Title: Lord Remus and the Potions Master
Email: gothikmaus @ hotmail.com
Summary: Master and the Wolf Fest Challenge # 36: "AU. In desperation, Lord Remus Lupin vowed to gave half of his gold to any male who could cure him or if she was a maiden marry her. But the poor and unattractive Potions Master didn't want the gold... "
Obligatory disclaimer: All characters in the Harry Potter universe belong to JK Rowling. I'm just a devoted fan with an overactive imagination.
A/N: Many, many thanks to Tangerine, who beta-read this story. I would use far too many colons without her. ;-)
Lord Remus and the Potions Master
Once upon a time, in a very far-off country, there lived a happy young boy called Remus Lupin. He was practising his bow with his best friend one day, when he accidentally shot an arrow in the woods surrounding his father's castle.
"I dare you to go and fetch it," challenged his friend, a dark-haired boy whose name was Sirius Black. "Or are you too scared to do it?"
Young Remus's parents had forbidden him to go into the forest, for it was said to be infested by dark creatures, but he didn't want to be a coward in his dear friend's eyes and so he went. He followed a narrow path through the trees, going deep into the forest until he couldn't see Sirius any longer, but his arrow was nowhere to be seen.
All of a sudden he saw a small, ruined hut and stopped dead in his tracks. It was the Shrieking Shack, home of Bellatrix, the wicked witch who turned innocent men into beasts. His grandfather used to tell him scary stories about her, a mean woman who cursed people just for her twisted fun, but Remus had always thought they were mere legends.
Frightened, he was about to run back to the castle, when the front door opened and a woman appeared on the threshold. She was tall and thin, her face was white and her hair was black. She looked young and beautiful, but Remus's mother had told him that witches could keep their youthful appearances even when they were old, because they bathed in young maidens' blood.
"Who are you? What are you doing in my forest?" She demanded staring straight into the boy's eyes.
"I'm Remus Lupin," he answered. "I didn't want to disturb you, I was only looking for my arrow."
"Remus Lupin, you say." The witch moved closer to him and Remus took a step back. "Are you Lord Lupin's son?"
"Yes, madam, I am," Remus said, hoping that if he was polite, perhaps the witch wouldn't hurt him.
"And tell me, young Remus, do you like the moon?" She asked.
"Yes, madam, I do," the boy replied.
"I'll give you a gift then," the witch drew a wand from her ragged green dress and pointed it at the boy. "*Lupus in homine*!"
Remus felt a sharp pain in the middle of his chest as a shaft of red light hit him and he fell on his knees, shudders running through his body.
"What have you done to me?" he whimpered.
Bellatrix gave an evil, high-pitched laugh. "I cursed you, you foolish boy. On the nights when the moon is full, you'll turn into a bloodthirsty beast, half man and half wolf. You'll hunt human beings and your bite will be contagious - even if you don't kill the people you attack, they'll be condemned to live the same cursed life."
"You... You're lying!" Remus cried, not wanting to believe the witch's cruel words.
"You'll see, young Remus, the full moon is only a fortnight away," Bellatrix replied and before the poor boy could say another word, she disappeared with a loud crack.
Remus returned to the castle in tears and told his parents what had happened in the forest. Lord and Lady Lupin didn't know what to do; Remus was their only child and they loved him more than anything in the world, but if the witch's words were true, their lives, and the ones of all the people at court, were in danger. They decided to lock their son in a cell in the dungeons during the night of the full moon, hoping Bellatrix had lied and there would be no transformation.
The transformation took place, however, and was very painful. When Remus's mother opened the heavy dungeon door the next morning, she found him curled up on the floor, his arms and legs covered with scratches and bruises. The mattress and blankets the servants had placed in the cell the previous evening were torn to pieces and the boy was shivering from the cold. Later, while she was tucking him into bed, she noticed a single silver hair standing out among the golden-brown locks.
And so the boy's life had changed. Once a month he would go down the stairs leading to his cell in the dungeons and spend the night clawing and biting himself, for the monster didn't have any other target toward which to direct its ferocity.
His parents did all they could to make his life as happy as possible: they bought him horses, asked their gamekeeper, an enormous man called Rubeus Hagrid, to breed a stag, Remus's favourite animal, and even brought two jesters to the castle, two red-headed twins called Fred and George. The boy rode his horses, admired his stag and smiled at the jesters' jokes, but he couldn't forget his curse.
