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Mischief Managed

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Lupin Cottage, Early March of 1965

Only thirty minutes earlier, Remus John Lupin, a small yet gangly boy with a meek voice and tender amber eyes that sparkled so brightly, laid fast asleep in his bed. His tawny brown hair was splayed across the pillow, one hand clutched around his oh-so-special stuffed elephant he required be named Ellie (Lyall Lupin thought the toy was clearly a boy given the shade of blue it had been) while the other neared his face, thumb in his mouth. Hope Lupin knew that he was too old for such things. The boy had been growing, and fast, his pajamas now stretching to their limits as they tried to confine the young wizard.

Only thirty minutes earlier, Hope Lupin had been watching her son from the doorway, smiling despite herself because he'd been able to drift to sleep so effortlessly as he did every night. When she'd been pregnant, her biggest fear had been that her baby would fear the dark, shrink away from the night. But Remus had been an enigma – a beautiful, gentle enigma. Remus never made a fuss at bedtime, didn't mind when they power went out every so often, and he had no fear of monsters under the bed. In fact, he'd made his very own 'Nasty Monster Go Away Spray' that was ready to use, just in the cabinet of his bedside table. Hope never told him, but she was sure that rubbing alcohol and water didn't make for a good repellent.

Only thirty minutes earlier, Lyall Lupin, who'd so desperately wished people would simply call him John, had been mumbling to himself as he put up yet another protective ward on their home to ensure he and Hope had a good night's rest without worry. Another night of sleeping with their wands just under their pillows. Another night of wondering if, and when, their security spells would sound the alarm. Hope had half a mind to make little Remus sleep in their room, though Lyall had quickly extinguished that idea. We'd never get rest then, he reasoned. You know the bed is small enough as it is, love. He'll be alright. He's smart. However, deep down, Hope wanted to counter, he's barely five.

Only ten minutes earlier, Hope had been finishing her scrapbooking, glue and scissors scattered across the kitchen table as she pasted the final photograph on the booklet titled "R.J.L." Pictures among pictures – some actual photographs while others were some of their boy's drawings – were captured among the pages, colors clashing against colors. Every so often, maybe next to a photograph or on a small slip of parchment, Hope or Lyall would describe their day with Remus, the memory stuck in the pictures.

Today it was Remus's first trip into Wizarding London. His tawny hair and shimmering amber eyes were still so protuberant, even in ink, as they sauntered down the sidewalk. In his slim little hand was a smaller version of a wand. It was modeled after his father – cypress.

"Cypress wands," his father had said to him, "find their soul mates among the brave, the bold and the self-sacrificing: those who are unafraid to confront the shadows in their own and others' natures They'd bought him that "ruddy," as Lyall had called it begrudgingly as soon as his son took more of a liking to it rather than his own father, stuffed elephant. They'd bought him an assortment of jelly beans and boxed chocolate – because Remus had always been so fond of chocolate.

Only five minutes earlier, Lyall had awoken to the pitter-patter of feet down the hall. This, of course, had been a regular occurrence in the Lupin household – Remus found the need to relieve his bladder six times a night if it suited him. What had confused Lyall, though, was the pitter-patter of feet was much heavier this night in March, and they dragged every so often, stopping at doors for a moment, moving on, shuffling back and forth until finally – Finally – they had reached the door at the end of the hall. Hope had only just drifted to sleep beside him, her brown hair tucked neatly in her nightcap and arms clenched around her soft pillow. If only he'd had the nerve to wake her himself.

Perhaps that would've made the coming hour more bearable.

The five minutes soon slipped away and not much later, Lyall found himself desperately making phone calls to whomever would be awake at such an hour. The answer to that had been not a soul, not even his older brother, Thomas, who'd always been on the clock around this time of night.

