Chapter 1: Remus
Remus did not remember an attack. It was...unnerving. He could feel the hard stone steps beneath him. Surmised he was sprawled across them. Quite cold. He was looking...up. Vaulted ceilings, dim, distant. Something about him was...heaving. What....? Very cold.
A movement of lavender across his vision. The bright color brought back a flash of memory of a green light--moments ago? He couldn’t...what….
“--mus? Remus, baby, please--please, are you--?” Dora. Purple hair. Deeply shaken. An edge to her breath, dragged in too sharp, too deep. “Please, pleasepleaseplease--”
Why? He opened his mouth to--what? Assure her? Ask what was going on? It didn’t matter, all that came out was warmth seeping down his cheek, chin and a clotted wet cough. Dora gave a high, breathless sob. “No no, it’s okay, it’s okay, don’t try to talk, don’t, it’s okay.”
But he had to. What was going on? As she moved her hand to stroke his hair, he could see she was shaking badly. “Wh-wh-wh--?” Oh. He must be shaking too. His teeth were chattering like...ice mice. Cold. Ice. Ice mice. What was he doing? Asking. Right. “Wha-what.” That...didn’t even sound like a voice. Like...meat, dragged across a stone floor. Another cough squeezed out of him. His mouth tasted like copper.
“‘What’?” She rose up on her knees over him in frantic attention, eyes huge in her stark face. Very pale, freckles like spots a blood. A burn over half her face. Purple-brown beginnings of a black eye blotting like ink. “‘What’ what, sweetheart?”
“Hhh--” Deep breath, through a gurgle. Try again. “Hhhere?”
“W-what here? What--?” She sounded bewildered and quavery--she sniffed, swiped a hand across her nose. Left a red streak behind. “You mean…you mean where are we?”
A sudden crash and scream nearby, out of his vision. Remus jerked in surprise and Dora threw herself on top of him. Dark. Close. Smelled like her. And burnt hair, sweat. Blood. The green light flashed against the backs of his eyelids again, a memory. Then, a forest, dark and quiet, grim. He could dimly feel the uneven corners of stone steps jutting into his scalp. Shoulders. Back. Hips. Why was everything so disjointed? Dora drew back slowly, staring to the left intently for a moment, then darted back down to him, stroking his hair again. Was he still shaking? There was something lopsided about his vision. “Shhh, shhh, it’s alright, they’re not here,” she soothed, to herself as well as him. “Where? Um,” she looked around helplessly, then back down at him with a bemused smile that crumpled at the edges. “We’re at Hogwarts, Remus. You-Know-Who is here. Do you not--?”
There was a tinny ringing, approaching from far away. As it grew, Dora's blanched face began to dissolve against his sight as her eyes widened, mouth widened. Instead, dark trees pressed against his awareness. He couldn’t...feel. Remus looked around and caught on-- ”Harry?”
The boy looked a mess. Grimy, sweaty, a scrape across his face, eyes shadowed, huge and lost behind his glasses. Grass stains on his knees.
“Remus?” The voice was not Harry’s. That’s--
He jerked around and James was staring at him, looking just as bewildered as his son. Living son. Sirius over his shoulder, young, frowning. Lily was-- Cold was creeping back through him and the world shifted nauseatingly without him, as if he were falling from a great height. Dora slid back over him again, much closer, face twisted in a rictus of panic, clutching his head. Oh, I don’t like this... something in him whined like a piteous child, behind the slow, implacable revolving, rocking. Everything was no longer numb, but tingling like bees had gotten beneath his skin. Swarming, Buzzing. Ugh.
Dora was no longer looking at him, but away, screaming...something. If he pulled himself up, he could hear…. “ Arthur! Arthur, please-- !”
His vision lolled--or head? She must have let go--and he saw a face, not a foot away. Bloody. Savage. Dead. Familiar. Fenrir? Fenrir. Somewhere, very far in the back of his mind, something started screaming about something. Not here, though. The man’s blank, blue eyes were fixed on nothing, lax. A pattern of trees washed over his face and the world tilted again. A flash of Harry’s face in the forest over Fenrir’s. Then, just Fenrir, mouth and jaw coated in blood, a chunk of something gory oozing from his parted lips. Something closer caught his eye; dark. A dark pool spreading along the stones. How had he drunk so much blood? Something was wrong with that. Not from Fenrir... Oh. Was he bleeding? It seemed absurd, just now. Couldn’t really figure out why. A whirl of motion again and he was looking up at 2 faces. 1 and a half. There was something wrong with his vision, but he couldn’t quite--
A hoarse voice. Not Dora. “We’re going to get you out, Lupin, alright? We’re going to bring you downstairs,” said Not-Dora. Man. Red...glasses.
Remus’ face must have been doing...something, because Not-Tonks leaned down and gripped his shoulder. He felt it through a sheet of glass. Of buzzing. “We’ve got you, Remus, it’s alright.” Arthur. It was Arthur.
“Yes, it’s me; we’ve got you.” He must have said it out loud. Maybe mouthed it. Torches passed by--they were moving? The drag of their after-images was branches. Why? Lily’s voice, as though through a wall, muffled; “You’ve been so brave.”
Something cradled his head. Dora. He could feel his shaking against her, her shaking against him. Everything was trembling. A sudden spear, made of blinding light and fire and sharp electric agony lanced up through him and he sank, like a stone. No more Dora, no more forest.
