Written for the Remus Remix challenge. Original Drabble (in italics at the beginning) by fluffyllama. Thanks to Hal for last minute beta.
A washed-up former pop singer finds love in the arms of a werewolf. Or not.
Stubby Boardman and the Cacao Bean
"You should go to Australia," she says the first time she puts his hand on her thigh. "Did you know they have had the only sighting of the Lesser Spotted Winkelcat this century?"
He still hasn't been to Australia, and he can't find the Winkelcat in any of his books, but the pale-skinned continent of Luna holds few mysteries any more.
"Of course, there are huge tanks full of moon frogs hidden under the Minstry," she says, breathless. He laughs out loud; they're fucking, and she's a girl - shouldn't she be asking him if he loves her?
But these days, when people aren't too sure what language to speak to a werewolf, he knows exactly what to say.
"The turnip that hit Stubby Boardman on the ear was thrown by Cornelius Fudge himself, you know."
And the smile that curves her lips is the sweetest sight he's ever seen.
In Stubby Boardman's experience, anyone who called on him before noon without the decency to ring or send an owl first was either the tax collector or his bookie. Therefore, he had no intention of opening the door to the quiet, insistent knocking, and instead rolled over on the bed and pulled a pillow over his ears.
A short time later, he sat up. The knocking had increased from a quiet tapping to what sounded like the entire Wimbourne Quidditch team pounding on his door. He glanced at the clock, which had been left in the house when his grandmother died--a cheap plastic thing with painted doves and flowers on the face of it, and which hardly ever worked; he would have thrown it out, but something always stopped him. He could see his grandmother's face now, the old hag, she'd probably laid a hex on it---
Pound. Pound pound pound.
Really, this was insufferable. Stubby made a face into the bed sheets. Then, as the knocking didn't seem to be going away anytime soon, he rolled off the bed and reached blindly for the dressing gown crumpled up on the foot of it, a rather unfortunate one patterned in shades of orange and purple. He spared a thought for the state of his hair, and the fact that he hadn't shaved in--well, a rather long time--and wondered briefly what the smell was wafting from the kitchen as he passed it; but then he was at the door, twisting it open and snarling, "What do you want?"
The man on the other side took a half step back. Stubby squinted. It was neither the tax collector nor his bookie, and for the life of him he had no recollection of this quiet, unobtrusive-looking man with hair that was nearly all grey, who carried with him a faint air of shabby gentility. But there was something about him that made Stubby ashamed at his lack of welcome.
The man cleared his throat. For some reason, he looked ashamed as well. "I'm very sorry to have disturbed you."
"Oh." Stubby squinted again, then rubbed his eyes. The bright sun on the other side of the door was making them water. "No bother," he mumbled. He glanced over his shoulder at the dark, dismal shades of his living room. He wondered when he'd last cleaned; he could see the dust on the mantle from here. "Er, would you like to come in?"
"If you don't mind," the man said quickly. "It will just be for a moment."
Stubby closed the door behind him. He thought there might be some instant coffee left in his cupboard; or tea, there were bound to be tea bags somewhere.
"Um, nothing for me, thank you," said the stranger, when Stubby offered. He'd sat on the edge of the piano bench, another leftover from his grandmother, so Stubby sank into his favorite armchair, the one with the red and green tartan rug tucked into it. Then something occurred to him.
"You're not a groupie, are you?"
The man looked puzzled. "A what?"
"Oh. Never mind." Perhaps he was one of those blokes collecting for charity. He certainly had that look to him. Stubby wondered when the spiel would start: starving children in Africa, or poor orphans in the heart of London. He didn't seem like a wizard, with those clothes, but Stubby had been out of touch with the wizarding world lately and couldn't say for sure.
"Actually, I just came to ask you a question." The man paused, and cocked his head curiously. "You look remarkably like someone I--knew."
"Oh," Stubby said. He wondered if that was the question. Then he had an alarming thought. "You're not from the station, are you? Because I've been clean, I swear--"
"No, nothing like that." The man cleared his throat again. "You used to be the lead singer for a pop group, right? The Hobgoblins?"
So he was a groupie. Stubby hoped he wouldn't ask him to sing something. He hated that. And the guitar in the corner of the room was purely for show; he hadn't played in years. He should just cart it off to the junk shop and be done with it. "Five quid for autographs, mate."
"But that is you, right?" the man persisted.
"That was a long time ago--what, you've got a hankering to stroll down memory lane? No free CDs, either. You should talk to my agent." Stubby hoped he wouldn't call his bluff. He hadn't spoken to his agent in years, ever since he'd sent him a Fanged Frisbee as a joke, with the results being less hilarious than Stubby had hoped. He was still paying off the plastic surgery bills.
"I just want to ask you a question. You, er, disappeared for a while. After that concert in Little Norton?"
Stubby could feel his face grow red. So that's what this was about. The man was a crackpot. The nerve, bringing up something like that. "I'll have you know," he said stiffly, "that that turnip was an accident."
"Slipped from the bloke's hand, see, clearly not intentional--"
"Who was it?"
Stubby paused. "What?"
"Who was it that threw the turnip?"
Stubby peered at him. "Why do you want to know?"
Now the man had the grace to look embarrassed. "Actually, it's for my--a friend of mine. A kind of present."
