“How would you look if someone came up to you and greeted you by saying you were a half-blood?”
Harry leaned back on the couch and gave a thoughtful scowl. His eyebrows arched a little and his mouth quirked in a way that made Fleamont smile despite himself.
“Close,” he said. “Not quite. You want to imply that they’re not worthy of your time if they ask a question like that, rather than imply that you’re angry about what they said.”
“But it’s hard to control my expression that way, Grand.” Harry let his face fall back into its normal lines and reached innocently for a chocolate biscuit on the edge of his plate. Fleamont looked at him, and Harry let his hand fall back with a sigh. He’d already had three chocolate biscuits, which was his limit for the day. “Why do I have to learn it?”
“So that you can fight your enemies,” Fleamont said, and watched Harry lean forwards intently. He objected about some of the lessons, especially the ones in genealogy and the right way to walk and what clothes to wear, but he always paid attention when Fleamont talked about the reason. “You know that even if most people can’t harm you directly, they’ll still try to do it by insulting you, or making you embarrass yourself, or hurting your friends. So one of the ways to protect yourself is make them look ridiculous so they’ll stop doing some of that.”
Harry nodded. Fleamont wasn’t surprised that he needed more than one reminder. Harry was only seven, after all. And he hadn’t benefited from growing up in the wizarding world behind wards and with someone there to teach him all the time before this. The Muggles had barely let him learn anything in his first year of primary school.
Fleamont breathed out and reminded himself, again, that Vernon and Petunia Dursley were dead. The best way to erode their legacy of mistreatment for Harry was to teach him to defend himself and help him heal the wounds by showing that he had adults who truly cared for him.
Fleamont had no talent in necromancy to resurrect their spirits, in any case.
“Will I ever get so good that no one can hurt me?”
Fleamont softened at the sound of the misery in Harry’s voice. Well, misery and hope. He leaned forwards and touched Harry’s hand. “No. There’s always the chance that someone who’s not an enemy can hurt you. A child or a friend or a family member. But we’re going to make sure that your enemies are as far away as possible from you. Even when they’re sitting right next to you.”
Harry nodded, his eyes determined, and reached for the teacup that Fleamont had put in front of him again. Fleamont was having him practice gestures and expressions with and without props.
A sharp knock sounded on the door of the sitting room. Fleamont smiled at Harry as he hastily put the cup back down and said, “Come in, Sirius.” He was the only other human living in Potter Place at the moment, and the house-elves never bothered to knock.
Sirius burst in and nodded at Harry, but focused on Fleamont. Fleamont found his hand on his wand. That was a bad sign, since Harry was the center of Sirius’s life. And an attack if Sirius thought something was wrong wouldn’t be out of the bounds of possibility. He was too impulsive even for a Gryffindor.
“Padfoot? What’s wrong?” Harry had turned around so that he was hanging over the back of the couch, his mouth open.
“I found Remus Lupin,” Sirius declared, and then flung himself into a chair and began to weep.
Harry hovered, looking distressed. Fleamont glanced at him and said, “Harry, why don’t you go to your room and write a letter to Draco Malfoy? Remember that we were discussing whether it might be safe to have him come over.” In reality, Fleamont had decided it would be safe when he had foolproof blackmail material on Lucius Malfoy, but Harry didn’t know that yet.
“Yeah,” Harry said, but he gave Sirius a worried glance.
“I’ll handle this,” Fleamont said, and spoke in the Grand voice that he knew Harry needed to hear just then, full of unwavering confidence. “I’ll make sure that both Padfoot and Moony are all right.”
Hearing the names that Sirius had told him so many stories about relaxed Harry, but Fleamont liked to think that part of it was his grandson learning to trust him, too. Harry nodded to him, and then turned and ran upstairs. Monster, the demon-leopard-shadow who had come to guard Harry in return for Pettigrew’s soul and a shard of Voldemort’s, flickered after him.
Fleamont locked the door with a simple spell that was still beyond Harry’s capability to undo and then knelt down in front of Sirius and looked hard at him. “What is going on?”
