingsley asked, "How's it coming?"

Remus shrugged. "So far no major losses. Always a positive."

Janine asked, "So, how do you two know each other?"

Remus said, "We met in the service."

She seemed to accept this at face value. "That where all the scars come from?"

Janine had caught Remus changing shirts after one of the puppies lost their lunch all over him and one of the customers. He'd dealt with the customers first, in a manner that Janine had declared worthy of a gold star, or at least a slight raise, then gone to the back to throw on one of the t-shirt's with the store's logo that they sold. Janine had slipped back to get some paperwork and caught him at just the wrong moment. Instead of trying to pretend she hadn't seen anything, she'd nodded and said, "We all have'em somewhere I suppose," and slipped back out to make the sale.

Remus considered the question. "Some of them."

"You have some gems?" The question was addressed to Kingsley.

He grinned at her. "I could show you. I find myself to be an impartial judge. Nothing close to what he has, though." Kingsley kicked at Remus's ankle down where she couldn't see.

Remus kicked back. Just the night before Kingsley had spent an hour worshiping Remus's body, scars and all, before they'd even bothered with anything resembling an orgasm. They had bothered though. Just like nearly every night before that over the past week, since Remus had stood up wet from the dew and cold from the night air and ready to actually go somewhere.

Janine laughed. "Thanks for the offer, but I'll take your word on it. He's hard to top anyway."

They finished eating fairly quickly, since Remus and Janine both wanted to go home at some point that evening, even if home was only a quick trip up the stairs for Janine. Janine went to the back to dispose of the trash. Kingsley packed the stuff back up and met Remus's eyes. Remus mouthed, later tonight.

Kingsley mouthed back, your place?

A quick negative shake of Remus's head and a quick affirming shake of Kingsley's fixed things. Kingsley wished a returning Janine a good evening and got on his way. Janine waited until Kingsley was safely locked outside to say, "Right, I should have known you'd go for the rakish ones."

Remus froze without looking around from the door. "I'm sorry?"

"I'm neither prejudiced nor stupid, Remus, and taking those two factors out of the picture makes that situation extremely clear. I'm not one to assume that you haven't good friends, in fact, I think you have a lot of them, but Kingsley is no friend. Poor Hermione never had a chance."

The truth of that statement was so profound that Remus couldn't help bursting into laughter. He turned slowly. "You don't mind, then?"

"If you don't mind me perusing his arse like the magazine rack every time he walks through that door, we should be just fine."

Remus said, "I'm going to go start on the aquarium accessories."

"You do that," Janine said, and grinned as he walked away.

*

Remus crawled into Kingsley's monster of a bed (one of the many reasons he preferred to stay at Kingsley's rather than have them over to his flat), and wrapped himself around the slightly larger man. Kingsley stirred. "Hey. What's the time?"

"Nearly two, go back to sleep."

Kingsley shifted onto his stomach and pulled Remus all the way on top of him. "You're cold."

"It's cool out there. I'll warm up."

Kingsley buried a hand in Remus's hair. "Need any help?"

Remus sighed at the touch. "What you're doing is just perfect."

Kingsley's fingers lightly massaged at the scalp. "I'm glad you're here."

Remus was too, but probably not in the same way that Kingsley was. It had been so long since Remus had felt like he was truly anywhere it was nice to feel tangibly connected to a place. He said, "I went to Godric's Hollow a few night's back."

Kingsley stilled underneath him before admitting, "I had sort of figured that."

Remus didn't have anything to say to that. He knew better than to underestimate Kingsley so he wasn't terribly surprised.

"Did you get what you needed?"

Even though Remus hadn't exactly gotten anything at all, he couldn't imagine he would've come up with a better way to phrase that either, so he whispered, "Yes."

Kingsley's hand made a slow descent from Remus's head to the small of his back. "I don't need you to be 'fixed,' you know."

Remus kissed the skin of Kingsley's shoulder. "Mm. But I wouldn't mind being that way. For me."

"This isn't good enough?"

It was a fair question. Remus said, "Almost."

"What's the last piece? What are you waiting for?"

"The memories of happiness."

Kingsley pulled the covers more fully over Remus before tightening his hold on him. "Before long, you'll have so many you won't know what to do with them all. I'll make sure of it."

Remus snuggled into Kingsley. "I'll add this moment. Just to get a head start."

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