Tonks felt her husband's shuddering suddenly stop and gritted her teeth, clamped her hands down harder on the gouges in his throat that were steadily pumping blood up against her fingers, seeping, staining everything scarlet. The blood meant he was alive. He was still alive. He would stay alive. He would live. Oh, God….
She must have said it out loud, because Arthur looked back at her from the other end of the conjured stretcher. “What?” There was a bruise that spanned half his forehead.
“Nothing. He-he just stopped moving, but it’s fine.” He didn’t know where we are, he’s not moving, he’s not moving--- “It’s fine. It’s--It’s fine. He’s still breathing. It’s--”
A clatter. Someone staggered around the corner. Both she and Arthur automatically whipped their wands toward them.
A boy, small and blonde, no more than 15 wearing a torn Gryffindor robe, the collar soaked with blood. His face was stark white, making the gashes across his face, throat, and scalp that much more horrific in contrast. Like red open mouths. His fangs had been in his throat--- “Couldn’t...I couldn’t find...Great Hall….” he mumbled, sounding dazed. “He said...I should go but….”
“Here, come with us, it’s alright,” Arthur held out his hand earnestly. “We’re going there, Madame Pomfrey can help. You’ll be alright.”
The student stared at him a moment, not seeming to comprehend. Then, he said, “Oh.” His hand went to his face and, before Tonks could open her mouth to stop him, brushed over the deep slices across his cheek, smearing his face and palm with even more blood. He looked down at it, blankly puzzled. “Oh.” He repeated.
“We need to hurry,” Tonks pleaded, desperately. She would not look down at Remus. She couldn’t. You-Know-Who had just called for Harry, they had a lull in the fight---they had an hour. Remus did not have an hour. “ Please!”
Arthur started again, grasping the lad by the hand and towing him along briskly, wand held out to support the stretcher. “It’s alright,” he said again, to no one in particular; probably both of them. “It’s going to be alright.”
How do you know how do you know? So much blood, so so so much, you didn’t see, you didn’t see what Fenrir did, how he had him---
“What’s your name?”
The boy stumbled along obediently beside them. “Uh...uh…” His eyes didn’t seem to be tracking so well, until they wandered down to the body suspended between them. “That’s Profess-ssor Lupin,” his tone sounded bewildered. “No, but...h-he told me...he’s the one…that man Fenrir---” Stop stop stop stop stop---
“Eyes up here, son,” Arthur said, firmly, and his glazed gaze jumped back to him. “Your name?”
“Alright, Colin. Do you remember what happened? Talk to me.”
They were taking the stairs, clattering down at speed and Tonks nearly toppled down on a slick step. Blood. His? Some other victim? A shriek sounded, distantly, a crash even though the battle was on hold. Dust coated her throat. Remus still wasn’t moving but his blood was, she could feel the flutter of it against her palms, the cooling, congealing mess down her robe front. She could smell its metal tang. The trembling of her wand, the green light, the Curse she had….
“Not...There was that F-Fenrir Greyback ‘n h-he...Professor said....S’cold….” he slurred, sagging onto Arthur’s shoulder.
“We’re here, we got here, Colin, it’ll be alright, just--”
A young witch darted forward and caught him deftly by the elbow just as his knees gave way. 4 other figures converged on them rapidly--Madam Pomfrey one of them--initiating a flurry of movement like a flint striking sparks. Colin was whisked away as Arthur called, “He said it was Greyback, I think he’s in shock.”
Someone tried to move her away by her elbow--whether to lead her away or not she didn’t know but Tonks lunged and clutched the stretcher like it was a raft in the ocean. “ NO!”
“We’re not taking him anywhere, but I’ve got to get next to him,” Madam Pomfrey said authoritatively, firmly displacing her with a purposeful sidestep. Suddenly, her ample hips seemed at once a weapon and a shield. “Stay if you want, but I need to be here .” She smelled of a pungent antiseptic, soot and burning, blood and flowers. Tonks’ head spun.
Dimly, she heard Arthur answer, “Greyback, again,” to one of the medical wizards’ question. Then, “No, he’s dead.”
The words sent a juddering through her, like she was caught in the field of some electric hex. Dead. Fenrir was dead. No. No, it wasn’t passive. It was done to him. Killed. Fenrir had been killed. Green light….Can’t move fast enough, can’t run fast enough….
There were hands everywhere on her husband, moving, cutting, pressing, prodding and she fought the urge to knock them all away, to curl around his body. Protect him, retroactively, from the savaging that was done him. Their voices were brusque and controlled--even so, she heard the tightly grasped horror. She heard the shock they suppressed. It repulsed her that she now knew the dull, enveloped crack of breaking bone, she could feel the rip that skin---her tongue felt thick in her mouth, her throat was closing, her stomach squelched---
Remus made a noise; hoarse, torn. It pulled her back to now. Reaching out, she threaded her fingers through his hair, brushed his scalp before a brisk movement of one of the witches jarred her free. She couldn’t look at him. Physically couldn’t lay eyes on his face. Not from nausea, not from disgust; it just laid her bare. That was her face, her gentle eyes, her kind mouth. If he...if he….This couldn’t be how she remembered him if….
I feel like I'm leaving a trail of clues like breadcrumbs to what's happened....
Chapter 3: Harry
Harry found himself in front of St. Mungo’s in the late afternoon after the Battle. He’d fallen asleep across his four poster bed in the Gryffindor Common room and slept for a solid 17 hours and no one had so much as opened the door. It hadn’t been a conscious decision. More like something within him had just switched off and he had become like some sort of Inferi, stumbling, groping mindlessly for even a shred of comfort. He shuddered at the thought.
