Before It Grows
by Victoria P.

Every time that I plant a seed
He said, kill it before it grows
"I Shot the Sheriff" ~Bob Marley

"This will never work."

"It might." Lupin doesn't sound convinced, but that's no surprise. God forbid he actually agree with you. Can't have that happening.

You sit across from him in the pub, the former Death Eater and the werewolf. Everyone gives you a wide berth, which is fine. They're only supposed to see you together. See you 'recruiting' him in the aftermath of the Ministry's cock up. You don't actually have to do more than exchange a few words in a very public space, which is good, because even those few words set your teeth on edge.

It's a ridiculous plan, and you've told everyone who'll listen that no one will ever believe you and Lupin could exchange a civil word these days, let alone choose to have a drink together.

You wonder what Malfoy, locked up in Azkaban for the moment, would think. Would he believe your carefully prepared excuse, that Lupin could not only spy on the Order, but bring the werewolves to your side with minimal effort? Or would he know the truth, that there's no way in hell Lupin would ever join Voldemort, even if Bellatrix Lestrange hadn't murdered his lover?

Your lip curls slightly at the thought of Black. A fitting end for the bastard. That family, for all its age and supposed nobility, has always devoured its own.

Not unlike the Snapes, though your tradition goes back only one generation, and you won't be passing it on.

You lean back and sip your whisky. The years have not been kind to your generation, and the two of you are all that's left. And Pettigrew. You can no longer dismiss him as you once did. You know why Pettigrew did what he did, fearful of being on the losing end, desperate to prove himself a force to be reckoned with, fooling himself into believing he could be someone in service to Voldemort, instead of just another fawning toady with a harsher master than James Potter could ever have been.

You feel the old anger at even the thought of his name, and your fingers tighten around the glass.

"You're going to break that," Lupin points out mildly.

You want to throw the glass at him, shake him from that damned unshakeable calm, that veneer of humanity he wears to hide his true self. But you've seen him, seen the wolf, and you know what he is.

For the first time, though, you wonder if you are so different. You are a killer, too, serenely brewing up the deadliest of poisons first for one side in this war, and now the other. You know the only difference between Dumbledore and Voldemort, in the end, is that Dumbledore's brand of insanity is slightly less damaging to the world than Voldemort's, and should Dumbledore prevail, order will be maintained. You are fond of order. It provides a sense of security you cannot articulate and have never tried to.

You finish your whisky in one large gulp and close your eyes as it burns its way down your esophagus, warmth blossoming in your chest.

When you open your eyes, Lupin is watching you, head cocked, interest written clearly on his worn face. Interest in you. It warms you more than the whisky, and you find yourself really seeing him for the first time in ages, memorizing his face.

He looks older than he used to, older than he did before that night in the Department of Mysteries. You have a sudden premonition that he won't survive this war, but you don't believe in Divination, though you spent your share of nights guarding Potter's prophecy before everything went pearshaped.

In fact, it's been your experience that the less one wants to live, the more likely one is to survive even the riskiest, most ludicrously dangerous encounters. It wouldn't surprise you if, in the end, Lupin is the only one who makes it out alive. Even more than the Boy Who Lived, whose foolhardiness will surely get him killed, despite all your efforts to the contrary. And then your debt to his father will never be paid.

You stand, unwilling to continue that line of thought. You tried to save the father; you will succeed at saving the son.

You look down at Lupin, whose eyes glow in the dim light, the same smoky color as the whisky in his glass, the whisky shining on his lips. You wonder what he tastes like.

"Good night," you say, though you know you will see him again in ten minutes, back at Grimmauld Place, to discuss the next steps in this ridiculous plan, attempt to predict if it will bear any fruit.

When he appears in the kitchen, you stand too close, flaring your nostrils and taking in the scent of smoke and whisky and werewolf -- musky and warm and strangely enticing.

You grab him, your hands on his shoulders, your mouth against his, before you have time to rethink, revise, regret.

His mouth is warm and wet, tasting of whisky and something else you can't identify.

He pushes you away, but gently.

"I'm sorry," he says, shaking his head. "This will never work."

He walks away, shoulders slumped, as if he carries the weight of the world. As if he actually feels bad about rejecting you in favor of loyalty to a dead man.

You recognize it now, the taste in your mouth. It is pity, rue, and bitterness. You are far too familiar with all three to have not known, and you flush with shame at your ignorance.

That he of all people, should pity you...

But he's right. It would never work, and you were foolish for entertaining the notion for even a moment. There are some hatreds entrenched too deeply to ever heal, and you will not forget again.


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