"What did you say your name was?" Now Stubby was truly alarmed. There was a telephone in the kitchen that he hardly ever used--he hated the thing--but if he had to, he could call down to the station. They weren't fond of him down there, true, but surely with a madman in his house--
"I didn't," the man replied. "It's, er, Remus Lupin."
The name sounded familiar, but Stubby couldn't quite place it. "Well, Mr. Lupin, if you'll excuse me--"
"Really, Mr. Boardman, it's quite important--"
"It was an accident. I don't know who threw it, can't you see that? Now if you don't mind--" Stubby broke off. The name had finally clicked into place, and he felt faint. "Wait, aren't you a--"
Lupin stood up hastily. "I'll be going now." Somehow, Lupin had already reached the door. "Thank you very much for your hospitality, Mr. Boardman," he said. He paused. "Actually, on reflection, you don't look much like the person I knew after all."
And then he was gone.
Stubby stared at the closed door for a while. His heart was making strange sounds in his chest, and he had to sit for a while until it calmed to a more normal level.
A werewolf! Right here in his house, even. It was all very good to vote for werewolf rights, though Stubby sometimes had doubts about the advisability of that, and there had been a time when he would meet far stranger creatures than werewolves in the small hours of the night, though he'd hardly been sober--but to find one in one's own home! On a Saturday morning, no less.
The cuckoo clock above the mantle squawked out eleven angry chimes. Stubby's usual response was to throw a book at it, but he refrained this time as the bird disappeared back into the clock with another squawk for good measure. Too late to go back to bed, then. He shambled into the kitchen to search for coffee.
The house on the outskirts of Upper Coxcomb was small and almost shabby; more of a cottage, really, that had seen better days and that decades ago. The previous owner had painted it a ghastly shade of yellow that Remus could easily have changed with a spell, and every time he approached the cottage he reminded himself to do so immediately--but at the moment it was a welcome, almost homey sight. Perhaps he'd leave it that color after all.
Luna was in the study, which was really just the spare bedroom stacked with books, some of them on bookshelves but most in lumbering piles on the floor and windowsill. She sat cross-legged on the floor with a large book in her lap. A slight breeze from the window stirred the pages.
Another woman might have asked him where he'd been all morning. Luna looked up and said, "Cacao."
Remus raised an eyebrow; by chance, Luna saw it. "The Rare Beast Society is organizing an expedition to look for the Three-winged Mayan Peacock," she explained. "I was just looking it up. Did you know that it consumes over four bushels of cacao beans a day?"
"I was just about to make tea. Do you want some?"
"It's only been sighted twice," she said, her head tilted as if remembering a pleasant dream. "It's a very shy creature." Then her eyes regained focus; she looked up. "I'll make it," she offered.
Having experienced what Luna passed off as tea, Remus shook his head. "It's no bother."
The kitchen was small, but it had a large window overlooking the garden. Remus set the kettle to boiling, enjoying the silence of the house. It had been a long time since he'd enjoyed the lack of noise; silence used to make him edgy, too desperate to fill the void with something, anything to smooth over the memories jostling for position in his head like angry bees. He'd tried a pensieve once, just to relieve the pressure, but he'd found the experience unsettling. It was as if he knew they were still there, just by the empty spaces left behind.
The bees had settled, the memories no longer so distinct. Remus wondered when, exactly, that had happened.
To his surprise, Luna followed him into the kitchen. She'd brought the book with her and propped it up on the round wooden table just barely small enough to fit in the kitchen, and sat on one of the stools. "You should go to Australia," she said.
"What's in Australia?" He passed her a cup of tea, and Luna gave him one of her rare smiles. He was nearing fifty, and that smile still made his heart twinge.
"The Lesser Spotted Winkelcat. It's not really a cat. It's a distant relation to the werewolf, you know."
"I hadn't, actually." Remus pulled up the other stool. He nodded to the book, which lay open to a picture of a fierce-looking peacock with far too many feathers. It glared at him from the page and flapped its wings angrily. Too many cacao beans, perhaps. "Will you go on the expedition?"
A frown creased her forehead. "I hadn't decided. The Quibbler will pay for it, of course, but it's for two months."
Remus nodded and sipped his tea. "I went to see Stubby Boardman today." He still wasn't sure what had possessed him to track the man down in the first place--to confirm his existence? Confirm something else? It no longer seemed as important as it once did; perhaps his questions had been answered, or perhaps he'd simply wasted a perfectly good Saturday morning.
"Stubby Boardman! I haven't thought about him in years. What was he like?"
"Odd." He smiled. "None too pleased when he discovered I was a werewolf."
"You know, I've always wondered who threw that turnip."
He knew that, of course, so he said the first name that came to mind: "Cornelius Fudge."
"Really!" She gazed past him to the window, delighted. "I'm not at all surprised." She met Remus's eyes almost sadly. "I think in the end those heliopaths got the best of him."
"No doubt," Remus said gravely.
Luna was silent for a while, staring down into her teacup; lost in thought about Mayan Peacocks or Lesser Spotted Winkelcats, Remus imagined, as she often was--but then she looked up and her eyes were unusually bright and focused. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
"Where?" he asked, puzzled.
"At Stubby Boardman's," she said patiently.
"Oh." Remus thought about it. "Yes, I think so." He leaned across the table and kissed her.
After a while, he said, "This expedition of yours--will it take werewolves, do you think?"
She smiled again; this time, brilliantly. "I think they would."