If he had actually thought about it, he would have wanted to bear witness as the casualties were born out of the Great Hall--minor injuries to the Hospital Wing, major to the St. Mungo’s, and...the dead to their families. He would have wanted to apologize to them all, for being the reason that their loved ones had been murdered. But he hadn’t thought. There really hadn’t been much thinking, after everything was said and done, just a sort of animal-like need to find a den.
After pulling an old muggle hoodie on, he’d managed to sneak past Ron and Hermione in the Common Room with the Invisibility Cloak and the rest of the castle was milling with Ministry officials and clean up crews, Hogwarts staff and students waiting for their parents, stuffed so full of people that he fancied he could have just strolled out with just a hat on and no one would pay him any mind. The brisk officiousness and palpable feeling of relief that radiated from the crowds he had passed had caught him by surprise, though he wasn’t quite sure why. He hadn’t ever really thought about what it would feel like, after the War was over. I guess I just never expected to be around to see it.
Once he had left the grounds, he had Apparated to London. When he had looked around, he realized he’d ended up right near the Hospital, unsure of whether he meant to or not. With no other plan and nowhere else he wanted to go, he started off for it, avoiding the gazes of everyone who walked past. It smelled like rain.
It was a sort of inexplicable uncertainty of it all that made him avoid all contact. Partly. He also didn’t want to talk to anyone. About anything. There was literally no topic that he wanted to discuss with anyone, from profound to banal. He didn’t know what he would say. He didn’t know if there was anything to say. Everyone was busy recovering, picking up the pieces and fitting them back together. It was like someone had given him a bag of pieces that no longer belonged to him and couldn’t tell him what they were supposed to make.
Harry realized he had been standing in front of a seemingly abandoned storefront, staring at poorly dressed mannequins for long enough that some passersby were beginning to look at him curiously. On a whim, he took off his glasses and stuffed them into his pocket, drawing up the hood of his Muggle sweatshirt and pulled the drawstrings tight enough that it flattened his bangs over his scar. “Er,” He looked up at the mannequins, then around, self consciously before leaning in a little closer to the glass. “‘Scuse me, I’m, er, here to see….” he trailed off, numbly, realizing he hadn’t really had a plan. There was just this need inside him, a need to see someone, to apologize, to...to see someone who was going to survive this mess. To confess? “Er….”
It didn’t seem to matter, however, because the jointed figure gave a jerky, impatient movement of its hand and he stepped through the glass. Wartime rules, he guessed.
Inside, the waiting room was packed with people being herded in and out--some wrapped in bandages, surrounded and supported by a gaggle of tightly clustered family members, either being released or admitted, depending on where he looked. There were people sitting, pale and silent among others who were either talking in hushed tones or anxiously overloud. Someone laughed, too loudly, forced. The whole place had a vaguely smokey smell, with an undercurrent he couldn’t quite identify, but brought back a horrific flash of the Battle the was overwhelming enough that he froze, staring dumbly at a small witch who was weeping, silently, into a damp yellow handkerchief, alone. Luckily, everyone was too wrapped up in their own tragedies that he went virtually unnoticed.
Glancing at the Enquiries line, swamped with witches and wizards clamoring for attention in escalating states of distress, Harry quietly slipped past and into a corridor. He didn’t know which one or where it went but there was something of an easing of pressure deep in his chest, when he heard someone behind him in the Waiting Room, burst into wails. It echoed hollowly down the corridor after him. The Hospital didn’t feel like Hogwarts had. It felt more...desolate. More panicked. Less final. Everything was churning, like his mind, like his gut. People here weren't deciding what to do now, they were caught, frozen within the helpless anguish of battle.
What was wrong with him, that he was choosing to surround himself in tragedy? Hadn’t he seen enough for a lifetime? What was he doing here? The War was over--wasn’t it time to rebuild? Wasn’t it time for celebrating? His stomach churned more. Was he too broken by Voldemort for peace time?
A Healer in her bright green robe jogged past him to the wards, looking grim. Her quick, light footsteps rang through the hall, then tapered off as she whipped around the distant corner. Harry had no idea where she was going, but he also had no idea where he was going. So he dawdled after her and tried to slouch; it might help him not be recognized or, better yet, noticed. Before he could reach the corner, though, someone else hurried around and ran straight into him, knocking him back a pace.
“Oh, sorry, kid.”
He blinked in surprise. “Tonks?”
She had gathered herself up and was beginning to steer herself around him but swung around quickly at her name. He wasn’t sure what it was; maybe the fact that she looked just as empty and exhausted as he felt, despite his very long night’s rest, but it didn't feel too hard to talk. Or, at least, to her. “It’s me, it’s Harry.”
Quickly, he shoved back his hood and fumbled in his pocket for his glasses. Once they were on, Harry took in just how awful she looked. She didn’t seem to be injured in any way he could see, but she was pale with dark circles beneath her eyes and pinched lines around her nose and mouth, between her eyebrows. Grime and sweat and blood streaked her lank, lavender hair, her face, and her robes were coated down the front, turning a flaky rust brown. She smelled like ash and burning. And blood.
“Oh. Harry.” She blinked at him owlishly a moment and then gasped, seizing his shoulders, making him jump. “Oh! Harry! Oh my god, yes, Harry,” she babbled, and for a gut twisting moment, he thought she was going to ask how he was feeling, or do something awful, like congratulate him, but she rolled right along.
