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FIC: Remus Lupin and the Revolt of the Creatures, Chapter 18 / 21 (PG-13), part two

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Jun. 1st, 2010 | 11:42 pm

Title: Remus Lupin and the Revolt of the Creatures, Chapter Eighteen: Gifts of Magic, Gifts of Love, part two
Author: PaulaMcG
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: (subtly, eventually) Remus/Sirius
Chapter summary: Remus and his friends and allies venture to offer and risk more.
Word count: around 10,800
Disclaimer: Remus won't help me make any money.

Notes: I’ll always love to receive a comment on any chapter.

Chapter One can be found here, Chapter Two here, Chapter Three here and here, Chapter Four here, Chapter Five here and here, Chapter Six here and here, Chapter Seven here, Chapter Eight here and here, Chapter Nine here, here and here, Chapter Ten here and here, Chapter Eleven here, here and here., Chapter Twelve here and here, Chapter Thirteen here and here, Chapter Fourteen here and here, Chapter Fifteen here, Chapter Sixteen here, Chapter Seventeen here and here, and the first part of Chapter Eighteen here.

Remus Lupin and the Revolt of the Creatures

Chapter Eighteen continues

A hot puff of breath caressed his cheek. There was no time to react to it as a warning. His right hand was forced behind his back, and an arm snaked around his neck.

Perhaps the two of them were equally surprised that Remus had not drawn a weapon when sneaking in. He felt the clear pressure of a thin edge against his throat only for a moment. Standing as still and relaxed as possible, he did not have to wait long for his capturer to gather the curiosity and courage for moving so that they could see each other properly. First, however, the young man was staring at the flames on Remus’s palm with obvious apprehension.

The blue light remained dim but grew steadier, so as to tenderly explore the gaunt face, drawing shadows under the sharp cheekbones. Remus had not lifted the flames higher than his chin, but the boy was shorter than him.

He had evidently now assessed Remus’s looks, as he stated in a husky voice “You’re a wizard. No wizards come here unless… You must show me the bite scar, if you want to ask for permission to stay.”

It was reassuring to notice that the flames had already done what was needed. They settled to hover in mid-air for a moment. While his right wrist was still held in a firm grip, Remus’s other hand was now free to push aside all the layers of worn fabric, to reveal the bare skin on his left shoulder.

“Yes, I want to be… I am one of you,” he said.

Some of his friends had seen this scar and known what it was. Yet, he had never before, with the exception of his very first visit to the Werewolf Registry, shown it like this, upon a request. And he never looked at it. Perhaps this would have been the right moment to start looking, but his need to eye the boy more carefully, instead, was a good excuse.

Yes, Remus was more and more convinced that the man was very young, even though there were signs of aging in his bad posture as well as in the hollow cheeks and the dark circles around his eyes, which shone somehow too bright and big for his worn face. His hair hung in dirty strands until his chin, and he had tied as a cape around his shoulders something that looked like a sack. He now sheathed the roughly-made knife under the rope which served as his belt. The persistent grip of cold fingers on Remus’s wrist felt more like a hopeful contact than hostile precaution, oddly enough almost like a handshake.

Having not planned how to introduce himself, Remus hesitated. “Perhaps you’ve heard Anthony or Hecate mention…”

“Oh… sorry. It’s the pro… teacher now? You want to sleep?”

The abrupt change of topic confused Remus further.

“No. I mean I am… at least I’m Remus Lupin, not a professor any longer. But no, I don’t…”

“This is the chance to sleep. Except for me. I must stand watch. You know…”

“No, I hardly know anything at all… I haven’t been here before.”

The boy drew a long hitching breath and closed his eyes momentarily. “You know, we can’t get inside, normally. Like no place, I mean. These are all goblins’ warehouses. And they seal them. But now they’ve rented this stable to some… something like half giant, half faun, I think. They don’t do sealing charms, and they’re careless about watch. Someone always comes for the night, soon after the sunset, sometimes before, to make sure nobody steals the rare animals, and we must go. But they think that these beasts attack anyone who tries to stay in here. They don’t know that animals love werewolves. When the owners are not here, the snorkacks don’t have nothing against some beggars like us warming up here for a while.”

“Snorkacks? Crumple-horned snorkacks?”

“Yes. I think the giant-fauns try to sell them abroad or something. Anyway, we are lucky. As long as the animals are here, they make the only open building into a warm place. So you’re sure you don’t want…”

The boy had loosened his hold of Remus’s wrist and gave rather the impression that he was seeking support by hanging on his arm. Now he suddenly stumbled a few steps sidewise, pulling Remus with him, and leant against one of the animals.

The deep wrinkles in the horn glinted in the blue light, as the large head turned, and heavy long-lashed lids fluttered open for a moment. Remus felt an unexpected urge to lie down beside the serene beast. He had no difficulty in sympathising with the boy, whose sleep deprivation was obviously a lot more serious than his own had been since his drifting years, and derived from no opportunities to spend nights, or much of the days either, in bearable conditions for sleeping.

“I can stand watch,” he said, giving a quick squeeze to the boy’s hand, as it finally released his arm.

“Promise? And wake me up first, if… when anything happens…”

Having hardly mumbled the words, the boy slid down and curled up against the side of the animal, which had closed its eyes again. He was already fast asleep.

The flames turned brighter, and Remus looked around. He was now able to distinguish a huddled figure or two lying next to each animal, taking advantage of its body heat. The boy was still shaken by a sudden shudder, and in his sleep he moved his hands to front of his mouth, so as to keep them warm with his own breath.

Remus pulled out his wand and one of the shrunken blankets. Having undone the charm, he spread the blanket over the boy.

He proceeded to check out every ragged sleeper in turn. Immediately aware of the emotional impact of what his keen mind would register and treasure, he tried to limit his thoughts to the superficial – counting the number of members in this pack.

To his relief almost every other face was not in full view, but turned against the animal’s side, or partly covered with shreds of clothing. Despite the cold tint of the light, which emphasised the sickly colour of the pale and dirty skin, and despite the inevitable lack of any aesthetic consideration behind the vagrants’ appearances, Remus did not need to struggle to see beauty in these images, on the contrary. He was witnessing – actually prying into – some of the best moments in hard lives.

As a community, perfectly trusting the member who had accepted the duty to warn the others of any danger, they were completely relaxed, sharing the simple and necessary blessing of rest and of their own warmth with loyal animals. The signs of malnutrition, of painful wounds and of fatal illness in their features were contrasted with blissful smiles.

Some men and women had fallen asleep stroking the snorkacks’ hides. Most of them, however, slept in pairs: friends and lovers hugging each other tight, having expertly entangled their bodies in positions which allowed the best warmth and rest for each other.

