Summary: Remus wants to try an experimental new potion; Sirius fears what it may do.
Disclaimer: The characters and the potion belong to J.K. Rowling
Author’s Note: The Humbugs (a British sweet) are here in Sam Vimes’s honour. (They make multiple appearances in his wonderful Stealing Harry. http://oojahs.snoo.org/stealingharry/stealingharry.htm
The partial list of Wolfsbane Potion ingredients is borrowed from After the End by Arabella and Zsenya. I appreciated the thought they put into the reason for each ingredient. http://www.sugarquill.net Read both stories if you haven’t already.
Dedicated: To cc the wolf. This story was born when cc the wolf posted a challenge at SB/RL GloveSmack asking for a story in which Remus takes Wolfsbane Potion, but it doesn’t work correctly. Instead of suppressing the wolf even while Remus is in wolf-form, it suppresses the human even while he’s in human-form. She had other details as well, which I strayed from, but the essential essence of her challenge is here. I hope you like it, cc.
“Pity sugar makes it useless.”—Remus Lupin, in Prisoner of Azkaban
When the weather was pleasant, and sometimes even if it was not, Sirius liked to apparate to within a few blocks of his flat and to walk the rest of the way. He felt more connected to his Muggle neighbors if he had this daily opportunity to wave “hello” and perhaps stop in a local shop for a Muggle newspaper or at the greengrocer for some fresh fruit.
Today, he was especially glad that he hadn’t apparated directly to the door of his flat, for Remus, well aware of Sirius’s habit, was waiting for him on the front stairs of their building. Remus was chewing on his lower lip as he read a book lying across his knees. He looked up only when Sirius’s shadow fell across the pages.
“Read this,” Remus commanded as he turned back one page and handed the paper-bound book to Sirius.
Sirius glanced at the cover, saw that it was the quarterly journal of the Potionbrewers’ Guild, and sat beside Remus to read the article, “Potion to Subdue or Reduce the Violent Behaviours of Werewolves.” Sirius skimmed through the article, noted that wolfsbane, a highly toxic poison, featured prominently in the list of ingredients, that the longest the potion had been tested on any subject was only ten months, and that it had been successfully tested on only seven subjects. He wondered how many subjects it had been ‘unsuccessfully’ tested upon. The article was silent on that subject, but Sirius had a strong suspicion that many werewolves had died testing the early versions. Yet, for the seven test subjects, it had allowed them to remain peaceful through the full moon.
“It sounds promising. Someday, when it’s been tested more—”
“I want to try it,” Remus interrupted. “The recipe is included in the article.”
“I’m going to try it,” Remus said with that note of determination in his voice that said all too clearly that there was no point in arguing with him. Yet, Sirius tried anyway.
“It’s barely been tested—”
“It worked for the seven they tested it on.”
“— and there’s no way to know about long-term side effects yet.”
“I’ll need your help with preparing and adding the wolfsbane. You know I can’t stand to be in the same room as the stuff.”
“Wolfsbane is toxic.”
“To humans,” Remus said, “but if I were human, I wouldn’t need to try this.”
“You don’t need to try this.” Sirius grasped Remus’s forearm, as close to an intimate gesture as he dared while sitting in full view of the neighbors. “You have us to get you through the full moon. You aren’t violent when we run free together. And even when we have to stay locked up, we don’t let you maul yourself.”
Unfortunately, more and more recent full moons had been spent locked up. Unless James and Sirius were both present to control the wolf, Remus was unwilling to risk running free, and auror-training meant that James and Sirius’s time was not always their own. The best they could arrange some months was just one of them with Remus.
“You can’t always be with me. Remember March? Just Peter and I. What the hell was poor Wormtail supposed to do when I decided to tear myself apart?”
“I’m so sorry, Moony. I promise that’ll never happen again.” Sirius leaned closer as he spoke and briefly rested his chin on Remus’s shoulder. He longed to kiss him to seal the promise.