Remus, face drenched in tears (both from his mother and his own) and blood, sputtered wildly as he tried to make room in his throat to cry. It had burned, dear God, had it burned. Fire ripped through every vein in his feeble body, mending his muscles together only to have every move he made tear them apart again. Searing pain scorched his shoulder, a gaping hole where Greyback's teeth had made themselves quite at home in the young boy's skin. Remus had seen very little of it after that, vision fading into tiny, clouded spots. Every so often he thought, maybe, he'd seen a flash of white, green, then red. Not long after, his mother had scooped him into her arms, her own crying masking the broken rage from his father.

"Hello, my little darling," she cried, stroking his face gently with her index finger. Perhaps her husband didn't know this, or perhaps he did and was only delaying the inevitable, but it would not be long before they'd need to see a healer of some sort. And, in seeing a healer, they'd need to explain the open wound spilling a generous amount of blood onto their new mahogany floors. And, when explaining, the Ministry would be notified. Hope knew that this must happen, as it happened with anyone in their situation. But, damn it, why did it have to become their situation.

"Don't," Lyall soon snapped, coming close to his wife's face, suddenly immune to her inaudible sobbing. "Don't you dare talk to him like that. He's not dying!" Hope shook her head violently, looking down as her dear, baby boy, her little Remus, clung to dear life.

"We have to take him to—"

"We are not taking him there," Lyall declared, quickly slipping on his shoes and searching for Hope's jacket. "They'll turn him over to the ministry, Hope, you know that. I'm not losing my son."

Finally regaining her ability to speak, Hope murmured, "He's my son, too, Lyall. He's my son! H-He needs… he needs a r-real… he needs help! He needs real help, Lyall! St. Mungo's can give him what he needs." But the man ignored her pleas, scooping his son, rather harshly, into his arms and making a break for the front door. Hope, finding something in her to move from their spot on the floor, brought herself to her feet. Looking down, she was horrified.

Blood. There was nothing but blood on her son's bedroom floors. Not only on the hardwood, but slowly absorbing into his yellow rug, staining the patterns and darkening the smiley faces. Examining it closely, she could see, if only a little, small scratches in the wood. It was as if someone had been clawing away at the –

"Fine," Lyall interrupted her thoughts, stopping her before she could jump to the dark conclusion. "We'll take him to St. Mungo's. But we have to hurry." Both of the Lupin's looked down at their son, the shell of who their son used to be. His pupils, what they could see through the blood clouding in his eyes, were dilated and he coughed viciously, blood dripping from his chin. He cried, silently begging whoever was listening for this pain to stop; whatever he had done, he was so terribly sorry and he would have never done it again, so long as this white-hot pain just stopped.

With a look of apprehension, fear, and defeat, the Lupin's held onto each other tightly as they apparated to St. Mungo's hospital.

▬▬ι══════════════ι▬▬

It had been several days now, at least in Remus's mind. Maybe it had been longer. It's much harder to tell when you haven't opened your eyes in quite a long time. The only thing that seemed to be burned in the back of the young Lupin's mind was this image of his mother, blood smeared on her fingertips as she whimpered above him. Her eyes, always so full of life, were vacant and uncertain, lip quivering as he had tried to tell her to stop crying. She looked so beautiful when she smiled; if only she could just smile again, then this would surely end.

It had to have been an awful dream. That was the conclusion that Remus Lupin had come to. He had only just turned five! If this is what came with becoming a man, Remus decided that he'd much rather stay a little boy forever, if that were the case. He wouldn't have minded much, though. Endless nights of baking cookies with Mum and playing Go-Fish with Dad, Saturday night movie marathons on Muggle Television, and walks in the park when Mum had finished her daily worked seemed like the life yet to be lived to a five year old Lupin. Who needed the responsibilities of growing up? Heck, if he were to grow up anymore he'd have to start worrying about bills, owning a house, having a job, keeping a wife, controlling little children of his own – that lifestyle surely didn't suit him at all. Suburbia was not his calling.