One day his father died and Remus became the new Lord Lupin. His mother, feeling her end drawing near too, suggested to her son to get married, but the young lord refused. He told her that monsters such as himself didn't have the right to be loved. His mother wept, but accepted his choice; she passed away a few months later.
The years went by. Lord Remus lived alone in his castle, with just his servants keeping him company. His vaults were full of gold, but his life was empty. One fine morning he summoned his old and trusted chamberlain, Sir Albus Dumbledore, and told him, "The curse that afflicts me is making me weaker and weaker. Half of my hair is grey and my appearance is not that of a man my age. I've made a decision: I will give half of my gold to any man who will manage to cure me. And if my saviour is a maiden, I will marry her. Send men all over my lands, I want everyone to know this."
In the following months hundreds of people went to the castle. Merchants and peasants, hunters and priests, each bringing what they thought would cure their lord: spices from far-off countries and strangely coloured berries, rare animals and prayer books, but nothing worked. After a while people gave up trying to find a remedy for his illness and Lord Remus went back to his lonely life.
One day a fortune teller arrived at court. She had heard the tale of the unlucky young lord and, while she didn't know how to cure him, she offered to read his future. She sat down at Lord Remus's feet and shuffled her tarots, laid them face down on the floor and asked him to choose four cards. She formed a cross-shaped figure with them and placed a fifth card in the middle.
"Oh. I see, I see," the woman said. "It's all very clear, the tarots never lie."
"What's clear?" Lord Remus asked, leaning forward to look at the cards. "Do tell me, please."
"The first card is about your personal situation. You picked Justice: it means you'll need to ask yourself a lot of questions and get to know and accept your true nature in order to achieve better physical conditions. The second card is about the situation around you. You picked the Wheel of Fortune: this arcanum predicts great changes, but it doesn't say whether for the better or the worse. The third card is about your wishes. You picked The Sun: you wish for happiness, health and love, but don't know how to reach them. And finally the fourth, the card of reality. You picked Death."
"Death?" Lord Remus asked, alarmed.
"Don't be afraid, it doesn't mean you're going to die," the fortune teller explained. "It is a very positive arcanum: it's about change and improvement, but it means fear and doubt too."
"What about the fifth card?" Lord Remus asked, eyeing the tarot lying in the middle of the other four.
"Oh, that's the most important of all, the arcanum you get by summing the four cards you chose. You got The Lovers: it means you will have to face a very difficult choice. If you do the right thing you will fulfil your wish, but happiness will not have the guise you expect."
"What do you mean?" Lord Remus inquired.
"More I cannot say."
With that the woman neatly placed the tarots in a ragged pouch and rose to her feet, the many necklaces she was wearing clinking as she stood, and wrapped herself up more tightly in her fringed shawl.
The next morning three strange people arrived at the castle. The first one was a man dressed in lilac robes, his long and wavy golden hair pulled back in a low ponytail; the second one was a young girl with very long blond hair and big, round grey eyes; the third one was a tall man with an aquiline nose, his clothes, hair and eyes black.
"Your Majesty, we're here to help you," said the blond man in a loud, cheery voice, bowing and making an exaggerated flourish with his right hand.
"And how do you intend to do that?" Lord Remus asked, a note of sad resignation in his tired voice. "All those who have tried have failed so far. Why are you so sure you'll succeed?"
"Because we can use magic," the girl replied.
Lord Remus sat up in his throne. Magic had been the cause of all his problems. Perhaps these people knew a way to counter Bellatrix's curse. He thought of the fortune teller's words. He would have to make a choice, one that could change his life, lead him to happiness and love. He looked carefully at the girl. Well, she was most definitely unusual, not what he thought his wife would look like, but the fortune teller had predicted that too. He took a deep breath and made up his mind.
"Very well. Show me what you can do."
The blond man took a step forward and drew a wand from his robes. He cleared his throat, closed his eyes for a moment and said, "*Sanatum es*!" A few pink sparks flickered out of the tip of his wand, but other than that, nothing happened.
Lord Remus stared at him. "You're telling me that I'm cured?"
"Yes, Your Majesty, totally cured! As fit as a fiddle!"
Lord Remus asked the trio to stay the night. The moon would be full and, if he was indeed cured, he would give half of his gold to the blond wizard. But, alas, as soon as the moon rose in the sky, his body started to change and he spent another night in his cold cell in the dungeons biting himself and scratching at the walls.