Remus smiled faintly. “I’m not angry; I’m just making a point. And I don’t want you making promises you can’t keep. There’s a war going on, Padfoot, and you’re on the frontlines. You can’t say, ‘Oops, can we suspend this battle until tomorrow night? I have to go take care of my werewolf lover during the full moon.’ And what about James? Lily’s due in less than two months. He’s going to be a father, Padfoot. Between Lily, the baby, and being an auror, his dance card is full. He doesn’t have time to go romping through the woods with me.”
“He likes romping through the woods with you, even if he is just a stupid ungulate who gets his antlers stuck in low branches.”
“I know, but—if this potion works, none of you will need to spend the full moon with me. You can still spend the moon with me because you want to—if you have the time—but you won’t need to. I won’t be a burden. I don’t want to be a burden.”
“You aren’t a burden.”
Remus didn’t argue. He simply gave a Sirius a look of disbelief as if what Sirius had said was so patently untrue that it wasn’t worth arguing. Remus won a lot of arguments that way.
“Please, Moony,” Sirius tightened his grip on Remus’s arm. “Don’t put yourself at risk this way. I can’t lose you.”
Remus put his own hand atop Sirius’s for just a moment and then stood up. “You won’t; not from this potion, at least. And if this potion works, I won’t kill myself during a full moon either.” Self-mutilation during a full moon, the most common cause of death for werewolves. Sirius had no argument against the Wolfsbane Potion that could outweigh that risk. He took Remus’s offered hand and allowed Remus to pull him to his feet.
“I’ll make it,” Sirius said. At least if he made it himself, he’d know that it had been made correctly.
* * * * *
“Next month, we are not making this in the kitchen,” Remus complained as he came into the kitchen. He had one hand covering his mouth and pinching his nose shut. “It smells like shit. Troll shit that’s fermented in the summer sun and then been mixed with putrid bog slime. Everything in the kitchen reeks of it.”
“It’s not that bad,” Sirius said as he ladled some of the smoking brew into a brass goblet. He hardly noticed any scent from the potion when he was human. After Remus had begun complaining yesterday, the fourth day taking the potion, Sirius had given it a sniff as Padfoot. He could smell most of the various ingredients including sheep’s brain, poppy juice, needleberries, and of course, wolfsbane. He didn’t mind any of those scents; however, he knew that the scent of wolfsbane repelled werewolves, not dogs.
“You’re not the one who has to drink it,” Remus snapped as he unwrapped a peppermint Humbug and put it on the kitchen counter.
“You don’t have to drink it either,” Sirius pointed out as he gave Remus the goblet. “I’d rather you didn’t drink it. Sodding experimental potion.”
Remus took a small gulp, shuddered, and then drained the entire goblet. He slammed the empty goblet onto the counter and immediately put the sweet into his mouth to chase the foul taste away.
Sirius watched as Remus stood braced against the counter, eyes closed, and utterly focused on the minty sweet he was rolling around in his mouth to erase every last vestige of the Wolfsbane Potion.
“Better?” he asked when a scowling Remus opened his eyes again. Remus raised two fingers in a gesture he rarely made and walked out of the room. “Two more doses,” Sirius thought as he put the lid back on the cauldron and renewed the charm to keep the potion warm. “And two more days of Remus acting like an arse.”
“Let’s go for a walk,” Remus called from the living room. “I need fresh air.”
Remus waited impatiently by the front door of the flat while Sirius put on socks and his trainers. As soon as he saw that Sirius was almost ready, he opened the door and headed out. Sirius had to hurry to catch up. When they reached the street, Sirius wanted to walk beside Remus, but Remus increased his pace just enough to keep half a step ahead of Sirius. Just behind his mate’s shoulder was Padfoot’s usual place beside the wolf, but not Sirius’s usual place beside Remus.
Mrs. Walsh, an elderly neighbor, was just returning from her twilight walk to the park where she would put out bowls of food for stray dogs and cats. Remus slowed as they reached her front stairs, and Sirius thought that he was going to help her carry her shopping trolley up the steps as he often did.
“Feeding the strays in the park again, Mrs. Walsh?” Sirius said with a smile. “I know if I was—”
“Stupid cats and even more stupid domesticated curs,” Remus snapped at her. “If they can’t hunt to feed themselves, just let them die.”