Remus wanted to live a life of adventure and marauding – causing mischief and mayhem with his trusty sidekick, whoever they were. He'd go traveling around the world, locking up Dark Creatures and bad wizards and witches. That would be a life worth living. Remus lived for the life of excitement. Seeing a whole new batch of people every other month, experiencing different food (not that Hope's cooking wasn't the best thing in the whole wide world), and getting to know different parts of the world intimately. Yeah, that's what Remus really wanted. And you know what else he wanted? He wanted some chocolate ice cream.

He wondered how much longer it would be until someone came in to wake him up; he'd never been afraid of the dark, but it was getting quite lonely and he was beginning to worry about his mother. She'd been awfully upset the last time he'd seen her. Her voice was cracking with controlled hysterics and her were puffy from wiping them too hard. And through all of this, she was still as gentle as she'd always been, her hands soft as they'd always been. No, Remus could do without the ice cream for now. At the moment, he only wanted his mother.

"Sir, you can't go in and see him yet. He isn't ready," the voice of a mysterious man rung in Remus's ears. "He's in a very fragile state, Mr. Lupin, and shouldn't be agitated. We were able to stabilize him, clean the wound, and seal it."

"Sounds to me like you fixed him up just fine, then, didn't you," his father barked, irritation evident even in Remus's sleep. His father always did get a bit uneasy in doctors' offices.

"It's not only that, Mr. Lupin," the unfamiliar voice continued, remaining calm and steady. "Remus has survived… an ordeal that very few children his age would have to go through –"

"That's because the other's died in the process," Lyall snapped. "So, you're telling me that I don't get to see my own son?"

There was a frustrated sigh, "I'm telling you, Mr. Lupin, that in your current state, you might upset your son." Remus's eyebrows knitted together lightly. He was not fragile! He was not delicate! It wasn't as if he were made of glass, was it? Is that what this mysterious man thought? He had no right, did he? Of course, he was a doctor… and doctors know what's best, didn't they? "If you'd just calm down –"

"Calm down?" Lyall shouted. Hope looked nervously at the floor. "You try remaining calm in my shoes. My son is a –" his voice was cut short by a strangled sob. He covered his mouth, hand trembling as he fought for the words to escape him. "My son is one of them. I want to see him. I want to see if he's changed. I want to see what the fucker did to him!"

As if sensing there would be no peace until Mr. Lupin saw his son, the Healer finally allowed him to slip in through the doorway. The room was quaint, smelling terribly of antiseptics and disinfectant charms. The fluorescent lighting did little to alleviate the pain in the Lupins' chests as they gazed upon their son.

Dark crescents were splotched underneath his eyes, bruised purple and red. The boy was already pale enough as it was, according to Lyall, and didn't need to be crammed inside of a bloody hospital room to wither. His skin looked like parchment, thin and ready to tear at the slightest touch. He wondered how different his son would be when standing on the opposite side of this door. Thick bandages were wrapped around his body tightly, concealing the wounds and helping to ease the sting fresh hair brought them. Lyall had thought there had only been one wound, but, judging by the looks of it, there had been more damage done to his boy.

His boy. This was still his boy, wasn't it? Still his little boy who was never afraid of the dark, always up for another round of Go-Fish, even if at eleven at night, always sneaking into Hope's purse in pursuit of a Hershey's kiss, always prancing around in a cape - Remus. He was still Remus.

What had Lyall expected? A vicious shell of a boy gnawing at wrist cuffs that chained him to the bed? Perhaps angry, amber eyes glaring holes into his skull, blaming him for who he'd become? In his mind, actually, Lyall was prepared to meet the wolf that his son was becoming. He was ready to meet the dark creature that now resided inside of Remus John Lupin, welcome it with open arms and rip it to shreds. He'd expected it to be staring right back at him as he entered the hospital room.

However, when met with the feeble little boy, with tawny brown hair and slim little hands clenched around that ruddy stuffed elephant, his heart splintered into a million little pieces. This was his son. This was the wolf. And Lyall had expected that they'd now be the same thing, the same entity – one being. But when he saw the sleeping figure slowly regain life, smiling up at him softly through the pain he knew still surged through his body, he was unable to hold such expectations.

This was Remus. Not the wolf.