Sirius still appeared incoherent, so Fleamont called one of the house-elves without rising. “Brandy,” he told Zia, the ancient elf who appeared and looked appalled that Fleamont Potter was kneeling on the floor. “Make it as strong as you can without interfering with someone’s magic.” Elves could enhance the tastes of food as well as the effect of alcohol at command, although not many wizards ever bothered to find that out.
Sirius didn’t object, just staring straight ahead and opening and closing his hands. That spoke more than anything else to the state of shock he was in. Fleamont sat back, on the dark carpet, and frowned at him. He didn’t know why finding Remus Lupin, something Sirius had worked towards for months now, would damage him like this.
“Did Lupin say that he was loyal to Dumbledore and refuse to speak to you?” he asked.
Sirius snapped enough out of his mood to shake his head. But then he took in a breath to speak and simply let it go again without speaking.
This was getting on Fleamont’s nerves.
He reached out to take the glass of brandy that Zia had brought back, and handed it to Sirius. Sirius took it and swallowed it as if it was tea, and then abruptly spluttered and choked. He stared at the glass, then said, “What is it? I need it,” and drank before Fleamont could give him an answer.
“Enhanced brandy,” Fleamont said. He managed to control the urge to shake the answer out of Sirius, but it was difficult. “Will you please tell me exactly what’s got into you? If Lupin didn’t refuse to come with you or say he didn’t want anything to do with you, why isn’t he here?”
“He’s so ill that he can’t move.”
Fleamont narrowed his eyes as he stood. “It’s been too many days since the last full moon for that.”
Sirius choked, but not in a way that said it was the brandy’s fault. He put the glass down on the table next to him and whispered, “It isn’t that. He sought out some kind of experimental ritual to try and cure his lycanthropy. It sickened him. I think his own magic is turning against him.”
Fleamont wanted to sigh, but that would probably only injure Sirius’s feelings. And he did know the kind of desperation that could drive someone to do that. He had never experienced it himself without coming up with a solution, but he’d felt a shadow of it when he was seeking Harry.
“All right. Then can you bring him here so that I can see about trying to redirect his magic and save his life?”
Sirius looked up with damp eyes. “You’d do that?”
“You’re Harry’s godfather, and Lupin was one of your best friends.” Fleamont considered Sirius for a moment. “I remember the boy when he visited you here a few times after fifth year. I wouldn’t want someone I knew like that to suffer and die when I could prevent it.”
Sirius sent the brandy flying when he leaped up and wrapped his arms around Fleamont, but the house-elves could clean the carpet.
“Just a few steps more, Moony, that’s it…”
Fleamont kept a smile on his face with an effort. Lupin looked truly terrible as he limped up the twisting path to the front door.
His eyes were sunken in his head, and his skin was grey in a fashion that Fleamont knew was due to more than the full moon; he hadn’t looked like that the one full moon he had spent at Potter Place. His left arm was twisted and seemed to hang like a vine down the side of his body. Now and then he shuddered as if he was either cold or drunk.
“Just one more step, Moony,” Sirius whispered, and Lupin’s foot slid slowly over the threshold at last.
A flickering shadow charged past Fleamont even as he was opening his mouth to welcome Lupin. Something reared up and screamed in Lupin’s face, and he stumbled back, eyes wide and shocked, nearly falling before Sirius caught him. Fleamont stared at the shadow-leopard on its hind legs, forepaws braced on either side of the doorframe, growl fading to a deep rumble as Lupin retreated.
“Monster!” Harry called from behind Fleamont.
Fleamont turned to frown at his grandson as he ran into the entrance hall, across the black-and-white alternating flagstones. “Harry, what did I tell you about getting control of Monster?”
“I was trying, Grand.” Harry did huge, injured eyes well, Fleamont had to admit. “But Monster reacted the way he did when that woman in Diagon Alley tried to touch me. He ran away from me, and all I sensed from him was that there was a threat.” He peered around Fleamont to look at Lupin. “Is Mr. Lupin the threat? Why?”