Mrs. Walsh just stared at him open-mouthed. Her shock at hearing something so un-Remus-like come out of his mouth seemed to stun her into silence. As Remus walked away, Sirius lingered behind to help her with the trolley.
“Please excuse him for saying that,” Sirius said quietly. “He hasn’t been feeling well for a few days. He’s taking it out on everyone.”
“Don’t do that again,” Remus said when Sirius caught up to him near the park. “I don’t need you to make my apologies.”
“Maybe you don’t,” Sirius said with a laugh, “but the wolf does, and don’t tell me that wasn’t that wolf’s temper showing.”
“I am the wolf. You think it’s a separate entity, but it’s not.” Remus was gazing around the park as he spoke.
“I know. It’s just semantics; sometimes it’s easier to talk about as if you were two separate people in one body. And your wolf half has definitely gotten stronger since you started taking that damn potion.”
Remus was now facing into the breeze and seemed to concentrating on some scent carried by the air. Sirius breathed deeply but couldn’t detect whatever it was that held Remus’s attention. Not for the first time, he regretted that he didn’t have Padfoot’s keen sense of smell in his human form. Usually when Remus was human, his sense of smell was hardly any better than Sirius’s, but nothing was normal this week.
“What is it?” Sirius asked.
Remus smiled faintly and returned his attention to Sirius. “Some idiot human brought a bitch in heat to the park. He’ll be beating them off with a stick to get her home unmolested.” He stepped closer and nuzzled his nose in Sirius’s hair. “You smell better.” Remus’s pressed one hand into the small of Sirius’s back while the other hand began to unbuckle his belt.
“Not here,” Sirius said laughing as he grabbed Remus’s wrist.
“Now,” Remus said. “I want you now.” He pressed Sirius backward toward a tree. Sirius stumbled as his heel caught an exposed root, and he fell off balance into the tree trunk, jarring his shoulder blade and the back of his head. Remus was already reaching for Sirius’s belt again, even as he stroked the back of Sirius’s head saying, “I’m sorry, Pads. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Remus, stop!” Sirius tried to push him away, but Remus merely stepped closer and kissed him. Realizing that Remus was beyond caring that they were in public, Sirius glanced at a shocked couple witnessing their encounter and concentrated on apparating to the front door of their flat. Remus appeared in the corridor a moment later.
“Now, but here,” Sirius said quickly before Remus could get angry. Remus watched without speaking while Sirius unlocked the door and disabled a ward. He followed Sirius into the flat, kicked the door shut behind them, and wrapped his arms around Sirius from behind.
“Mine,” he growled in Sirius’s ear.
“Yours,” Sirius answered as his shirt was pulled off roughly.
* * * * *
As auror-trainees, Sirius and James frequently performed such exciting tasks as standing guard duty at the Visitor’s Desk of the Ministry of Magic or sitting in classrooms hearing lectures on information they had studied years ago in their zeal to become aurors. Today they were sorting through ancient dusty scrolls in search of obscure items of information that one of their superiors wanted. The search might have been more interesting if they had known the significance of the information, but instead it felt like detention with Madam Pince. The only bright spot was that it was “detention” together.
“How’s Remus doing with that potion?” James asked as he pulled a heavy box off a shelf and began to examine the tags on the rods of the scrolls.
“I hate it,” Sirius growled as he sorted through another box. “He isn’t acting like Remus. He’s short-tempered, he’s rude, and he’s swearing like a longshoreman.”
James chuckled at that. “And your language is ever so clean.”
“James, he yelled at Mrs. Walsh yesterday.”
“And he—” Sirius suddenly fell silent and pressed his lips together tightly.
James looked up from the scroll he had just unrolled. “What?”
Sirius hesitated and then pulled back the sleeves of his robe to reveal finger shaped bruises on his wrists and forearms. “There are more. Let’s just say he’s getting really rough during sex.”
“Are you O.K.?” James asked worriedly.
Sirius nodded and pulled his sleeves back down. “He’s not trying to hurt me. He’s just strong, and he’s not being careful. I don’t mind, but—this just isn’t normal for Remus.”