“Oh, thank you! Oh--please, please I have to go check on Teddy, he’s-he’s so young and with the Battle-- I left him with my mum but Remus is here; could you please sit with him? I didn’t...I couldn’t leave, I’ve been here since yesterday but I just--I have to see Teddy, I’m--” tears welled up in her eyes, but she ignored them. “He’s woken up a few times but he wasn’t really there and I--he shouldn’t be alone when he wakes up, he should have someone he knows, someone he loves. He loves you. Harry, could you do that?”
Harry floundered, groping for what to say before he shook himself and said, “Y-yeah. Yeah, no problem, Tonks.”
“Oh God, thank you,” she wrapped herself crushingly around him and started hurrying, backward, down the corridor, calling after him, “It’s first floor, ward 6--they’re all in there. I’m so glad you’re alright, Harry, I’m---” the rest was lost as she turned the corner and vanished.
They? He supposed he would find out soon enough.
As he made his way down the hall, the ward to his right erupted with too-loud laughs and chattering of relief, a celebration over a close call. From the ward up and to his left came muffled sobs. Harry felt like he was walking in between two stories, lives he was sliding past and witnessing without permission or right. A stranger everywhere he went. Uncomfortable, tired without reason, he hurried on.
Lupin was here, in St. Mungo’s; it was an equal parts relief and dread. Dread because it was bad enough that Madam Pomfrey hadn't been able to heal it at Hogwarts, but relief that he was alive. That there was an least one more person he hadn't gotten killed.
When his parents and Sirius had been summoned from the Resurrection Stone in the Forest, there had been a flickering ghost that had formed for a split second. At the time, he could have sworn it was Lupin and had felt his heart drop, because he hadn't seen him among the dead in the Great Hall. Harry had thought--hoped--that he had survived. But then, the form had fizzled in and out for a few moments, like a bad television and disappeared. After everything, he had scanned the crowd for him, but had forgotten to ask before he collapsed onto his bed. The Stone must have malfunctioned, he decided, because he was about to see Lupin---alive---now.
When Harry opened the door to ward 6, however, he saw 3 completely different people by the dim light from the far window. Lavender Brown and a younger girl he vaguely remember seeing in Hufflepuff were curled up, asleep under their covers with their backs to him, but Colin Creevey was sitting up, reading in his bed. He looked up when Harry came in and his face lit around the bandages wrapped around his head and plastered over large swaths of his face. “ Harry!” He exclaimed in a stage whisper, delighted. “I thought for sure You-Know-Who got you, I was so scared. No one here seemed to know a thing; they’re all so busy, y’know….Apparently there were attacks other places than Hogwarts. They have people coming in from all over.” For a moment, his face fell, but then he brightened. “But you’re alright! And we survived! You-Know-Who is gone, right? That’s what people are saying, but….”
As glad as he was that Colin was alright, this was exactly the sort of conversation that he had been dreading. The idea that everything was over, that it was back to rebuilding, business as usual just drained him, made him feel so unsettled. He hated it. He hated this feeling. What was wrong with him? When he didn’t answer right away, Colin’s face grew furtive, his eyes huge. “He’s--He is gone, right?”
Harry shook himself and answered in the same low tones, “Oh--yeah. No, yeah he’s...he’s gone.”
“Oh wow, Harry! It was you, wasn’t it? I always knew---”
“Hey, Colin, I’m really sorry, but Tonks actually asked me to watch Professor Lupin until he woke up so….” He felt bad interrupting him, especially when he looked so worse for wear, but the agitation deep in his chest was growing, a sort of pressure that seemed to be crushing him. And a sort of panic. “Do you know where he is?” The need to run was almost overwhelming. He had to get to where he was going, or he would just bolt out the door and he didn’t know why.
“Oh.” Colin wilted and for a moment, Harry thought it was because he was being so brusque, but he turned and pointed to a bed in the back corner, a white partition erected around it. “He’s back there. He really...it’s bad. I heard them tell Mrs. Lupin he’s going to live, but they’re all being so serious. That’s why we’re all here, because they can’t just heal us and send us home---werewolf injuries can’t be healed by magic, so they have to monitor us.”
Harry looked at the bandages surrounding his whole scalp with new horror. He looked over at Lavender and the other girl, but their backs were to him, blankets pulled up over their shoulders. “I’m really sorry, Colin, that’s….”
The boy’s eyes darkened a bit but he smiled again anyway. “It’s okay. I’m alive and...well...I tried to sneak back in, to help ‘cause I’m underage, and all.” He flushed a bit. “I just ended up making more trouble. But I don’t remember it, really, the attack. I just remember seeing Fenrir and trying to use one of the spells you taught us in Dumbledore’s Army and then….”
He blinked, staring at the book in his hands. “I was on the ground. And my face...was all hot, I kept…” Unconsciously, his hand drifted up toward his face, hovering just short of touching it. “I kept wiping my eyes, there was something that kept getting in my eyes. I guess it was blood. And Professor Lupin was there, he was shouting at me to get up, he told me to run, to get to the Great Hall. He pulled me up, got me on my feet. I don’t remember much after that.” Both his fists clenched and he slowly lowered his hand, then looked up to meet Harry’s gaze. “It’s my fault, what happened. Professor Lupin was only trying to save me. He would never have had to fight Greyback if I hadn’t snuck back. I was trying to help, but I just made more trouble.”
“You don’t know that, Colin. Anything could have happened, there was so much going on.” On impulse, he reached out and put his hand on his hospital-gowned shoulder. “Like you said, you were only trying to help. I’ve made...tons of mistakes. And...sometimes people died. Because of them. So...you did your best; that’s all you can do, right?” He squeezed.