At least he sounded appropriately horrified, Fleamont thought. Then again, Sirius had frequently told Harry tales of the Marauders, and he had looked forward to meeting another one. “I don’t know. Monster.” He spoke the shadow-leopard’s name firmly, stepping forwards.
The creature didn’t turn to look at him. Fleamont reached out and tried to cast a Restraining Spell that he had used when James’s unruly Crup puppy had got out of control a few times. But the spell went right through Monster’s head and back, and a second later, so did Fleamont’s hand.
But shadow or not, it was abundantly clear that Remus Lupin wouldn’t be entering the house as long as Monster was on guard.
Fleamont sighed and stepped around Monster, to face Lupin. “Remus,” he said, with a nod. “What exactly was the content of the ritual that you performed on yourself?”
Lupin might not have heard him. His heartbroken eyes were locked on Harry and Monster. Then he closed them, but Fleamont had no trouble in remembering what they looked like. He’d had to see them often enough when Lupin visited. “I’m the threat,” he whispered. “You don’t want a werewolf around Harry. I should have known that.”
“No,” Fleamont said at once. “I had a werewolf over as guest last week, and Monster didn’t react this way.”
“What werewolf? You didn’t tell me that!”
Sirius sounded nearly as injured as Harry was probably making his face behind Fleamont. Fleamont shrugged. “You didn’t need to know.” He looked at Lupin again. “I need to know the content of the ritual so that I can eliminate that as a possibility.”
Lupin swallowed. “The hag I visited infected me with a Blood-Devourer.”
Fleamont reacted without thinking about it. “You’re an idiot.”
“Don’t call my friend that!” Sirius bristled the way he did when someone insulted Harry, moving in between Fleamont and Lupin.
“I’ll call him what he is,” Fleamont said. “And an idiot is far worse than a werewolf.” Lupin was recoiling again, the way he had from Monster. “Why would you allow someone to infect you with a parasite that will eat your magic?”
“She—she promised that it would cleanse my blood and eat out the curse.” Lupin was trembling, and now his left arm drifted around like a vine again, and Fleamont paid closer attention to it. Yes, the skin was rippling and bobbing as if a swarm of insects was moving about underneath it. “Lycanthropy is a blood-borne curse. It needs someone drawing blood with teeth or claws to spread it, a-and it stays in the blood of someone infected with it. That’s why it transforms me the way it does, because the blood runs all through the body and can affect the whole thing.”
“All true. None of that excuses your idiocy.”
Lupin closed his eyes. “I thought it might kill me,” he whispered, “and I considered that an acceptable price to be free of this curse. Or it might eat my magic, and then I could live the rest of my life as a Muggle. I don’t—I hate what I am. Who I am.”
“Oh, Moony,” Sirius said, and hugged him hard. “I don’t want to lose you this way. Fleamont can fix it, of course.” And he turned around and stared hopefully at Fleamont as if he hadn’t just made an impossible promise on his behalf.
Fleamont shook his head. “He can’t stay here. Monster is right about the level of threat he poses.”
“Why?” Sirius moved in front of Lupin as if that might shield him from Fleamont’s sight and change his answer somehow.
“Because the Blood-Devourer will seek to spread to someone young with powerful magic. And Remus is right about blood being the mechanism of transfer. It’ll compel Lupin to scratch Harry or bite him, or otherwise touch him in some way that involves a little blood being spilled.”
“I’m not taking him back to Knockturn Alley.”
“He can stay in one of the buildings on the grounds,” Fleamont said, and stepped out through the door, shutting it firmly behind him. At least Monster should prevent Harry from following. “Obviously, Monster doesn’t object to his presence on the estate, only in the same house as Harry.”
“You should take me back to Knockturn Alley. Leave me to die, Padfoot.”
“Do stop the self-pitying monologues, Remus, it will make it considerably easier for me to help you,” Fleamont said briskly as he strode towards the far buildings.