“You know what this reminds me of, don’t you?”
“The first time we got him drunk. Yeah, I remember. His human restraint fell away, and the wolf came out to play.”
“The potion can’t be working right. Are you sure you made it correctly?”
“Of course I’m sure. Do you really think I’d let Remus drink a potion if I wasn’t completely certain that I’d made it correctly? The problem is, we don’t know how it’s supposed to work. We know it’s supposed to suppress the wolf behaviours during the full moon, but we don’t know what’s supposed to be happening this week. Maybe this is normal. Maybe it forces the wolf to come out early while Remus is still human and able to control it, sort of. Or maybe it just won’t work at all for Remus. The researchers only tested it on seven werewolves—all of them Eastern European—before they published the article. Maybe it won’t work for Remus they way it did for them. Maybe he was infected by a different strain of the curse or something.”
“I’m coming over tonight,” James said. “If he’s getting worse, I don’t want you dealing with him alone.”
* * * * *
Between a false alarm of a Death Eater attack that turned out to be Muggle fireworks, and a quick stop at the Potters’ home so James could check on a very pregnant Lily, Sirius and James got to the flat two hours later than Sirius had told Remus to expect him. If he’d stuck to the schedule, Remus would have already taken his sixth dose of Wolfsbane Potion. As much as he had been against the experiment, part of Sirius hoped that Remus would see it all the way through. Only if he did, would they be able to see if it had all been worth it.
“Where the fuck have you been?” Remus demanded the moment he heard the front door open. “You should have—” Then he caught sight of James coming in just behind Sirius. He sneered as he stared at James.
“That’s a wolf snarl,” Sirius thought as he saw Remus baring his teeth at the ‘intruder’ in their home. He heard James’s sharp intake of breath as he realized the same thing.
“What have you been doing?” Remus asked quietly as his stare shifted back to Sirius again. Somehow, Remus’s now apparent calm was more unnerving than an obvious rage. Sirius was uncomfortably reminded of how calm and matter-of-fact his father would become when he punished Sirius ‘for his own good.’
“We got called up to York because—”
“Perhaps I shouldn’t ask what you’ve been doing, but whom you’ve been doing?” Remus asked as he got up from his seat and walked slowly toward them. “Or do I even need to ask?”
“Go home, James,” Sirius said without taking his eyes off Remus.
“I’ve always known you wanted James.” Remus was very close now. He looked over Sirius’s shoulder at James. “Lily not interested in sex anymore now that she’s in her third trimester, so you decided to give Sirius a try?”
“Remus, this isn’t you,” Sirius said. He tentatively touched Remus’s arm. “You know I love you. Think what you’re saying.”
Remus ignored him other than pushing him aside so he could face James more directly. “He’s mine. Stay away.”
“Come sit on the sofa with me, Love,” Sirius cajoled as he reached out to stroke Remus’s cheek. “Did you eat dinner yet? We can send James out to get us some take-away. We’ll stay home, just you and me.”
Sirius glanced at James and saw that he was doing the right thing by keeping his eyes lowered submissively rather than staring back at Remus to challenge him, an unspoken, “You win; we don’t have to fight.”
“Go ahead, James; go get some take away,” Sirius urged again. He continued the calming strokes on Remus, on his cheek, on his neck, down his arm or his back. “Anything you get is fine. We’ll be here when you get back.”
James glanced up for just a moment and nodded. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Do you want me to see if Peter can come over for dinner too?” Although he seemed to addressing Remus and asking, “Do you want your whole pack together?” Sirius knew that the question was really addressed to him. “Do we need an extra person—someone who is neither Remus’s mate nor the one he’s accused of cheating with—to help control Remus?”
“We’ll be seeing him tomorrow. That’s soon enough,” Sirius said, “unless you want Peter to come over, Moony?”
Remus shook his head slightly. “Tomorrow.”
As soon as James left the flat, Remus visibly relaxed. Sirius stepped closer and wrapped his arms around Remus’s waist. “I’m yours,” he whispered in Remus’s ear. “You’re my mate. Prongs is just my friend. You know that.”