Remus could not resist caressing every detail of each image with his eyes, when he knelt down to return a blanket to its original size and to pull it cautiously over a sleeper’s shoulders. The stench of wild animals and of unwashed skin and tatters nauseated him, no matter how hard he tried to deny reacting to it. Gradually the succession of creatures, the existence of which nobody in the world he had come from wanted to believe in, started turning surreal.

By the time he reached the end of the row, he was almost sure that the last portrait of tenderness was a product of his imagination. He could hardly discern the outlines of the frail limbs of a child under a threadbare jacket, between a tall adult man’s body and the belly of a female snorcack. The young boy’s small face was almost hidden by matted hair, but the lips were still attached to one of the beast’s nipples. No, the child was not a suckling – probably not ten yet, but certainly older than five. The man had, in any case, obviously guided him to take advantage of the extra nourishment available. He was clutching the young boy in a fierce gesture against his chest.

Remus closed his eyes for a moment when reaching to spread his last blanket. He had counted sixteen werewolves. Now he cast one more glance at the child’s thin cheeks, then at the man’s bearded face in turn – and he recoiled.

The man was Paul. And the child was in a trap… as his victim, was he not?

Paul turned his head slowly. When he opened his eyes, he was looking straight at Remus’s face, and there was no sign of surprise in his gruff voice either. “Thanks,” he said, “for coming, and for your gifts.”

But Remus had already started backing down and he merely nodded, keeping the eye contact for a moment, though, because he definitely did not want to see the child now. One of the snorkacks shifted when he passed it, and soon they all lifted their muzzles towards the ceiling. Not knowing whether only he or Paul had caused the change in their behaviour, Remus felt compelled to hurry, in any case, to wake up the boy who was supposed to stand watch.

He fell on his knees next to the boy and grabbed his shoulders. But all the snorkacks were now shaking their bodies vigorously. The boy hardly got to his feet before everyone else, and his whistle of alarm was merely ceremonial.

Remus followed the boy the few steps to the door, where they remained, allowing everyone else to exit first, while the boy, too, was probably counting. Only some among the werewolves spared a glance at the two of them and lifted an eyebrow or grinned at the sight of a stranger. They had all picked up their new blankets, and despite their haste attached them securely around their shoulders.

“Nothing to worry about,” the boy said, when Remus had counted to thirteen. “The faun-giants are almost here, so the snorkacks will be violent soon. But we’ll be out in time.”

That gave Remus an excuse to focus on the nearest beast, which had risen up on its hind legs and was whipping air with its spiky tail. But when he turned back to leave the stable after the boy, there was Paul, still standing at the doorway with a hand on the child’s shoulder.

“Welcome to… well, my usual places, as I’ve called them. I wish I could have let you enjoy this one a bit longer.” Even though the words expressed some regret, there was a cheerful tone in Paul’s voice. He lifted his other hand probably in order to place it on Remus’s back while guiding him out.

Remus pretended not to notice it and headed quickly towards the centre of the vacant plot, shoving his right hand into the emptied pocket. The flames had died, and his left hand was balled into a fist.

There was only a thin orange line glowing low in the sky. In the gloom his vision was disturbed further by swirls of leaves thrown around by frequent blasts of icy wind. All the warmth garnered during the brief respite had been banished in a moment, at least from under his clothes.

And the group had scattered. Only the boy and a couple of others were in front of Remus, and he was almost certain the rest had turned to different directions.

“Where are they going?” he asked.

The boy sounded startled, as if he had expected Remus to go his separate way, too. “Oh, they’ll be around… just moving around, and checking out rubbish, looking for something to eat.”

“I’ve brought some food.”

The couple clung to each other, at least. They both stopped and turned to peer at Remus. He could hardly discern any of their features, but the first voice was female, albeit husky. “The blankets are from you, too? I think you’d better show it all to Paul. The new ones haven’t usually got anything to share.”

“This is the teacher…” the boy explained, “Lupin.”

“Oh. We’re Mark and Sue.”

“And that’s Adam. I wager he didn’t tell you, Sue added. “Anthony’s brother – if you know Anthony…”

Now the hand hit Remus’s back. “Introductions, right,” Paul said, chuckling. “Here’s my boy…” For a moment Remus had to wonder to which one of them Paul was referring, until he continued, “Nathan – he’s eight this winter. And Remus Lupin.”

He forced himself to turn his face towards the child’s. “Hello, Nathan. How do you mean he’s yours?”

“No, I’m not the one who bit him, or his father. But I’m trying to save him.”

“I assumed you’d all be trying to save each other.” Now his tone must have got cold enough to have an impact on Paul.

There was a brief awkward silence, and the next words were not directed to him. “We’d better take the professor down. Just for a moment, of course, as there’s no rain. Just to see if he’s brought something to keep in the storage.”

Their hideaway and best regular shelter from rain was far from a dry place. This time the grating had been left aside, and Remus eased himself down the gully-hole, after checking that the alley bordering the vacant plot was deserted. Swinging himself to the ledge, so that he did not plunge into the waist-deep sewer, was not easier than apparating. However, he preferred returning slowly enough, so as not to bump into anyone, either.

In the gloom he could not see immediately who was still down there, but he was almost sure that only Nathan had not gone out yet. A fit of hacking cough told him the child was right at his feet.

“The rain’s stopped. And Mark’s found some more dry scrap wood,” Remus said, kneeling down and reaching out his hand.

His eyes had now got adjusted to the sparse light spilling in through the opening – the dying glow of his second sunset among his kind. He could see that Nathan, lying in the foetus position and wrapped tightly in the quilt which had once belonged to Mrs Porchead, was awake, looking at him. Venturing to brush aside the fringe, he touched the forehead tentatively with his almost numb fingers, as if it had been possible for him to assess the temperature like that.

A day before, having first reluctantly asked for Paul’s permission, too, in addition to the child’s, to use the Logos Astheneion spell, he had willingly lent his wand and taught Paul to confirm himself how ill his boy was. At the moment, however, the wand was being used in any unpredictable situation Paul was facing as the sole negotiator whom the hags had accepted. Remus had to be reconciled with the role of taking care of the child, for once, as well as he could.

“Come… Would you come to live in my house?” The question was almost a slip.

Paul’s absence did offer a rare opportunity to hear Nathan’s opinion. But there was no answer.

In the silence the nightmares threatened to return. As if the draughty tunnel had turned again into the passage to the Whomping Willow, like it had earlier in the day, in Remus’s restless sleep.

Perhaps the fact that he did not have his wand made him feel so vulnerable, helpless. Paul had not exactly asked him to surrender it, just showed unexpected interest in it, as soon as he had sent back up Sue, Mark and Adam, who had assisted in sorting out and storing the new supplies.

Paul was a surprisingly quick learner. After asking Remus to demonstrate some magic which their people could benefit from, he had easily repeated almost everything with probably intentional peculiarities only.