Colin gave him a watery smile, a bit of his shine back. “Thanks, Harry,” he whispered back. “I dunno if it makes it better, just now but...thanks.”
A thick feeling. A vague and fading dream. A warming and aware darkness. Something was...pulling. He opened his eyes. There was a faint sliding feeling, as if he were tipping, and he almost closed his eyes again, but realized with a start that this was not his room. He tried to sit up but all that happened was a weak tensing as his muscles tried to obey and then nothing. Raising his arm yielded the same. Panic was beginning to bubble deep in his gut. Where was he? What was this weakness, why couldn’t he move ?
Remus gave a start, head jerking---lolling, actually--- to his left where he saw Harry sitting in a chair next to him, looking pale, rumpled, and bruised. The memory of trees pressed dizzyingly against him for a moment and was gone, replaced by bewilderment. He had completely missed him sitting beside him. How had he missed him? Something was on his face, he could feel it pressing, folding, pulling. What…? “Where….” His voice came out rusty and cracked; his throat felt thick, something was wrapped around his neck. “Where are we?”
Relief flooded over the boy’s face, washing away the wariness that had been there. He scooted his chair closer and put his hand out to touch the bed near Remus’ pillow, seemingly unconsciously. “”We’re in St. Mungo’s, ward, er, 6, if that makes a difference. Do you remember what happened?”
Remus stared at him. Happened...when? The inside of his head felt like a snowglobe someone had shaken vigorously, jumbling up thoughts and memories and time in a confounding swirl. Something to do with...blood. Something to do with trees. Something to do with Harry. Or was it Tonks? His voice low and hoarse, he said, “No.”
The Battle…? The room felt like it was slowly revolving, so he closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, suddenly, there was a young Healer wizard standing over him and Harry was on his other side. He frowned in confusion, tried to jerk his face away from the man’s hand, disorientation swelling until a distinct nausea grew in his stomach. The man gave a kindly smile and drew his hands back obligingly. “Hello, Mr. Lupin. Are you losing some time? That’s perfectly normal for the amount of trauma your body has been through and I doubt a lot of the potions we have administered is helping you gain much temporal footing. Mr. Potter has agreed to stay here until your wife returns--does that sound alright to you?”
“I’m...Dora was here?” He whispered.
“She was with you all night, Mr. Lupin. You appeared to regain consciousness a few times; I don’t think you were completely coherent, but, again, that is very typical. Is it alright if Mr. Potter stays with you?” He seemed to be speaking very clearly, watching his face closely.
Feeling very off balance, physically and mentally, he looked over at Harry. The boy looked...lost. And anxious. “Yes.”
“Alright, very good. Does your throat hurt at all? I notice you sound very…” he trailed off, making a rubbing motion on his own throat.
Remus swallowed. It felt...tight and restricted. But no pain. He began to shake his head, and a wave of vertigo and nausea stopped him even as he started to move, but he didn’t dare close his eyes again. He clenched his fists as much as he could; they felt weak and unresponsive. Not much of an anchor. “No.”
“Good, good. Let me know if that changes, I’ll be around again in about half an hour to check on everyone. We have plenty of things we can give you for the pain. Any discomfort anywhere else?”
“Dizzy.” Every word was beginning to sag on it’s way out, as if they were getting heavier and heavier. Weariness was lapping at the edges of him like waves.
The Healer’s dark eyes looked sympathetic as he nodded. “Yes, you had a pretty serious concussion, but Poppy treated that right away, so I believe it’s your brain trying to get its bearings in connection to your eye. You haven’t been visually--what, does something hurt?” Instantly, he seemed on the alert, wand half raised, leaning forward when Remus had sucked in an involuntary breath.
When the Healer had said ‘eye’ another flood of vertigo had crossed him, sideways, but had also solidly clicked into place what his body had been trying to tell him from the start. He could only see from his right side. Whatever was on his face was covering his left eye, making his vision lopsided and flat. Despite the alarm rising in his chest, the exhaustion was creeping up faster, pulling him down in some perverse race against unconsciousness and information. “What’s happened….”
He dreamed of teeth and red, wet mouths.
Jeez, I keep trying to give more info on what explicitly is wrong, and it keeps tugging in these cliff-hanger-y directions! It's frustrating! Let me write what I want, dammit!
Harry could tell when Lupin faded out again, as he had before when they were talking the first time. But when he looked nervously at the Healer, the man just smiled and put a hand on his shoulder. “He’s healing. It’s going to take time and a lot of energy--he’s going to be tired for a long time, but the worrisome part is over. We know he’s going to survive.”
Very aware that Lavender and Colin and the other girl were still in the room and could hear at least some of their murmured conversation, he just nodded. As the Healer moved on to examine the rest of the patients in the room, Harry went back around to sit in his chair, knees pulled up to his chest, feet jammed onto the cushion. It felt strangely urgent to talk to Lupin, now, as if he were counting down the minutes until the man really woke up, until he could really talk to him. It made no sense, seeing how just an hour before, the idea of talking to anyone had repulsed him more violently than the idea of taking care of Blast Ended Skrewts again, but, nothing he’d felt since he’d killed Voldemort and disappeared to his room had made sense. Nothing since the fighting had stopped and he had lived.
