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All That We See or Seem

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All was well.

Indeed, everything was grand. That was, until things went a little blurry around the edges.

Harry staggered, and wondered idly why Ginny was just watching him fall and smiling like she hadn’t a care in the world. He reached out his hand to her, called her name, but then it seemed to go a bit dark, and the rushing in his ears distorted the voices yammering around him until they were almost impossible to hear. The ground underneath his shoulder was hard, and his head like hell – but of course, it had been hurting like that for a long time, hadn’t it? Not just his scar, but all over, like it was trapped in a vice, being squeezed ever tighter.

Another space of darkness, and then everything was softer. Softer sounds, softer lights, and layer upon layer of fabric wound round and round him, like a cocoon. Voices still surrounded him, but they were hushed, only the sharp S sounds reaching him clearly, shishes and shushes in rhythmic patterns, like wind rushing over wheat.

And then, Harry opened his eyes.

He couldn’t move, and he couldn’t see, save for vague, smudged outlines. He wanted water, but lacked the energy to sit up enough to find any. The face that suddenly bent over his broke into a brilliant smile.

“I’m dead,” Harry told the familiar person, with absolute certainty, in a cracked and dry voice that sounded utterly unlike his own.

The man quirked an eyebrow. “Are you?”

“Well you certainly are,” Harry retorted. “I saw your body.”

“Drink,” said Remus Lupin, pressing a glass to Harry’s lips.

***

“Do you know what day it is?” Madam Pomfrey asked. She was a white-clothed shape in soft focus, standing over him. Though he’d asked for his glasses several times, he hadn’t yet been given them.

Harry huffed in irritation. “Of course I do!”

“Well?” she prompted.

Harry fumbled. He knew that he knew what day it was. He was sure he did. He scanned the room for a visual clue, and came up blank. “I don’t want to tell you,” he retorted, childishly. “Where is my wife?”

Madam Pomfrey shook her head and clucked her tongue, making a small mark on Harry’s chart with her quill. “Potions time, Mr Potter. Potions before visitors.”

Harry took the draught she handed him. He didn’t recognise the taste of Dreamless Sleep until he’d swallowed it, and by then, it was too late.

***

“I wish you’d stop haunting me,” Harry told Remus, peevishly.

Remus was sitting at his bedside, yet again. He was wearing a blue cardigan that was many times mended, thin at the elbows, the pockets stretched wide and loose. He used to keep novels in them, Harry recalled. Old, dog-eared hardbacks that he’d bought second-hand, with faded cloth covers and yellowed pages that smelled of dust and ancient pipe smoke. Remus would keep notes in the margins, too; faintly inscribed in pencil in a neat, miniscule hand. They often had titles in foreign languages; Greek or German or French. The thick volume in his hand right now looked like it might be Russian, from the indecipherable, almost Runic, symbols that were stamped across the cover in flaking gold-leaf - Доктор Живаго.

Remus gave him a wry smile. “Don’t you like seeing me, Harry?”

“Well, yes,” Harry admitted, helplessly. “But everybody’s going to think I’m mad, talking to you all day. And what about Tonks? Isn’t she lonely?”

Remus shook his head. “Don’t worry about Tonks,” he said soothingly. “She’s got her hands full, watching over Teddy.”

“I suppose Fred is with George, then, and Snape is brooding about his dungeon,” Harry guessed, trying to get a grasp on this new, puzzling existence.

“Naturally,” Remus said, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

When Harry then asked if Remus was his guardian angel, Remus just laughed.

***

“Why am I here?” Harry asked Madam Pomfrey.

“You’ve been unwell, Mr Potter,” Madam Pomfrey answered. “Do you remember?”

“I remember I fell over,” Harry began slowly. Madam Pomfrey nodded encouragingly. “I remember noise, and loud voices, and pain in my head.”

“Very good,” Madam Pomfrey said approvingly. “The Weasley boys and Miss Granger brought you to me as quickly as they possibly could.”

Harry wondered why she didn’t mention Ginny, but maybe Ginny had taken Lily and Hugo home with her. But then...

“Am I at Hogwarts?” Harry asked, completely confused.

Madam Pomfrey gave him a genuine smile. “Indeed you are!” She scribbled something furiously on her clipboard, then moved along to the next bed.

Harry couldn’t understand why his friends would have taken him all the way to Scotland when St. Mungo’s was right there in London, but perhaps Madam Pomfrey was an expert at treating whatever ailed him.

This newfound knowledge relaxed him a little, and he took his evening potions as meekly as a lamb.

***

Remus’ cardigan was green today. Not a bright, spring green, but a dull sage that reminded Harry of faded curtains, and the dried herbs he’d crushed into a fine powder with his pestle in Potions classes. When Remus noticed Harry was awake, he hastily slipped his latest battered volume into his pocket. Harry only caught one of the words on the front, Nabokov, before it was tucked away out of sight. Harry didn’t know whether it was the title or the author’s name, only noting that it sounded Russian, and that Remus looked a little guilty when Harry met his eyes.

“I’m not dead, am I?” Harry finally asked.

Remus shook his head.

“But you! You’re not supposed to be here,” Harry insisted, distressed. “I dropped it in the Forest. You should have... moved on, or something.”

Remus looked perplexed, and a little worried. “I’ve upset you, I’m sorry,” he apologised. “I should probably...”

Remus stood up to leave, and without thinking of what he was doing, Harry reached out and caught his sleeve to stop him.

Caught Remus’ sleeve.

It was solid, and warm, and woollen-scratchy beneath his fingertips.

“You’re alive,” Harry breathed. “I... I don’t... How?”

“The only reason anybody survives a war,” Remus answered. “Luck, or the lack of it.”

Harry stared at him, speechless, for a long moment, before swallowing hard and averting his eyes. “My head hurts,” he whispered.

“I’ll get you a potion,” Remus said softly, and left, his shoes scuffing slightly on the tiled floor.