“I’ve used borrowed – or stolen – wands before. I like yours.” The tall man stood too close to him on this ledge, stooping under the low brick ceiling, on which humidity had condensed as heavy drops.

Huddled against the wall, Nathan remained quiet, chewing slowly on the piece of bread Paul had given to him. The spell had already undeniably revealed to the two of them that swallowing and even breathing was hard for the child. He still seemed to enjoy the feel and taste of food in his mouth. Closing his eyes, he almost smiled.

Both Remus and Paul caught themselves and each other watching him. After turning around in the middle of the vacant plot, so as to head for the entrance to the sewers, Paul had for quite a while not said anything about the child to Remus. It had been both relieving and unnerving that Paul had refrained from referring to anything personal and from making any further attempts at casual touches, even after the three of them had remained alone.

Paul forced again his gaze from his boy to as much distance as there was – to the filthy water, on which the light of Remus’s wand twinkled in his inspired variation of the conventional Lumos spell. The vaulted tunnel did not lead far, since the sewerage had never been completed in this neighbourhood.

“Perhaps you can give me this wand,” Paul said in a determinate tone, which undid any concessions in the phrasing. “Just for tomorrow’s mission. And my boy is… he’s yours, too. We’re all yours. I said we’d follow you. But the hags want only me in this negotiation.”

Remus found it hard to focus on any talk about negotiations and strategies or even on planning what to teach. “I’ll take him… home. I can’t… I’m afraid nobody can heal him otherwise. Even though I’ve already brought some potions which can help in various throat and lung diseases… The humid air is perhaps a bit easier to breathe, but there must be some poisonous gas down here. As you say we can’t light any real fires in the tunnel. And the draught is too chilling.”

Without replying, Paul told Nathan that it was time for a feast by a fire, up among the ruins. And soon they all gathered in the middle of the plot and feasted on the better half of the food Remus had brought.

Most of the night and the morning, until the outbreak of the storm, was now a haze in Remus’s mind. His eyes and throat smarting with the smoke. Heat flaring up from a rusty barrel. Hands reaching to warm up close to the flames, reaching to grab food, to pass it to other hands – and reaching to clasp his hands, but with a reverence, letting go after the introductions had been made. Cheerful chatting, contented smiles. Ragged figures in seemingly constant motion around the fire, turning hugs into playful wrestling or into moments of snuggling.

He hardly ate anything, and perhaps he was the only one not getting a moment of sleep, too. It seemed to him that he kept stalking Paul, repeating a single plea, while Paul was eager to develop the wider plans and to get to act upon them.

At Paul’s request, however, he immediately started the exercises of Rafinarisma with Mark and a couple of others who had working one-size-fits-all wands. After the first steps of success, he ventured to clap his pupils on their backs, before walking them again towards the barrel, to pick up some spoons and bowls transfigured from sticks and pieces of cardboard.

That was when he noticed Paul setting Nathan to rest against Adam, who was dozing off as close to the fire as possible. Still holding his wand, he rushed to pull on Paul’s sleeve, whispering once again, “He can go and stay in my house. The others will have to accept him. He’s only a child.”

The flames flashed in the eyes, as Paul merely glanced up, nudging Adam and pushing a cup of soup into his hands, indicating that he should try to make Nathan eat. “No, he’ll be more than that in less than two weeks’ time. I wish you could… I know what he needs, but it wouldn’t be safe. We’ve been ordered to remain here, and marked. Outside this neighbourhood anyone can recognise us – and kill one of us without any fear of consequences. Until we take the matters in our hands…”

At that point Paul straightened up abruptly and grabbed Remus’s right wrist. “You’ve already done it. The time has come for us to do the same under your lead. You should tell them now. Give them a speech!”

“I don’t know… about speeches…”

“You spoke to the Wizengamot. You’re feeding us; don’t miss the chance to say a few words!”

Remus jerked his wand-arm up to free it from Paul’s grip. “Let go!”

For a while he felt genuinely irritated, but at that moment it turned into amusement, based on surprising confidence, which did not rely on blatant demonstrations of supremacy or on solemn declarations. He did not need to ask for attention so as to formally launch into a speech.

The whole pack was gathered close enough to notice immediately the increased tension in the voices and gestures. And the two joined hands were lifted above their heads. For added effectiveness all the threadbare sleeves slipped down and exposed the bare skin of the two scarred arms to the raw air of dawn.

Remus continued in a stage whisper. “This must be the other way round.” He wrenched his hand free, quickly forced the wand into Paul’s hand and grabbed his wrist in turn. “You’ll carry this wand of mine when meeting our new allies today. Today… the time has come… we’ll join forces with everyone who wants to oppose all terror – to fight against Voldemort, against Umbridge, against…”

Only at that moment did he turn his gaze from Paul’s expectant smile to the circle of curious faces. He still did not know about the prospects of the meeting, which had hardly been mentioned to him – or what these werewolves hoped he would do. But he felt compelled to make clear with whom he could not possibly align. “Ice-Stare. Against all terror. Not for supremacy. For survival, equality and peace.”

He did not know what else to say. Ready to let Paul’s wrist free, he looked up once more and saw the first rosy light of the sunrise colour the tip of his wand.

Now he could not even remember whether Paul had added something before the crowd had started stamping and clapping. At least Remus’s few words, too, had contributed to making some feet and hands a bit warmer.

At the moment, however, bending over the apathetic child in the draughty tunnel, he could not comprehend how any fighting could possibly bring adequate help soon enough.

Nathan was perhaps just reluctant to risk getting cold air to touch the sheltered parts of his body. Or he was not totally conscious.

“Come on. Let me help you get up at least. They’re lighting a fire again. It’s not too far – by the nearest ruin.”

He kept caressing the boy’s head, and caught himself warming up his own hands by burying them in the hair and under the worn-out wool. Paul had wrapped the scarf up over the boy’s ears with concern before setting off and leaving them in the only shelter available.

Before any warmth of the morning sun had got tangible, the sky had become overcast. There was nothing left to burn in the barrel, and after the fitful wind had strengthened in earnest, so that the low boulders of stone hardly offered any protection in the middle of the open space, the group began to scatter. The rain, however, almost immediately made them all escape underground. Someone reported that the snorcack stable had become crowded with foreign beast merchants.

“I’m afraid they’ll stay until everything is sold and exported. All creatures know it’s time to grab what they can…”

Paul was evidently excited about these eventful days, but after he had left, the others settled for a leisurely afternoon. For once, there was, after all, no urgent need to look for food, and it was wiser to avoid getting drenched in the prolonged cloudburst. The sound of water streaming in torrents down through the gratings, except this closest one, which had been positioned unfavourably high on the alley – or favourably for them – so it let down only a small trickle, signalled to them that there was nowhere to hurry.