“How can you help him if the Blood-Devourer makes it hopeless?”
“I may be able to come up with a solution,” Fleamont said. He didn’t know that for certain—he’d never dealt with the kind of magic that created Blood-Devourers or kept them active in someone’s blood personally—but he knew the adamantine determination rising in himself. That meant he would do what had to be done.
“Why not now?”
“I need quiet and time to research, Sirius.”
Luckily, that at least stopped the whinging from behind him. Fleamont unlocked the door of the nearest building and moved in to look around. Euphemia had once used this place as a storage shed for some of her less delicate Potions ingredients that didn’t need such precisely controlled temperatures as those in the lab or the shelter of thick stone walls.
Fleamont breathed through the pain that the memories of his wife always brought him and let his eyes range along the inset shelves in the walls, the thick glass vials, the disused cauldrons. Then he nodded and began Transfiguring them into furniture. The largest cauldron became a bed, which Fleamont managed to add springs to after a short struggle of finding the softest places in the metal. Then he picked up the glass vials and transformed them into blankets. For whatever reason, he’d always done well with Transfiguring glass to cloth.
When he turned around again, Lupin was eyeing the bed longingly, but he cleared his throat. “I don’t need a place as fine as this, Mr. Potter.”
“I’d hope that you’d listen to me about what I want to provide.”
Fleamont wasn’t sure what expression rested on his face at the moment, but Lupin glanced at the floor like a submissive dog instead of challenging him. “Of course, Mr. Potter. Thank you.”
“I’ll also get some food out here so that you can cook if you want,” Fleamont continued, altering the configuration of the wall with the shelves so that a small counter stuck out of it instead. “Or I can have our house-elves prepare meals for you if you’d prefer that.”
“I think meals prepared by the house-elves might be best. There’s no telling what kind of contamination I might spread around if I cut myself with a knife while I was chopping up ingredients. And you said the Blood-Devourer might compel me to do that?”
“It could,” Fleamont agreed with a nod. “I appreciate that you’re willing to take precautions to spare my grandson as much as possible, Remus.”
“I was willing to die so that other people didn’t.” Lupin sank down in the middle of the bed, and Fleamont Transfigured a few pillows. “How could I possibly expose him to danger?”
Fleamont nodded again, made a few more minutes of small talk, and then left the building. He was walking towards the house with the adamantine wall building in his mind again when Sirius caught up with him.
“I hope that you don’t plan to bar him from the house indefinitely.”
“Monster won’t let him in unless Harry’s outside, and it won’t let him near Harry at all. That’s as good a demonstration as any of the danger your friend could be to my grandson.”
Sirius caught Fleamont’s arm, pulling him to a halt. Fleamont sighed and faced him. He’d had to learn to subdue the reflexes that once had won him duels around Sirius and Harry, but this was the closest that he’d come to pulling his wand in some time. He was more on edge about Remus Lupin being infected with a deadly parasite around Harry than he’d believed. And the protections that he’d woven around Harry might not be able to cope with it.
“He’s my last friend,” Sirius whispered. “The last of the Marauders. I want him to live with us, to—be part of Harry’s life.”
“Then I’m going to have to remove the parasite from him.”
“I thought that couldn’t be done.”
“I’m going to do it.” Fleamont walked towards the house again, and found Monster and Harry waiting for him in the doorway. “I’m not going to let anything endanger Harry.”
“Will Mr. Lupin be okay?”
Harry’s face was turned up to him as Fleamont came through the door, and Fleamont ruffled his hair gently. Harry leaned against his leg. He was taller now than he had been. The result of good nutrition and some potions that he would probably have to take for a few years.
Fleamont was not going to lose him, and he was not going to disappoint him. He would cure the Blood-Devourer.
And just because it hadn’t been done before didn’t mean that it couldn’t be done. It meant that the people who had come before him had not been sufficiently determined.
Perhaps I can’t fault them for it. None of them were Potters.