The following day the man was dismissed and the girl said she would try to cure Lord Remus before the next full moon. Lord Remus was very hopeful and offered to have her and the black-haired man as guests until then. He showed them the castle and the gardens, let them ride his horses and fed them delicious food. The girl, whose name was Luna, was lively and loquacious and liked talking about animals that Lord Remus had never heard about. She was nice and friendly, but he realised he didn't want her as a wife. If that was the price he had to pay to return to normality, though, he would bow his head and accept his destiny.
The tall wizard in black robes seldom spoke and spent hours wandering through the gardens picking up plants and roots. Lord Remus was drawn to the strange, taciturn man. His name was Severus and he was as old as him, but, beside declaring he was a Potions master, he said nothing about himself or his past.
The day before the full moon Luna called Lord Remus outside in the gardens, composed a heart-shaped figure on the grass using orange radishes and asked him to step inside it. She walked around him holding a red candle and muttering something under her breath and finished the ritual saying, "*Amor Bonus*!" before blowing out the candle.
Lord Remus was rather sceptical about the method Luna had chosen to "cure" him and the mocking look on Severus's face did nothing to reassure him, but he smiled politely at the girl and thanked her all the same. The remedy, however, didn't work and that night he turned into a werewolf just like he had done for most of his life.
The next morning Luna left the castle. Lord Remus had lost all hopes of regaining a normal life and not even Fred and George's antics could bring a smile upon their lord's sad face. After dinner he called for Severus and when the wizard arrived he asked him, "I want you to be honest, Severus. Will you be able to cure me? I don't want to raise my hopes just to be disappointed again."
"I will be honest, my lord," Severus answered. His voice was deep and mellow and Lord Remus wished Severus was more talkative, so he could listen to the lovely sound more often. "I know of one potion that can help you greatly. If you drink it every evening in the week preceding the full moon, you will keep your human mind during the transformation. You'll still change into a werewolf, but it will prevent you from turning into a savage, irrational beast."
"I see," Lord Remus muttered. Two contrasting emotions welled up inside him: on the one hand, even if Severus's potion worked, it wouldn't cure him completely and he would still have to go through the pain that always accompanied the transformation; on the other hand he would keep his sanity and wouldn't be a danger for anyone. He pondered over the situation for some time and finally said, "Very well, I'm willing to try."
The following month Severus spent several hours a day collecting more plants from the gardens. His evenings were spent reading long and ancient-looking parchments in a room in the dungeons that Lord Remus had placed at his disposal. He had specifically asked for a scarcely lit place, explaining that direct daylight might affect some of the ingredients. Lord Remus was very curious, he remembered Severus calling the potion "Wolfsbane" once, and he often watched the man work. When the day came for him to drink the first dose, he was beside himself with impatience.
"I hope you remembered everything I told you, my lord," Severus said holding a smoking goblet with both hands. "You cannot eat sugar while you're taking the Wolfsbane, did you inform the cooks about it?"
"Yes, I did. I've done everything you asked me to, Severus, I even removed the silver cutlery. I had no idea it could damage my health. Can I drink the potion now?"
Severus handed him the goblet. "One last thing, my lord," he said as Lord Remus began to drink. "The taste is rather foul."
Lord Remus made a disgusted face as he swallowed. "So I've noticed. You could've warned me before."
"Must have slipped my mind, my lord."
Lord Remus paused, the rim of the smoking goblet pressed lightly against his lower lip. It was the first time he had seen Severus... well, not quite smile, but the look on his face was definitely pleased.
Severus's velvety voice brought him out of his reverie. "Yes?"
"You should drink it all while it's still warm."
"Oh. Oh, yes. Yes." Feeling unusually queasy, he gulped down the rest of the Wolfsbane, grimaced and thanked Severus.
'It must be that disgusting potion,' he thought as he retired to his personal chambers. 'Yes, definitely.'
After drinking the Wolfsbane every evening for seven days, Lord Remus was ready to face the full moon. Severus had explained to him that he would still feel the usual pain during the change from man to wolf and back, but he felt strangely calm. Even after all the failures he had gone through in the previous months, he wasn't discouraged. Severus hadn't promised him a miraculous cure; he had simply offered a way to solve part of his problem and had been completely honest about it. Lord Remus trusted him like he had never trusted anyone, and he was sure the potion would work.
When the transformation began, he could feel fur sprouting over his sweaty skin, teeth lengthening in his mouth, every single bone reshaping and rearranging itself in his body, all with a lucidity he had never experienced before. When it was over and he found himself curled up on the cold stone floor, still wheezing and shaking, he thought that maybe it hadn't been worth it, maybe it was better if he wasn't aware of what really happened during those endless minutes.