“Sometimes it’s hard not to be jealous,” Remus whispered back as he buried his face against Sirius’s throat, “ because I know you love him. You smell like dust—and like James.”
“But I don’t smell like I’ve had sex, do I?” Sirius asked. Remus shook his head. “And you know I don’t love him the same way I love you. Did you take tonight’s dose of potion yet?”
“Um-hmm, vile stuff. It took two Humbugs to get the taste out of my mouth.” Remus’s hands, which had been resting on Sirius’s shoulders, now began to stroke down his chest. Remus kissed a trail across Sirius’s cheekbone, down his nose, and to his lips. “Want to taste you,” Remus murmured against his lover’s mouth. One hand strayed lower and unbuttoned one button of Sirius’s robe just below his waist. Sirius tried to pull out of the embrace just as Remus slipped his hand inside the robe.
“Come to the sofa,” Sirius urged. Remus nodded and went with him, but he kept one arm wrapped possessively around Sirius’s waist the entire way. Sirius suddenly had visions of James returning laden with take-away only to walk in and see one of his friends buggering the other on the sofa. He couldn’t let Remus get any more aroused than he was already. “I need to get something to drink,” Sirius said as he broke away rather than sit down. “Sit down. I’ll get us both something from the kitchen and be right back.”
Sirius knew he’d have a few moments of solitude in the kitchen. The scent of Wolfsbane Potion was strongest in this room where he’d brewed it and was keeping it warm. Remus wouldn’t come in unless absolutely necessary. Sirius got three bottles of beer and tapped each with his wand to remove the caps. For a moment, he was tempted to get a sleeping potion from the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and pour some into Remus’s beer. Maybe keeping Remus unconscious was the best way to get through the next twenty hours until the full moon rose. However, with Remus’s current heightened sense of smell, he’d never be fooled.
The sound of the front door opening told him that James was back. He grabbed the bottles and hurried back into the living room. James was putting four newspaper cones on the coffee table in front of Remus. “Got an extra since you’re usually extremely hungry this week. Two have vinegar,” the way James and Sirius preferred their fish and chips, “and two don’t,” Remus’s preference, “but I lost track of which is which. We’ll figure it out.”
Remus was no longer sneering at James, but he was watching him closely and seemed tense again. Sirius handed Remus a beer, and then turned to give one to James. Behind him he heard a low growl. James heard it too. James reached for the beer with his left hand and kept the fingertips of his right hand touching the wand lying just out of sight on the chair beside his right leg. Sirius sat on the sofa, careful to sit on the opposite side of Remus from James’s chair. Remus would want to be between them; Sirius wouldn’t antagonize him by doing otherwise.
James made a move toward the food, but Remus growled again. James immediately withdrew his hand and put it where Sirius knew his wand to be.
“It’s O.K., Moony, you first,” Sirius said, and he resumed the soothing strokes down Remus’s arm and back. He looked toward James and willed him to remember wolf pack etiquette, “The alpha eats first. Don’t challenge him.”
“I was just going to figure out which two didn’t have vinegar for you,” James said. “Message received.”
Remus chose one of the newspaper cones, sniffed, and put it in front of Sirius. He selected another. “So why do you smell like dust?” he asked before he began to eat. Sirius told him about their uneventful day and then of the false alarm of the early evening. Sometime in the midst of his story, Sirius took the food that Remus had offered him. James continued to wait. When Remus finished his food, he grabbed the last two cones, sniffed one, and gave the other to James. Only then did James dare to eat.
“So did you go anywhere today?” Sirius asked.
“Couldn’t stand to stay penned up in here, could I? I apparated to the Forest of Dean and wandered a bit. I avoided any humans, so you don’t need to apologize to anyone behind my back again.” He leaned over to give Sirius a small nip on the shoulder, a reproving nip one gives a beloved packmate, not a bite meant to hurt. Sirius turned his head and nuzzled Remus’s hair as his lover bit his shoulder, but he looked up to see James watching with a worried frown. “I found a colony of bowtruckles and a glumbumble hive,” Remus continued when he sat up straight again.