The background burble of voices washed over him as he stared at Lupin on the bed. Bandages, wrapped and stuck on with a Charm, covered a disconcerting amount of the skin not covered by a hospital gown on his arms, his hands, his throat and face. Small, white bridges of gauze-type material seemed to pull shut dozens of short gashes across his forehead, his cheek, the corner of his mouth. Most jarring was the bandage the covered the whole left side of his face and head, the side that Harry now sat on. The words ‘werewolf injuries can’t be healed by magic’ rang through his head, Colin’s words. There was no bruising, no swelling, but the actual slashes….
He looked as pale and sickly as Harry had ever seen him, before or after the full moon. There was a small part of his mind that kept trying to conjure up what the bandages could be covering, knowing that Lupin had fought against Fenrir, who used things like fangs and claws as well or better than his wand. He knew Lupin didn’t fight with those. Trying to shake off that part, he bitterly hoped that Lupin had killed him.
Do you? Something in him was tired. So tired. So tired of death and killing and running and misery and darkness and evil and the never ending fight of it all. Is that what a hero thinks?
He buried his face in his knees. I’m not one, so what does it matter. Besides...a hero isn’t a hero when no one needs them anymore. He didn’t want to think about this, about anything. Focusing on his breathing helped, a bit. In and out. Cold and warm. In and out.
He jerked his head up, and was surprised to see that the midday light had warmed to an fiery glow against the thin curtains at the back of the ward, lancing orange over the floor beyond the partition, lighting it faintly. It must be evening, sunset. He heard Colin’s faint snoring. Lupin had his face turned toward him, brow furrowed in concern and Harry swiped at his eyes. “Oh, you’re awake, I’m sorry, I didn’t...are you hurting? Do you need me to--?” he made to rise but the man gave a small shake of his head, then grimaced deeply.
“Me? No, I’m okay, I didn’t need any healing….” He stopped when Lupin blinked slowly. “Just...just tired. I think.”
“Happened?” He asked, hoarsely.
“Do you remember anything more?” Harry had no idea how long the man had been awake, watching him curled up in the chair. Was it long enough for memories to resurface? Would they ever come back, and did he want them to?
A far-away look came over him and the lines at the corners of his mouth and in between his eyes deepened. “Bits. Pieces.”
Somehow, that phrasing made him feel a bit ill, but he swallowed it down. “Colin?”
Slowly, his eye tracked, as if he were focusing hard on a memory. “...Some. Fighting Dolohov, I think...heard a yell. Not much.” He grimaced again, shifting his chin up. “Can’t move. Much.”
“The Healer said something about potions, maybe that’s one of them. You’re...you’re pretty injured, so I don’t think they want you moving a lot. They also said you’d be really tired, so that might be….” He trailed off.
His eye fastened on him again, piercingly. “Bad?” His tone demanded the truth.
Mutely, Harry nodded. Tonks had seemed frantic, the Healer gladly relieved when he had first come in and started his check, when Lupin was still unconscious. As if the amount of bandages and the sheer amount of area they covered weren’t enough, the fact that all the responsible adults seemed concerned revealed how close it had been. Lupin’s gaze softened and he asked, more gently. “Scary?”
A lump suddenly stuck in Harry’s throat and he blinked, pretending to clean his glasses to swipe his hoodie sleeve over his face to hide it. He swallowed, hard. “Yeah, a bit,” he admitted roughly. “But, I mean, the worst is over, right? Voldemort’s dead.” Spoken by him, out loud, voluntarily, the words tasted hollow and sour. They felt like a lie.
Lupin’s eye widened and he was silent a moment, just watching him. Then, “You?”
He couldn’t bring himself to say it. He nodded again. For some reason, what he could see of Lupin’s face fell, gaze softening completely into sorrow. He croaked, “‘M so sorry, Harry.”
Something deep within him broke at this and his vision blurred completely, face and throat heating. Tears smeared his glasses and cheeks, dripping down onto his sweatshirt, muffled, heaving gasps shaking free of him. Some strange relative of grief crumpled him over until his knees hit the floor, his forehead mashed onto the edge of Lupin’s bed and he sobbed. He couldn’t name it. He couldn’t explain it or control it. He sobbed like a child, in a way that would have made the Dursley’s yell. He sobbed in a way that would make Hermione and Ron scared. In a way that would have shamed him in front of his classmates, that would give Draco fodder for the rest of his life. A hand slowly slid onto the back of his head, and he clutched it with both of his, and sobbed.
Look, 2 chapters in one day, cause I love you guys. (And I got through the weird writer's block that were one chapter that needed to be broken into these 2 but also because I love you)
When Remus woke next, his hand still rested on Harry's head, fingertips buried in the unruly black flare of hair. It was dark, though he had no way of knowing when it was. This slipping in and out was so disorienting. They had both apparently fallen asleep as he had done what little comforting he could, moving his fingers in slow brushing strokes he had learned with Teddy as the boy had cried himself hoarse, then asleep. He had no inclination to remove it, so he didn't. His neck was cricked and stiff--though not painful--as his head had been turned fully toward Harry so he could see him with his uncovered eye, but he scanned the boy's face in the moonlight instead of moving.
Glasses half raised off his ear, crooked from where he slept on them mashed into the mattress and his cheek. Eyes puffy and red, but face slack in sleep well deserved. Now that he was studying him, he realized Harry was still wearing his torn and Battle-dirty robe underneath the sweatshirt, grass stains still on his pants. He smelled like forest and sweat and smoke.
17…. Though he supposed he and the Marauders had joined the Order straight from school, he had never felt as young as Harry looked right now. The boy who had saved him and his family from himself. James and Lily's son, the savior of the world. A boy so very nearly a man but for the slight roundness to his cheeks that still brought memories of the bright eyed 13 year old begging Remus to teach him how to protect himself. And, dimly, the little toddler he had known, before everything.