And then he realised he was thinking. He looked at his forelegs, sniffed at the air, felt his tail thump on the floor. He was still himself. He let out a contented whine and fell peacefully asleep for the first time in more than two decades.
He woke up shortly before dawn. After changing back into his human form, he wrapped a blanket - not shredded by his own teeth for once - around himself and waited for his old nurse to come and fetch him. But when the heavy door of the dungeon cell opened, he didn't see Madame Pomfrey smiling at him. A tall and lean figure was standing in the threshold instead.
"S-Severus?" Lord Remus muttered squinting his eyes.
"Yes, it's me, my lord," Severus said entering the dark cell. He knelt down beside him and brought a small goblet to Lord Remus's lips. "Drink this, it will help you regain your strength."
Lord Remus did as he was told, swallowing the sweetish mixture slowly as Severus's hand supported his head. He felt the ache in his abused muscles subside and fresh energy spread throughout his body.
"Thank you," he whispered. "It worked. The potion. I still had my mind after the transformation."
Severus made a small noise in his throat. "Of course it worked. I know what I'm doing."
Lord Remus smiled at the slightly outraged tone in the Potions master's voice. Of course it worked. He closed his eyes and rested his head against Severus's chest.
"I'm tired," Lord Remus said. "Take me to my chambers, please."
Severus silently helped him to his feet, placed an arm firmly around his waist and walked him to his personal rooms. Once they were in the bedroom, he pulled the bedcover back and sat him down on the immaculate sheets.
"Do you need anything else, my lord?" Severus asked after tucking him up.
Lord Remus shook his head. "No," he answered in a thready voice. "Thank you, Severus. For everything. I'll see you at lunch."
Severus nodded and left the room.
Lord Remus woke up hours later, tired but peaceful. He got dressed and slowly made his way to the dining room. Severus was already there, waiting for him.
"Good afternoon, my lord."
Lord Remus smiled warmly at him. "Good afternoon, Severus. Have you eaten yet?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Oh." Lord Remus's shoulders slumped slightly. "I thought perhaps we could have lunch together."
Severus hesitated. "I could... stay here while you eat, if you'd like."
The smile was back on Lord Remus's face at once. "Yes, thank you."
They didn't talk much during the meal, but Lord Remus seemed to enjoy the Potions master's company and kept glancing his way and smiling. When he was done with the dessert Severus spoke.
"Please, Severus," Lord Remus interrupted him. "Don't call me that, it sounds so... formal, so detached. Call me, Remus."
"As you wish, Lord Remus," Severus replied. "I wanted to talk to you about my reward."
The food in Lord Remus's stomach suddenly seemed to turn into lead. His reward. Of course, Severus would want the payment for his work, he had deserved it. Giving him half of his gold wasn't a problem for Lord Remus, his vaults were bursting with it, but that also meant that, having honoured his commitment, the Potions master was free to go. He suddenly found himself incapable of speaking.
"Oh, of course. The gold." He tried very hard to control his voice. "I'll... tell my servants to prepare it for you. I'm sure they won't take long."
"Lord Remus I... I don't want the gold."
Lord Remus blinked, not sure he had heard right. "You... don't?"
Severus looked down at his hands. "No, I'd rather... stay here, if you allow me."
"Stay here?" Lord Remus couldn't believe his ears. "But... surely you have a family to go back to. A... wife?" He didn't know why the thought of Severus going back to a happy, smiling wife hurt so much.
Severus snorted and made a disgusted face. "I don't have a wife. Who would want to marry me?"
"Why?" Severus repeated in a disbelieving tone. "Did you see my face? Did you see my *nose*?"
Lord Remus frowned. "What's wrong with your nose?"
"Huh!" Severus threw up his hands. "Never mind. If my presence is not welcome here, I shall leave. But I don't want all that gold, it wouldn't be prudent to travel with such a fortune. A pouch of galleons and some food will suffice."
"No!" Lord Remus exclaimed and grasped Severus's arm tightly. "I don't want you to go. I want you to stay. With me." His eyes were huge and Severus noticed their colour for the first time: amber. He had never seen human eyes of that colour before. "Please."
The Potions master swallowed and nodded. "Very well. I will stay here and brew the Wolfsbane Potion for you. Your hospitality in this castle will be the only compensation I ask."
The smile that appeared on Lord Remus's face caused a weird fluttery sensation in Severus's stomach.
"Thank you," the nobleman said and took Severus's hands in his, finally understanding the fortune teller's words. It wouldn't be easy, but he had made the right choice.