On the ledge there was really no space for anything but huddling close to each other, and Remus had expected everyone to try to sleep – or just to feel miserable. Instead, as soon as he had accepted Adam’s invitation and sat down on the corner of his blanket, he noticed a bottle going around.

“What is that… Martha?”

The woman on his other side – the middle-aged witch with some missing front teeth – nodded at the correctly-remembered name. After freeing her chapped hands from the tangles of her tattered shawls, she rubbed the bottle with her fingertips and both palms while replying in a playful tone. “Anything you can make it, unless you like what I made it… Actually just water, of course. Rainwater, clean. We have a good reserve, and we aren’t running out of it.”

“Most of us can charm it into something tasty, and sparkly,” Nick cut in, the oldest of those Remus had been teaching, “and hot, at least. Hey, let me add some bubbles with my wand! And let the teach… Remus taste it next!”

Remus cradled the surprisingly warm bottle. “Thanks. Can you promise it won’t make me tipsy?”

Martha grinned. “Of course not. I mean it won’t, not really. It’s just an illusion – of getting drunk, too.”

The liquid caressed his mouth, almost burning. “Quite convincing,” he said, smiling but unable to hide all traces of bitterness. “I used to turn water into an illusion of soup.”

“Not so much fun at all, is it?” another new student of his rasped, the one with a red beard – the one who insisted on being called Bloody, according to his official name.

Perhaps Remus’s tone got closer to wistfulness. “You need a pack so as to have fun with plain water.”

“And we must all admit that having fun is easier after some real soup,” Sue pointed out.

Turning to see her pale pretty face shining closest to the light of Mark’s lumos spell, Remus witnessed her finger tenderly scrub off some dried remnants of food in the corner of Mark’s mouth before a kiss.

Remus looked away for a while, not focusing on or addressing anyone in particular. “In fact, I’m tempted to add a real ingredient into this. No, not alcohol. Something healthy. And nobody will stop me, if you really want me as your leader. I can decide when we consume our juice supplies. Mark, can you take out the small goatskin bottle, and use a warming charm on it, as well.”

Having got the big bottle back, too, Remus poured in as much juice as there was space for. The sparkles turned deep purple, and the steam acquired a rich scent.

Martha let out a blissful sigh. “Oh, it’s…”

“Black currant. It’s meant to be diluted, and there’s more for another rainy day, but the rest of this here is for Nathan.”

Remus handed both bottles to Adam. Nathan opened his eyes at the mention of his name, but obviously drifted to sleep again.

“Now stories!” Nick ordered. “Let’s give Remus one example, and then it’s his turn!”

“Adam can start. He’s great, especially when he’s almost asleep.”

Sue’s suggestion probably pleased the young man. He grinned and shook himself, making his filthy hair fly around his face, then covered his head again with the sack while starting to talk. “All right, I’m waking up, so I can start falling asleep. Just give me another swig first… A werewolf, a snorcack and a minister walked into a bar… or was it to be tried at the bar? Anyway… “If I were you, I’d look for something to wear, or at least I’d act as if I were a wolf,” the snorcack said to the werewolf. “Oh, and if I were you, I wouldn’t bother to pretend I existed,” the minister said to the snorcack. Okay… The werewolf – he stuck out his bare behind, and well, there were no more ministers in that fine bar. The reek, you know, and the minister’s delicate nose.”

After some chortle Remus was urged to make his contribution. “I don’t know if this will make no sense or make you laugh or both. Well… Once upon a time in a faraway land there was a poor pack. So much poorer than us.”

The laughter had started as early as at that point. Drawing a deep breath, Remus was assaulted by the stench, which had been partly covered by the odours of the enchanted beverage. Perhaps on a warmer day they could heat a lot of water and wash themselves properly. When going back for more food – for some meat, too, at least for the child – he would remember that some soap would not be too embarrassing a gift either.

The draught in the tunnel reminded him of the chilling night wind over the barren land beyond Brünnhilde’s school. He had never tried to cross that land – never dared to go looking for the local werewolves, whom he had heard rumors about. “They had no proper shelter and no proper clothes, and they were freezing every night. They hardly found anything to eat, and they had nothing at all to drink. In their land it never rained, and they had no water.”

Afterwards he was not sure whether he had reached the happy end he had intended for the story. Perhaps the snorcack or the minister had interfered to make it even better. In any case he trusted there had been enough laughter for some consolation.

But he had finally curled up to doze off between Adam and Martha, and the draught had strengthened further in the dreams which followed each other in his broken sleep. He had kept waking up, to someone huddling closer to him or rubbing his limbs. From a vivid nightmare each time.

He caught himself shivering and now decided to lie down close to Nathan, determined to let him stay just for a moment more, until they would both feel safe and warm enough to get up and go to join the others. But it was hard to shake off the dreams which had carved unusually persistent marks in his conscious mind – perhaps also because they were actually repressed memories.

His body rigid against cold ground. His own half-human whimpers swallowed by the suffocating tunnel. Why was he transforming here, outside the Shack? The human mind was unrelenting tonight: it clung to a hope, waiting. Yes, he had been restless, come downstairs to wait by the door, pushed it and found it open, for once. Had they already come?

Sirius had insisted on coming early, even though Remus had said he did not want anyone to watch the atrocious change. Had he come, opened the door and left again?

The convulsions made it impossible to get up or to even crawl back into the room.

Now the footfalls in the tunnel. His friends would see him like this. When it hurt so much that he was curled into a twitching ball. Not James, of course not. There was no space for the stag in the tunnel, so he would not come now – if he knew that the door was open.

So it had to be Sirius. He strained his neck to look. It was Sirius’s face approaching in the light of his wand, framed by the black hair. No, no it was not… The widened eyes, the look of disgust, disbelief, fear… How could… No!

The claws bored into his arms. They would reach out for the human face, and there was no escape, not for this boy, no! All reason was leaving him right now. Beyond, under the control of a merciless beast, some strength unknown to him would ravage and destroy, and his mind would return only to cry.

It hurt, it hurt, and this time the slow trickle of blood was no consolation. He was covered with blood, and… Was it someone else’s? And he knew whose. The body had to be here in the darkness. Dead, or… There was no better alternative.

He did not want to see… Good, there was no light. And he was unable to move, so he would not accidentally touch it, like he had touched the rat once… He had not hurt the rat, so… But no, this was a human. A boy… Snape was dead now, or at least was not going to be human any longer. Because of him, a monster.

The child stirred in his arms. He had clutched the frail boy too hard, and how could he let anyone feel safe when he was shaking?

“We’re getting up. Just one more…” He sat up, leaning against the wall and pulling Nathan to his lap. The goatskin bottle now came to his view, and he reached to grab it. “Just one more story,” he said.

With his arms crossed over the thin chest, he held the opened bottle tight in his left hand. Its weight told him that Nathan had drunk only a little, and he was glad he had at least not diluted the nutritious juice.