He wanted to hold him, as he had done then. He wanted to hold Dora. He wanted to hold Teddy. The feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop made him want to clutch the ragged remains of who he belonged to in this world and hide from everything. That yawning, blurry blank of what exactly had happened lurked out just out of sight beside them both.
There was a soft knock from the door, out of sight, a wedge of yellow light yawned across the ceiling, the floor, the sheets of his partition, then dwindled. Soft footsteps tapped about the room, stopping occasionally until there was another, even softer knock on the pole around the partition and Remus turned his head slowly, stiffly to look. The movement sent his vision swimming nauseatingly, but he focused on the young Healer man, who smiled at him in greeting, teeth flashing white against the dark of his face and the dim moonlight shining in the window.
“Good evening, Mr. Lupin,” he said in low tones. “I came to tell you that visiting hours are over.”
Involuntarily, Remus’ fingers tightened in Harry's hair. But entirely voluntary, he stared impassively up at the man, jaw set. Not polite. But the thought of Harry leaving just now felt like giving up a handhold on a very, very high mountain where he did not know what lay at the bottom. No Dora and no Harry…. The Healer gave a brief chuckle and held up his hands, one of which held a blanket. “But I had figured that’s how you would feel about it, so,” he came around the bed and gingerly draped it around Harry’s shoulders. “I supposed we could make an exception for Harry Potter.”
Glancing at Remus as his face relaxed, he smiled again. “It’s alright, Mr. Lupin; you don’t have to fight anyone anymore. I’m Healer Rohit Das, by the way,” he patted the foot of his bed in lieu of a handshake Remus was certain he could not have managed. “I introduced myself before but I’m not sure if you remember--which is normal. Alright. Try to let your throat heal up before making any speeches. Anything I can get you?”
Fighting the urge to simply shake his head, he managed to rasp. “No.” The energy that simple word took stole away at his coherence, like half draining a glass of water, startlingly quickly.
“No pain, still?”
Remus would have closed his eyes to take inventory, but he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t slip away again. Heavy. Warm. Weak. A gentle rocking, as if he were on a boat--which might have been soothing if they had been anywhere near water. But no pain--which, again, might have been comforting if people would stop looking at him with that face that told him there was so much more than what he was feeling. ‘Bad?’ he had asked and Harry’s stricken face had made his heart squeeze for the fear in his eyes. Drawing in more air for speech sucked down more energy, more than he could ever remember it taking before. When did breathing become tiring?
“Brilliant,” Healer Das beamed, then moved up to his head and fiddled with something on his dark side, hands quick, light, and deft.
Whatever he was doing made his face seep back into professional bland pleasantness and he waved his wand. Cool air brushed his face, then a cooler salve of some sort. Remus resisted the almost overwhelming urge to turn his head and try to see what he was doing. When warmth followed, he realized his eyes had drifted shut and he fought against it as he heard Das quietly begin to move away. “Wait….” Dammit, his eyes wouldn’t open, but he was still there, still fighting against the black hole pull.
The footsteps stopped, returned, and he felt a hand rest lightly on his shoulder, assuring him of his presence. “Yes?”
It was like pulling from a well that was dry, like trying to do something in a dream where all your muscles melted and everything you tried to do got slower and slower. His mouth wouldn’t open and he felt himself sinking back. Were he less coherent, he might have suspected a jinx of some sort, but this bone deep weariness was something familiar, if not in smaller doses. Frustration and helplessness churned halfheartedly. The hand patted as he felt the world feather off, piece by soft piece into oblivion, letting the last discernable word leak through.
I actually wrote this after the chapter coming up next, but as it skipped back in time, I decided to keep it linear, even though it's a long, unbroken back and forth between Harry and Remus. Tonks is up next!
Soon, all will be reunited and the holes in the story filled.
Chapter 7: Tonks
Sleep pulled back like a slow, warm tide, peeling back layer by layer until she could finally open her eyes to the soft, warm light of morning…. Morning?!
Trying to bolt out of bed only succeeded in wrapping her leg more tightly in the bed sheet she had somehow wound about herself and she toppled to the floor. As she fought herself free, she tried to remember back how she had fallen asleep--she needed to be back at the hospital. She needed to be back with Remus. The last thing that she could recall was her mother taking Teddy from her and ordering her to shower. Then she'd gotten dressed in some of her old, clean clothes and prepared to leave and her mother had insisted on making her drink tea…. The tea.
Tonks glared up at her mother with burning eyes when she appeared in the doorway, Teddy nestled in the crook of her arm. “You drugged me!”
“I did.” Andromeda seemed supremely unaffected by her rage, watching her calmly, joggling the baby.
“How could you--you know I need to get back to St. Mungo's! How--how--” she struggled to her feet. “How dare-- ”
“Nymphadora, you were dead on your feet and you reeked like a house fire. I couldn't stop you from going to fight, but I could stop you from charging off after being awake for more than 24 hours. Remus was in good hands. You needed to be, too.”
“You had no right--”
“I've made us breakfast,” Andromeda turned and went down the hall, as if she couldn't hear her.
Tonks had to follow, enraged, if she still wanted to yell. And she did. “I'm not eating breakfast! I’ll Apparate right now!”
“We made ourselves UnMapped, if you remember, so I wouldn’t advise it. You might pull something,” She answered dryly.
