Remus Lupin lives his life to the rhythms of the Moon.
He bays to her in delight.
He howls to her in mourning.
He loves her.
He hates her.
He will never be free of her.
Another pale Slytherin, negative image of the one before. Ashen hair instead of raven, light gaze instead of dark, fair features instead of plain. But the same watchfulness, the same arrogance. More than two decades between the pair, but they're armaments wrought from the same metal.
Winter sunlight spills weakly through the classroom's bevelled-glass windows, flows like honeywater over polished floorboards. A faint haze clings to the boy's figure and face, imbuing them with an enchantment they don't merit.
Remus observes that Draco smiles differently when away from his classmates - secretive pleasure, as if savouring some rich and costly sweet, rather than smug malice. Neither is endearing.
"Is there something I can help you with, Mr Malfoy?"
Draco stares down at the small bouquet of white bellflowers some student has arranged haphazardly in a jam-jar on Remus's desk. Probably one of the Gryffindors. A conjured present, given the time of year, and not an entirely successful one. An unpleasant smell clings to the blooms, sour and metallic. Remus's head aches.
"Pretty. And very appropriately school-spirited." Draco doesn't attempt to hide the sneer.
"Pardon?" The flowers aren't Hogwarts' colours.
"Albus." Slender fingers brush pale petals. "This is Aconitum napellus Albus."
Aconitum. Commonly known as monkshood - or wolfsbane.
The hairs on the back of Remus's neck bristle and rise. Suspicion strips several layers from the veneer of mildness on his face. Draco looks up at him with heavy-lidded eyes, says languidly,
"Well, I'd best be getting to Charms. See you tomorrow, Professor Lupin."
He leaves, a smile thin and sharp as the sickle moon cutting across his face.
Remus sits quietly until his next class arrives, wonders who the real predator in the room was.
Draco says nothing more that year, just watches him, smiling that candied-chrysanthemum smile.
Remus receives no more bouquets.
After Christmas, it doesn't matter anyway.
The war is still an open secret and a public denial when Remus Lupin returns to Hogwarts. He falls into the teaching again with a massive sense of relief, clothing himself in the last tattered rags of normality before the expected storm.
Ease of mind is not always possible however, and he prowls noiselessly through the halls at night, sometimes by himself, sometimes with Snape. With the impediment of Sirius and other misunderstandings absent, they have relapsed into the fragile and silent amity of long-past years. Sometimes he wishes it could be something more.
Remus is alone the night he finds Draco swimming in the lake. He waits on the shore until he's noticed, stands holding the dark green towel. He's unsure which is more disturbing; the implications of the Hogwarts-style extreme sport, or the way the water trickles down the pale muscular form emerging from the lake.
All year they have circled each other, never evincing more than softly worded politeness, or snide insolence. But the student has resumed his pastime of watching, and the teacher has been imprinted with a new scent - a fusion of cedarwood's rich muskiness and the airy melancholy of juniper berries, underlaid with the sweet effervescence that is magic.
It teases Remus's senses now as Draco silently walks up the slope and stops before him. Only the quick, light breathing and the heat of his body betray Draco as more than a monochromatic illusion of white and grey and moonlight. Desire runs through Remus's blood like screaming prey, the Wolf chasing after it.
He wraps the towel around Draco and doesn't let go.
Draco has always been owned - by his father, by the crushing weight of generations of Malfoys, and probably soon by Lord Voldemort. Remus is unsure if Draco comprehends the difference between 'belonging to' and 'belonging with', but he tries anyway.
The swollen moon reflects in Draco's gaze.
"Meet me here tomorrow night," he says, "We can talk about freedom of choice then."
He smirks knowingly at Remus's silence and walks away.
At mail drop it is obvious Draco has received bad news. He sits, silent and still-faced until the Great Hall has almost emptied and then approaches the staff table, heading straight for the Headmaster. His advance is paralleled by that of Harry Potter.
Their voices merge together in harmony, but they turn and glare at each other in loathing.
"What is it, Harry?"
"Professor!" Draco's tone is outraged at the blatant, but expected, favouritism.
"Patience, Mr Malfoy. I will get to you in a moment."
Draco's expression petrifies into stone, but he doesn't comment - merely crosses his arms across his chest. Remus scents desperation underneath the anger.
"Draco?" he enquires gently.
Draco ignores him, pinning his gaze on the conversing figures of Harry and Dumbledore. Eventually the Headmaster turns to him,
"Now, Mr Malfoy, how may I help you?"
There is the noise of arrivals at the back of the hall.
"My father is coming to remove me from school. I wish to... "
"Draco!" the voice is an iron fist pulling on a leash, "I thought I told you to be waiting for me."
Draco freezes, closing his eyes as if to deny what is behind him. Lucius Malfoy descends like a dark whirlwind, gloved hand clutching proprietarily at his son's black-clad shoulder.
Ghost fingers stroke waxen petals in Remus's mind. Draco looks directly at him, eyes blinded and silver, the colour of killing metal, and Remus's Wolf howls.
"I was just saying my goodbyes, Father."
"Indeed. Albus," Lucius nods shortly at Dumbledore, ignores the few members of the faculty still present,"You are ready, son?"
"Of course, Father."
Dumbledore's exclamation is a protest; Remus's a denial.
It is a replica of the older Malfoy's
There is quiet murmuring as they watch Draco turn away, falling into the moonless night of his father's world. Remus doesn't realise what he's said until the words have created silence. But he doesn't regret the unkindness, only the revealing bitterness of his tone.
"Damn you, Albus, for what you just did."
Five weeks later, Draco Salazar Malfoy and Pansy Imogene Parkinson's wedding photo is plastered across the front of the Daily Prophet. The bride looks triumphant and complacent; the groom, bored and aloof.
That full moon Remus refuses to take the Wolfsbane Potion and locks himself in the Shrieking Shack.
Neither Dumbledore or Snape make any comment.
sequel: aconite ii