To his surprise and almost joy, he felt steam rising out of the bottle’s mouth. He had managed to heat up the contents.

Soon after coming underground for the first time he had noticed that he had become unable to conjure cold flames on his palm. Perhaps, without any conscious choice of his, in the dire need for warmth, his left hand had given up the ability to emit light. Instead, the palm could offer to others some warmth for a moment.

Having moved the bottle to the other hand, he could even feel a trace of this warmth in the air around. Warmth he could never achieve when freezing alone, never only for himself.

He rubbed the palm against Nathan’s chest under the quilt while lifting the bottle for him to drink from. “Careful… Is it not too hot now?” he whispered, pressing the bottle to the boy’s lips.

There was a weak shake of head, and he was not sure what it meant. But, bending to check the face, he saw that Nathan held a mouthful for a moment, then swallowed with an effort, and the expression was closer to smiling than flinching.

He kept tilting the bottle in a slow rhythm and talked, mainly to keep himself calm. “Once upon a time there was… a werewolf who was so rich that he was tired of carrying everything he had. He had to carry it all on his head and his shoulders… He had all the love left behind by people who were long gone. He walked the endless paths, sometimes wishing to simply let it all drop. Wishing to disappear completely. He could not very well do that, but he would not have resisted, if it had all slipped away. But no, he had to carry the love as a burden, until he sat down, spread it out, and started sharing it.”

Remus still had to fight the desperation; bitter thoughts were surfacing again together with creeping fatigue. The warmth was being surrendered from the waning strength of his own body, so it would not work for long. Fine source of wealth, indeed – vain attempts at satisfying each other’s needs.

Some kind of anger – perhaps irritation caused by the weakness of his faith – finally jerked him from inactivity. “Come on! No use staying down here any longer. There’s a fire out there.”

Indeed, the warm-coloured illumination, which now flickered on Nathan’s face, revealing that the juice had somewhat invigorated him, had to derive from flames. The sky was almost black.

And Mark was already there, calling their names, now blocking the opening. “Hurry up. Paul’s back, and he wants to see the two of you. Let me help with a levitation charm.”

Remus had to be grateful. Nathan was hardly strong enough to climb up alone with the help of the rope. Instead, he would not have been too heavy a load to carry from the alley to the nearest ruin. Remus encouraged him to walk, though, so as to limber himself up a bit.

Paul welcomed them to the circle around the barrel, opening his arms for Nathan. He obviously hardly managed not to embrace Remus, too.

With a wide grin he handed the wand to Remus, and went straight to the point, without greetings or introductions. “The wand worked well – gave your regards to the hags. They believe that we are led by a powerful wizard. Now they are in your troops. You can get back to work. Teach, and lead us.”

Remus needed to know a lot more about the hags. But there was quite a basic question to deal with first. “Lead you… to survive? I have to ask for your help to figure out how. How do you make it through the winter every year?”

Paul shook his head. “Haven’t you heard yet that… until this autumn we had a better place? The barracks. Umbridge took them over for her corps. Parts of them are only illusion on top of ruin. But there were some sheltered corners, and there’s usually been at least someone among us who has some kind of a wand or strong enough wandless magic, so that we can enlarge them to fit us all.”

Remus was surprised by the power of something like a simple revelation when he heard himself say calmly, “We’ll take them back.”

“I was going to suggest that,” Paul said, grinning, in turn, “for our first attack.”

So this was where a revolt would start in earnest. “A revolt…” Remus worded aloud.

Paul did not seem to mind starting the discussion on this and letting it evolve, regardless of who happened to pay attention, and how carefully, to what they were saying. He appeared as excited and confident. At the same time, however, he was perhaps doing his best to refrain from declaring his plans before it was obvious that the two of them agreed – or rather that there was only one solution. But he could not resist saying, “It must start. And soon.”

Remus spelled out the reason – or was it merely an excuse? “Because you need the shelter, urgently.”

“Yes…” Now Paul forced himself to hush, then left Nathan to the nearest witch’s care, and beckoning to Remus to follow, stepped aside from the circle, before adding in a low voice, “Why do you think after all these years I want to stand up for our rights now – why does it matter so much? Because I don’t want my boy to live like this.”

“And you want him to live,” Remus said, not avoiding the keen eyes and not backing down any longer.

Paul looked older and more ill again. It was obviously an effort to him not to emphasise his words with a touch. “This boy won’t… I won’t let him die.”

Remus lifted his left hand and placed it firmly on Paul’s upper arm. “No. We’ll take back the barracks, and we’ll take more…”

James shook his head and snorted at him. “No, you’re not coming. People like you seem to get other kinds of missions from Dumbledore or…”

He had to fight back tears. He turned his face aside and watched Sirius, now not an Auror trainee yet… no, hardly more than a child, leaning against the door, hugging himself. The lips were blue, and the words were scarcely intelligible.

“Can I stay?”

“Silly boy! Of course he could stay, Mrs. Potter said, and now she was not Emma; she jerked her head and the flames of Lily’s hair burnt Remus’s chest. “Silly boy, if he had to run away at Christmas night, why did he walk the frozen streets for a whole night and day before coming to his new home. As if he’d been all alone in the world. As if everyone who loved him had died. But now we are all dead, and you must lie still. Lie still. If you move, it’ll hurt more.”

She was gone, and Remus, lying on the hard ground, defied her order only by turning his head again, in despair. No, she would not return. This was not any ordinary nightmare. This was the one from which he could never wake. They were dead.

Now came the new one. Sirius was smaller than ever, huddled in the corner. A skeletal hand parted the veil of his hair, and it was not completely black anymore.

“Is this frost, or has your head greyed, too?”

There was no answer. The eyes were closed. The lips were parted, but a kiss would only take more than the rest of the life away.

A flash of harsh light on half-moon spectacles. “You can’t stay with him. He won’t leave his cell, and you are sent out there, again and again.”

What was it that made the briefcase so heavy? This had to be far enough. He stumbled around the pines and to the edge of the grove, dropped the case and fell on his knees in the sand. The beach and the sea in front of him were painted red by the setting sun.

He took off the jumper and the trousers, then the t-shirt and the underpants, in haste but as cautiously as possible, so as not to rip the worn-out fabric any further. When he grabbed the chains, his fingers brushed the picture of the two puppies, in his ritual gesture of farewell. Perhaps this was the last time and he should have, for once, opened the photo album. But no, it was too late.

How many times had he woken up in a pool of blood, trembling and sick, and dragged himself back where he had left his clothes. Here around the most solitary tree, the sand was soft. In the morning it would be soaked, but still, perhaps he would finally not make the effort… Just let the pain wash over him, surrender his mind and what was left of his body, and no longer bother to take them back.