Tonks stared at her, agape, fury shaking through her. “You can’t treat me like this, I’m--!”
“ Nymphadora .” Andromeda's voice and eyes grew steely, the lines beside her mouth deepening. “I love you. Mother to mother, you are being irrational and it’s no wonder why. If you recall, I know exactly what it's like to have your husband attacked.” She was silent a moment, greif bright in her eyes. Tonks felt her heart and her rage crumple at the edges.
Then, her mother continued, “But you both survived. You’ve got your father's need to fight and sacrifice and I can't pretend that I completely understand, but I do know that I have a right to pull rank as your mother, his grandmother, and a war widow. Now sit and eat your toast or I'm going to become cross. There will be plenty of time to be a hero.”
As she stared into her elegantly lined face, reason was beginning to make its sinister way to her brain the longer her mother spoke. It was when Teddy twisted and gave that throaty squall, she deflated, shoulders drooping. What can you offer him that a hospital full of healers can’t?
“Here,” she whispered, throat closing as she reached her hands out. “I'll take him.”
Andromeda studied her face for the briefest of moments before gently easing him into Tonks’ waiting arms. Tonks buried her nose in his tuft of hair bright orange hair and breathed deep his baby-head smell as she gently bobbed around, quieting him. She was still shaking, but whether from residual anger, oncoming tears, or some strange marriage of overwhelming guilt, fear, and relief, she didn't know. “Mum, it's bad,” she choked in a strangled whisper, eyes squeezing shut.
“What's bad, love?” Andromeda asked gently, drawing close and wrapping her arms in turn around Teddy and Tonks both. She rocked them.
“Everything. Everything's bad. And nothing.” She gasped in a shuddering breath. “We won. You-Know-Who is dead and we're alive. It could have been worse. It could have been so much worse but it feels so broken. ”
“Winning doesn't always feel right, sweetheart. Sometimes it just means you get to fight on even longer,” she murmured back. Tonks was short enough today that her mother could press a kiss into the top of her head.
“Remus is… And I....I killed someone,” she whispered. She had been avoiding thinking about it. Had let her fear and protective rage and exhaustion tide her over but now...it lay there, spoken plain, laid bare. Like a skinned rabbit.
Andromeda paused in her rocking, then drew back to look into her face, arms still around her; it wasn't frozen shock that was in her eyes but careful bemusement. “Well, yes. That's how wars are won.”
She didn't understand. Tonks wasn't sure she entirely did, but her mother definitely didn't. “I killed him. I meant to.” Her eyes spilled over. Who are you crying for? Him? You?
The perplexed look deepened and vague exasperation pinched her brows as she drew farther back to look at her, hands still on Tonks’ shoulders. “Dora, I'm not trying to be insensitive, because this seems to upset you, but you are an Auror ; there was always a strong possibility that you would have to kill someone one day. At Hogwarts, you were fighting for your life--it's expected.”
She loved her mother, she did, but she didn't understand. The deep ache in her chest, right under Teddy's little beating heart, sharpened. She wanted her father. Dad would understand. Her mother was too pragmatic for this. Burrowing her wet face down, she pressed her cheek against Teddy's warm, spit-sticky one and closed her eyes, joggling and rocking gently. It wasn't entirely to comfort just him.
‘ You were told what it would entail and you wanted to do it anyway, even when I thought you shouldn't,’ it felt like her mother was saying, even if it wasn't, quite. ‘ So why are you complaining when this is what you wanted?’
“Dora, I don't--”
“I need to go,” she whispered against the baby's soft neck, taking in his old milk, laundry soap, and sweet skin scent. She never wanted to come up for air. For all that she was frantic to get to Remus, walking through this world with dirty hands holding an innocent soul, next to people who were back beyond some sort of wall she has already crossed seemed unbearable. Some sort of milestone she had reached that sensible, ordinary people never reached. Oh God, how she wanted to talk to Mad-Eye--he always had a way of ordering things when he talked that helped set things into a sharper focus and cut out the minutia of ifs and could have beens. If he could see her now….
So what do you want? A fellow killer to reassure you that what you've done was good or Dad to understand the horror of it?
I don't know. Either. But I have neither.
Shouldn't living have been enough? Shouldn't the fact that Remus and her survived and got to see their son grow have been enough to come out the other side with? So many others hadn't gotten that chance; Mad-Eye, her father, poor Professor Burbage, the children-- children-- that had fought and given their lives, everyone who was lying dead and dying out there. Why isn't it enough for you?
“I need to get back.”
Andromeda studied her a moment, worry plain on her face. “I've said something wrong, haven't I?”
Tonks shook her head against Teddy, making him give a tiny blarp of protest. “I don't know what would be right,” she said, sounding small and pinched to her own ears. “I just can't….”
Glancing back at the table, laden with food, Andromeda pursed her lips, but ran a gentle hand through Tonks’ hair. “Alright, love. But you need to eat first, on that I will not compromise.”
Wordlessly, she sat, the baby still clasped to her shoulder, tiny warm head rested in the crook of her neck. She should feed him as well. Toast and a bowl of oatmeal slid in front of her. How could she want to go back to bed when she had just gotten a full night's sleep?
“Can I bring Teddy?”
Andromeda looked up from situating her own breakfast and Tonks missed her initial expression while looking up from her own, but whatever had been there was now transmuted into thoughtful neutrality. “He's your son, Dora. It's your choice.” Though, she ruined the illusion of carefully cultivated indifference when she added, “Though you should cast a disease repellent charm over him, it is a hospital.”