“My compliments to the chef,” Sirius said. He tossed his wadded up newspaper at James and then lay down with his head on Remus’s leg. Remus began to comb his fingers through Sirius’s hair. “You should see how big Lily’s getting, Moony. She’s already bigger than when we saw her two weeks ago.”
Remus’s hand stilled just for a moment. “Is she? When did you see her?” Remus asked. His voice seemed calm, but Sirius could feel that Remus’s body had tensed. Sirius wondered what mistake he’d made this time.
“Tonight, just before I came home,” Sirius answered cautiously.
James must have picked up on the tension in Remus’s question, or more likely, in Sirius’s answer. He added, “My fault, not Sirius’s. I wanted to stop and see her before we came over here. We were only there for a minute.”
Remus didn’t reply, so Sirius couldn’t guess what taboo he’d broken, or Remus suspected he’d broken, but something was definitely wrong. Remus’s fingers tightened in Sirius’s hair, not as if he wanted to cause pain, but as if he was suddenly oblivious to any pain he might be causing. Far more troubling to Sirius was the way Remus was staring at James again.
“Remus?” Sirius sought Remus’s attention even as he tried to loosen Remus’s grip in his hair. “Moony, please let go.” When Remus began to growl at James, Sirius struggled to pull free. A moment later, he was thrown forward as Remus sprang toward James.
“STUPEFY!” James shouted, and Sirius saw Remus collapse onto the still seated James, carried forward by his own momentum.
“Are you O.K., Prongs?” Sirius asked as he gently lifted Remus into his arms.
“Fine. Is Moony O.K.?”
“He seems to be.” Sirius headed into the bedroom to lay his unconscious lover on the bed. He could sense James following close behind. He laid Remus on the nearest side of the bed and brushed a lock of hair off his cheek. “I told you I hate this damned potion,” Sirius said as he lay down on the bed beside his lover and placed his hand over the scarred hand before him
James sat at the foot of the bed. “So what the hell was that about?” Sirius noticed that James still had his wand in his hand even now that Remus was no threat.
“I don’t know,” Sirius admitted. “I’d only be guessing.”
“So guess. You’re the damn canine behaviour expert.”
“Maybe he was angry that I went to your house instead of coming straight home. I was late coming home, and he’d been worried about me, so—Or maybe he was just angry that I’d gone somewhere with you rather than coming straight home to him. He’s jealous of us.”
“You’re not my type.”
“He knows that. The wolf gets jealous anyway. Or—” Sirius hesitated. Maybe he shouldn’t share the third possibility with his friend.
Sirius sighed; James needed to know. “Maybe it had to do with Lily.”
“What about Lily?” James asked in a voice suddenly icy hard and dangerous.
“Lily’s pregnancy—it has to be weird for him,” Sirius said as he stroked Remus’s hair. “In a wolf pack, the alpha pair are the only ones with the right to mate and reproduce. But Remus and I can’t have kids, and you and Lily are having one instead. Our little pack is doing it all wrong.”
“So he’s jealous of me with you, and he’s jealous of me with Lily.” James’s voice still had the hard dangerous tone, so Sirius sat up to give his friend his full attention.
Sirius shook his head. “Jealous isn’t the right word with Lily. His human side has no interest in her—too female. As for the wolf, I don’t know if he even considers her part of our pack—too human. He’s just—” Sirius sought the right words to explain what Remus might be feeling. “It must seem ‘wrong’ to the wolf that you’re having children and he isn’t. Maybe he perceives that by fathering children, you’re declaring yourself our pack’s alpha and challenging him. Or more likely, he feels like you’ve left our pack and started one of your own. Or, the wolf just can’t figure it out, and he doesn’t like being confused.”
James stared down at Remus. “And what do wolves do to cubs from other packs?” A twitch of Remus’s hand drew Sirius’s attention before he could answer, but the angry tone in James’s voice had clearly said that he didn’t really need Sirius to explain that facet of wolf behaviour.
“I have some sleeping potion in here,” Sirius said as he headed into the bathroom. “Let’s give him some while he’s still groggy, and keep him out until morning.”