If only the ground had not become hard again. The heavy weight on his chest was warm and strangely comforting, while his extremities were aching, on the verge of numbness, and he could not move them. He was unable to move at all. He could breathe no longer. This could have been a relief. It would have been during all those years. Now in despair he forced his eyes open so as to see the end, to treasure the last moment and all his memories of love and pain in it.

He saw a human glimpse of a face close to him, as if it had been the last blessing. But now a puff of steam escaped his mouth, he drew in the smell of soil and decay in the frigid air, and he knew that life would go on.

Yes, here he was, lying on his back among the weed and rubble, not far from the circle of his new friends. A gust of wind brought Adam’s babbling and Martha’s laughter as the promise of safety, almost like home. The light was cold and scarce. Obviously the flames had died, and the morning had hardly broken.

Someone had been sitting on his chest, and this person now lifted the weight a bit and shifted forward, apparently placing knees on his either side. A grey worn-out mitten filled the field of his vision for a moment. Then he felt bony fingers through thin, smooth wool touch his cheek while the head bent ever closer.

Not much more than a pair of dark eyes was exposed by the shabby black balaclava, but the wrinkles in the corners of these eyes disclosed a smile. “I’m Jenny, Old Peg’s daughter,” a gentle voice murmured. “Why are you so startled? We were not far yesterday, and you knew we’d come and join you. And you must know how hags serve. We bring you the nightmares. Deal with them; that’s how you harvest. We wander by the water’s edge – in the margin. We carry our food with us – ripened with salt, eaten sparingly. In winter we who stop around London are used to seeking shelter near these wretched packs. You need nightmares more than any other creatures do.”

All right, he did not deny his fears and worst memories. But how could he possibly dwell on them now? “I’m not…”

The mitten-covered hands rubbed his arms, then grabbed them firmly. Before he had time to fully recover from his surprise, to even become convinced that he was truly awake and alive, he was standing up and seeking balance in the hag’s embrace, and her solemn litany went on.

“You thought you didn’t belong to the pack. You’ve tried to live as a mere wizard. But you’ve had your share. Of the blessing of nightmares, too. After them you are grateful for each breath again. Relieved to face the simple hardships.”

“And a new challenge,” he managed to say, while his teeth were chattering. “I suppose there’s a lot I have to thank you for.”

Her breath was hot against his neck. She would probably have been as tall as him, had she not preferred standing with a stoop. “Thank us when we are all in proper shelter.”

“I’m thanking you now… Jenny, Old Peg’s daughter, you and your sisters, and I’ll thank you again. Soon, I hope. I’m afraid we’re getting only weaker, if we stay like this any longer.”

“All right,” she said, tilting her head. She moved one hand from his waist, so as to adjust her balaclava to expose better her softly green-tinted grin. “No more babbling now. When do you suggest we make our move?”

“According to Anthony there’re no new recruits in the barracks yet. The perfect time would be… right now.”

“We can set off before sunrise. Everyone else is ready.”

“I am…”

“You’re hungry. And you need to talk to me.” She had started walking him towards the others. One of her long arms was wrapped around his shoulders and the palm reached back to press over his heart, and she had enveloped him in the warmth of her soil-scented cape.

Most of the other werewolves, too, had evidently been approached in the same unabashed manner. The allies were standing in pairs and threesomes around the faintly glowing remnants of a fire. Paul, however, stepped to Remus alone, offering a mug to him.

The soup was not too hot or too thick, so he would drink it up quickly. His nose was running and he had to wipe it with the back of his hand, and the skin on his knuckles was chapped to the point of bleeding. He could not help wishing someone had offered him more to eat, and despite Jenny’s hug he was numb with cold. His feet were freezing, and he doubted that this time even getting on the move would make him feel much better.

He had got out of a rut, and he should not have expected himself to bear this even as well as in his younger days. Just like back then, his mind was filled with his body’s discomfort, and the only verbalised thought left was that he wanted to go home.

He had to lead these people home. If they said it meant the barracks, he had to take them there. Only after whatever fight was required, could he try to provide them with more supplies. Yes, he would get them what they needed. He now had wealthy allies, too, after all. Someone like Prospero. After honestly admitting to himself how miserable, how far from a bold leader he felt, he could now see both the hope and the necessary and only possible way to act.

Tilting the mug so as to empty it, he glanced at Jenny’s face. She had closed her eyes but not removed her protective palm. Was she controlling or at least surveying his emotions? To his surprise the suspicion did not bother him seriously. Thisby had, after all, done no harm to him.

“No,” she said, opening her eyes, and winking immediately. “My intrusion is limited to the dreams. Now before you call your troops to follow, tell me… That man in his cell.”

Her uncompromising grip of his heart left him with no alternative to spelling out the truth. “He died in June.”

“And you?”

“Me… I missed him. I loved him.”

“You do.”

“Yes, I still do. I still miss him. And love him.”

She nodded and smiled. “Now we’re all ready.”

Jenny did not mention Sirius again. The tangible presence of bereavement was sustained only in the echo of the words she had enticed from Remus, while she did remain by his side on their march to the barracks. With her hand on his shoulder, with all these ragged followers stumbling close behind along the murky alleys – he was alone. Yet, he was drawing new strength from a crystallised memory.

“You’ll take this light of yours to others,” the slurring voice still whispered in his mind.

The silver of oceans in those mesmerising eyes had shone bright like before any betrayal. For a wild warm moment he had believed that nothing was only reflection.

Then Sirius had hung his head, so that it had been hard to ignore the bald spot, and turned all his attention back to the bottle, as if Remus had not been standing there, trembling of cold and of yearning. As if he had not rushed in and down the stairs to the kitchen to feel the heat of the hearth and a soothing touch on his skin. As if he had not spent lonely weeks in the icy drizzle of the Orkney islands in meaningless watch for insurgence among dubious shoals of merpeople, who had hardly surfaced and obviously remained perfectly unconcerned about any wizards’ wars. As if he had not been able to bear another exile only by clinging to the dream that someday the two of them together…

Too late had he realised that all those missions as well as the confinement had served in making the two of them harmless. Remus’s presence had inspired Sirius to sudden attempts at demagoguery – loud demands for equality to all creatures with conscious minds, or detailed plans for renewal of administration – regardless of who else had been listening. Towards the spring, after each long absence Remus had found a quieter man deeper among the shadows of the house. Even in his dog form Sirius had appeared more concerned, less reckless than Remus had wished, and the sparks had risen to a flaring flame only at the last moment.

This part of the loss was hardest to face. It had not been a coincidence. Sirius must have felt the fall approaching – or rather never having been properly discontinued. Perhaps the hope, the spirit of rebellion had derived from both of them, but Sirius had known that only Remus would remain to carry on. He had to face and surpass the grief.

And now he alone had to be a Marauder again.

But when he reached the beginning of the gravel road, he lifted his hand with three fingers up, without glancing back, as if he had been sure that the three friends marching closest behind would understand his gesture. Mark, Nick and Bloody all came up by his side. He could almost taste the pungent flavour of enchanted intoxication in their breaths, while he kept peering across the open wasteland at the faint outline of the main barrack.

“From here Bloody and I will take one half of us to the back entrance,” he said.

The first rosy glow lit up in the horizon under the rim of dark clouds, revealing the shape of the building a bit more clearly, at the moment when he had to shift his attention to the gaunt faces. And the warm colour turned the smiles into explosions of hope and vigour. Bloody’s teeth gleamed surprisingly clean among the scraggly red beard; soundless laughter deepened Nick’s wrinkles; Mark’s lopsided grin widened further when Sue stole to brush his wand arm.

She clung to her man, and Remus could not help the unfair feeling that she was a stubborn recent intruder. He wished he could have sent her on another task, to take the news about their move to Anthony or all the way to Mrs Hopchin.

“Nick and Mark – and Sue,” he added, “you’ll lead the rest to approach slowly. Follow those ditches; take cover among the bushes.”

He now knew that Sue or the youngest and weakest members would not have been much safer, if sent any further away from the site of the attack – and also understood why Adam could not sleep at his brother’s off-license, and why Nathan could not be taken to Bagendon. Paul, astonished by his ignorance, had explained to him how all the officially solitary werewolves had been marked not by the Ministry’s registry but by the fey creatures whose territory they were shown to or had always – even before having been bitten – lived in.

Goblins, who kept the denied neighbourhood under their control, sent regular squads after the settings of full moons to check that all those found recovering from transformation had stigmas branded on their skin. Having looked at the identical marks like thorny wreaths around his new friends’ wrists, Remus was willing to see each unique bite mark rather as a dear souvenir.

Only in September had Umbridge decreed that anyone presenting, outside of this neighbourhood, a corpse marked as a werewolf’s would be rewarded, without any interrogation on the death. Now that wide circles of goblins were turning against Umbridge, it was bound to harm her that she had given such significance to a mark which a goblin’s fingers could burn on anyone. Still, Umbridge had managed to make Paul’s and his pack’s lives ever harder, so it was not surprising he had got interested in Remus’s and Hecate’s causes.

Remus had already asked one of Jenny’s sisters to let Hecate know what was now happening here. As a mere afterthought he had mentioned that one hag could take the news to his people in Bagendon, too. Just for their information.

It would be up to them – to Gumby and Rose – to decide whether to get involved in any way. Remus wanted to believe that the barracks would not be hard to take over. There were still perhaps only six members of Umbridge’s troops here, certainly not more than the werewolves’ and hags’ own numbers. Defending the place could turn out a lot more difficult for his band, too, than seizing it, but he could not expect his earlier allies to be eager to help these ones.

Coming here with Harry, Jonah and Kostas had been foolhardy enough. In that company Remus had risked their exposure by reckless chatting, while they had at least been sheltered by the darkest night. Now sunrise was imminent.

With a heavy heart Remus watched the other half continue their way first and Paul bring up the rear, supporting Nathan. Perhaps, particularly if the attack was bound to fail, after all, this child was not meant to remain to suffer. And it was an unbearable thought that such a young boy would have already ended up tasting blood and losing his immortal soul in the same way Paul had.

Why should a promise to Paul stop Remus from giving up, from almost inviting failure? He remained standing, postponing the effort of setting off again. Then a squeeze of his shoulder almost miraculously revived another promise: the hope once shared with Sirius.

And the image from beyond the borderline, from his childhood adventures with Gumby, was now suddenly vivid again like on the morning of his homecoming. This sunrise was to be painted red only to herald better times. There were no banners or purple robes, no shining armour, but these were his soldiers. This dark figure, stooping in the gloom, hardly visible, but a warm presence despite the darkness in her eyes, was his partner on this mission.

“Thank you again,” he said to Jenny, touching her mittened hand on his shoulder. “Let’s go. After I’ve Disillusioned each of us – just in case.”

Remus led the way across the wasteland on a path which wound around random rocks and shrubs. It was both endearing and uplifting that they had to walk in a chain, holding hands, so as to be sure not to get too far from each other despite the Disillusionment Charm. Remus had given his left hand to Jenny, keeping his wand ready in his right, and she was followed by Bloody and another hag.

This time there was no light in the windows. It would have been hard to distinguish any figures in front of the building. There was no sound either. No, there was nobody at all where the patrol had gathered at the time of Kostas’s return. Nobody where rain had turned the ground into a mass of mud after all the vegetation had been worn out by treading feet. It seemed Jenny had been right saying that sunrise was the best moment to take the defenders unawares. The hags had observed the barracks and seen that the guard usually gave up his duty when the others started to get up.

At the end of the barrack there was no door or window. There was some shelter from the chilly wind, instead, as well as shade from the growing light of dawn, and Remus stepped closer to this wall, hardly resisting the temptation to lean against it and move no further. The plastering was peeling off, and the uneven surface of stone beneath seemed to be crumpling, holding together only due to spells.

“We’re all here,” Martha whispered in his ear.

Remus peeked around the corner only to see that the back door was firmly closed, and all the space around a couple of smaller barracks and huts, too, looked deserted. It struck him that he actually had scarce first-hand experience of invading any buildings. In the first war Dumbledore had not even suggested that Remus participate in any missions which could have forced him to resort to violence. Did he have any idea of what to do?

Only a few days earlier, instead, had he watched pointless bloodshedding. Could he honestly expect this operation to end any better? But this was no time or place to wonder if he should have not only limited himself to as non-violent defence as possible, but also refrained from any active rebellion. Now he was part of this, and it was possible that creatures on both sides would get killed. Perhaps this would be the moment of his sacrifice.

How much hope would he have in any case – unless he became a recluse, and responsible for all the suffering he could have tried to alleviate – not to have lost his soul by the end, losing his chance to gain, on the other side, the joy he had once known and something unimaginably better? He had chosen the risk a long time ago, again and again, as naturally as he had gratefully accepted his mind and body back every time. As for a soul, he could only have faith that one still resided in him, and that if he should lose something, it was meant to happen.

In any case at this point his inertia and anxiety had to give way to action. They were so near their destination, and he could hardly see anything preventing them from reaching it – there was such a small step to take that he would take it without realising that he had stopped thinking. He would simply lead them to break in.

Now there was some warm, flickering light spilling out in two thin strips onto the tramped grass on this side of the door. Some muffled sounds, too: calm, sleepy murmur of voices, something dragged across the floor – perhaps mattresses – and something laid down with small clinks and thuds. The windowpane was obviously either broken or completely missing, and the opening had been covered – almost from edge to edge – with a blanket.

The remaining members of the corps here perhaps all gathered to spend their nights in this room, and it seemed that during their morning chores they were so vulnerable that maybe a mere threat from an invading group would make them leave the place without a fight. And in case they had any chances to keep themselves clean, perhaps the smell alone would make them escape Remus’s army.

These recruits were not likely to have any strong magic or mechanism in their makeshift shutter. Remus turned back so as to order Bloody to follow him and check whether they could easily attack through the window.

But his followers seemed to have taken action on their own. At the moment when Remus looked back he was dazzled by a flood of light.

And this bright light was undoing the effect of the Disillusionment Charm. The fringes of Martha’s shawl sparkled around a dark figure of her small frame, and then she was suddenly in full view, clutching a sharp edge in the middle of the wall. Yes, in an eerie silence the wall was breaking in two. Was her magic making it open, perhaps without her conscious intention, due to her need to reach the shelter?

No, the light was not hers. It was charging on her and the others through a widening gap in the wall. She had gained her balance and managed to back off. Looking in from an angle, Remus could now see men lurking in the room and he could aim at them without risking hits at his own people. He perceived no intention for hexes, no lifted wand, but he did not wait.

“Stupefy!” He repeated it as calmly as possible, willing another opponent to collapse softly, avoiding serious injury, “Stupefy.”

A hoarse voice near him echoed the incantation – twice, three times. Otherwise the scene remained quiet, unearthly. Could it be that they had truly not been in any danger at all? Perhaps the recruits did not even have wands, or the orders had been to remain passive, to become victims.

Remus stepped closer to see the centre of the room. The light was dimmer now. Indeed, there was a single candle lit among some rough dishes on a board which was supported by piles of bricks. But the shadows... No, the candle was not the source of all light. The source was near, right next to him. Its warmth made the skin on his hands prickle.

And it burnt. In his pain it flashed white, then started filling with blood-red in tormenting slow pulse. He had dropped on his knees, and a scorching grip circled his right wrist, forcing his hand up.

He should have been able to bear the pain, but he had failed. He was useless. He could not feel the fingers in this hand, and he must have let the wand fall.

A scornful laughter confirmed his failure. It pierced his mind together with the sight of two small intense flames below arcs of silver.

On the edges of his vision some dark cloth flapped past him. Like a cool stream it washed his eyes and he saw his friends. Jenny and some of her sisters had leaped forward. They stretched their arms deep into the room, reached other recruits, perhaps all the rest of them, wrapped them into the traps of their embrace and pushed them against the floor.

When he focused on the face in front of him, he saw it clearly – dark and wrinkled – and recognised it. And managed to catch a twitch in those tiny eyes. A sign of surprise, concern, perhaps? That was just a suggestion by his hopeful mind. There was only the wide smirk left. Only the pain.

“This time I’m not to burn the building – just you.”

The first part of Chapter Nineteen is here.

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from: kellychambliss
date: Oct. 15th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)

I'm back! You probably thought I'd given up on this story, but no -- it's far too good. Just various RL things in the way. But I have some free time now, and I'm enjoying getting back into the mood of the story. I've been rereading a bit so that I can catch myself up again, and I've been noticing some fine lines that I didn't mention before -- like the opening paragraph to Chapter 18, with this line: How many times do we have to grow up? An excellent question, pertinent to this story and to canon, too.

In this chapter, all your OCs are so well-characterized, as usual.

You write with such insight about the characters/beings/people who are "outsides" in the world -- as in this paragraph, for instance:

Despite the cold tint of the light, which emphasised the sickly colour of the pale and dirty skin, and despite the inevitable lack of any aesthetic consideration behind the vagrants’ appearances, Remus did not need to struggle to see beauty in these images, on the contrary. He was witnessing – actually prying into – some of the best moments in hard lives.

"Not for supremacy. For survival, equality and peace.”
Yes, this is the philosophy that makes sense for Remus.

Afterwards he was not sure whether he had reached the happy end he had intended for the story. Perhaps the snorcack or the minister had interfered to make it even better. In any case he trusted there had been enough laughter for some consolation.
Haha!! I loved the story-time and the enchanted beverage game. Poignant, yet fun -- exactly the right choice of pacing here; readers and characters alike need moments of rest and relaxation like this, even in the midst of action and anxiety.

Warmth he could never achieve when freezing alone, never only for himself.
Nice touch. And I like the way you weave in Remus's dreams. They're a very effective narrative device, and they really help deepen and complicate his character.

I also like the rationale for the barracks raid, and I'm really pleased to see the hags and your complex presentation of them.

And now he alone had to be a Marauder again.
Sad and empowering at the same time. You set up the coming conflict very well. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

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from: paulamcg
date: Oct. 16th, 2010 05:42 pm (UTC)

Oh no, I feared no more that you’d give up before the end. You’d already invested in – and contributed to – the story so much, convincing me that you’d found it good and interesting enough, and I felt secure in my hope that you’d finish it. However, this single comment was enough to make me unspeakably happy, and I was prepared to wait for months again, perhaps finally until next summer!

Now I’ll enjoy crafting my replies to your overwhelming feedback, and trying to express how much it means to me that you’ve received the whole novel. I’m also happy for you that you’ve had the chance to read these last chapters without breaks, because perhaps that – together with the rereading you did first – helped you make the most of everything.

I’ve been rather fond of the line you quote here first. I’m thrilled you’ve found it so relevant.

Once again I was a bit nervous when starting to read your comments on the continuation of the story. Even though these last few chapters have been beta-read by ishonn, I’ve still thought it’s possible that some of the various plot twists, new characters and narrative devices don’t quite work for (other) readers. That’s why I feel relief, first of all, and then enormous joy, when learning that you’ve been happy to meet my characters here in these moments of anxiety, action and relaxation. It was both fun and deeply moving to get so close to them together with Remus, while it was challenging to construct the chapter in this way. It’s particularly reassuring that you praise the pacing and the inclusion of the dreams, too.

By this point, I found it wiser (or fanfic-reader-friendlier) to introduce such non-human creatures which have been mentioned in canon. Still, I fully enjoyed the freedom in developing Jenny so as to make use of her and her sisters in later scenes, too, and it’s wonderful to hear that they’ve pleased you.

Finally, thank you for telling me that both my choice of philosophy for Remus and the first act of revolt make sense to you. I’m afraid there’s mainly just an extensive set-up and not any longer description of the actual conflict – before my single viewpoint character once again loses his consciousness too soon! Fortunately I’ve now already learnt that the disappointment wasn’t too big – perhaps thanks to the adequately interesting continuation and to your swift proceeding towards to final battle, where we get some longer scenes of action, at last.

Thank you, Kelly, thank you so much! You are amazing. Having got to share my writing with you, I could be fully happy with the reception of this story, even if you were to remain my only reader.

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