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FIC: Remus Lupin and the Revolt of the Creatures, Chapter 19 / 21 (PG-13), part one

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Jun. 13th, 2010 | 11:52 pm

Title: Remus Lupin and the Revolt of the Creatures, Chapter Nineteen: Best Friends, part one
Author: PaulaMcG
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: (subtly, eventually) Remus/Sirius
Chapter summary: Remus doesn’t know anymore for whose eyes he’s writing – or perhaps he does.
Word count: around 9,400
Disclaimer: Remus won't help me make any money.

Notes: This is the first chapter that got betaread by ishonn. Thank you, my sweet friend, for your loving, challenging and elating response to my writing.

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 Chapter Eighteen here and here.

Remus Lupin and the Revolt of the Creatures

Chapter Nineteen: Best Friends

The red pressed against his eyes. Then a cold weight on his forehead switched the colour off. The sensation of pulsing ache was familiar enough to reassure him. He was right here, all of his body up to the tips of his fingers, too.

Someone was touching him, as well: uncertain hands under his armpits. “You must take the potion,” a low voice said.

He forced his eyes open. The face above his chest was hidden by curtains of lank hair, and the silvery light behind this dark figure dazzled him, so that he could not see more. He closed his eyes again.

You must take... Who was saying that?

When he felt the rim of a goblet on his lips, he jerked his head aside. The movement made him slip from the hold of the supporting hands – and he fell against a pillow. Yes, he was lying somewhere soft and warm.

He had returned home once more, and there was no reason to fight or worry. Instead, so much space for the past to enter again. You must take...

“And don’t thank me,” the Potions master had said. “Dumbledore continues his experiments, and I’ll do the work. The demanding work has always been done by wizards like me. We continue to risk our lives, while his special treatment is reserved for beasts. But Black will be caught and sent back to pay for the murder he attempted, using you. There have been more murderers among you – the headmaster’s pampered Gryffindor bullies: more murderers than you think.”

And in June Snape had offered his condolences with a sly smirk. “I always knew Black was a good man, not as bad as he would have been, if he’d succeeded in a murder. Oh, did I forget to mention... Of course, back in autumn eighty-one I learnt about the Dark Lord’s plans to use Pettigrew.”

The voice in his memory was subdued by the effortless humming of a captivating melody, and he could sense cool gentle glow through his lids. Without seeing Thisby he was finding respite in his many blessings again. Still, something recent – something that he did not quite have the mind to think about yet – demanded him not to forget what could have been only – and for some reason he was not sure any longer he was allowed to say “only” – a nightmare.

“Was it Snape? Peter...”

“Hush,” Thisby said, and her voice smiled to him reassuringly. “There’s nobody like that here – only the creatures whom you’ve let in yourself. That was Jonah. He’s been tending to you.”

Leaning back in the chair as the magic from decades ago customised it perfectly to support his frame, he grabbed the spoon with his left hand. A thick bandage still covered his right from knuckles to halfway the forearm, and the ache had not subsided. This was the first time he came to sit at the table to have a proper meal since... When the spoon got dipped into the thick soup in the hand-painted bowl, this image returned first: the poorly-transfigured piece of cardboard shoved close to Nathan’s apathetic face.

“My pack... The boy –Nathan – and the others! Jonah, please! What happened to my mind? What happened to them all?”

In his sudden anguish Remus was already about to dash up, when Jonah appeared from the kitchen, with Kostas’s wand pointed to guide two other bowls through the air in front of him. The food landed on the tabletop, upsetting a vase filled with forget-me-nots, while Jonah put his hands on Remus’s shoulders.

“The child’s recovering well, Thisby says. He’s started to eat. She went back there then almost at once, left me to take care of you, and now she’s gone for another visit.”


“To the barrack,” Jonah explained. “Where this Bafflegab guy got you.”

There were too many questions to ask, and too many priorities.

But Jonah sat down next to Remus, moving the reassuring touch down his left arm. “Thisby says you’d better get some of your strength back first, so… It was all right what her magic did – or his magic, or both, whatever. It shook it all out from your head for a while, for the whole day and night and this morning. And there’s nothing you should worry about. They got him, the hags did. And your… pack has all settled in over there.”

Overwhelmed by the flood of memory, Remus was relieved that at least he had not been out of it for several days. “All of them, unharmed?” he hurried to ask, clinging to the hope.

“Yes, and Paul wants you to know that they didn’t harm anybody else too badly either.”

Remus could not help smiling. “He’s so considerate now, isn’t he? And Bafflegab?”

“He died in a hag’s hands. But now, look – Frank’s joining us. He still likes coming to eat after almost everyone’s gone.”

Indeed, Frank had appeared in the doorway from the kitchen, looking even taller and stronger than Remus had remembered, healthier. However, he scanned the room warily, and having noticed both Remus and Jonah, he slouched a bit and hesitated. Then he headed to round Remus so as to reach the place where one of the bowls had slid farther than the other. But when he was passing, at the last moment Remus reached out his hand – the right one, without stopping to consider how well he could make it function – towards Frank’s hands, which, as usual, both rested above his chest, so as to greet him. The tips of these stiff fingers ended up brushing against velvety fur. For the first time ever Remus had touched Frank’s wat.

“Hello. How are you doing?” he said, not withdrawing his hand.

After the first alarmed twitch there were a couple of slight nervous movements, but he could sense the animal calm down. Despite this pleasant outcome of his clumsiness, he quelled the curiosity and refrained from exploring the creature with a bolder caress.

Frank seemed pleased, too. Without looking at Remus, he grinned and nodded, as if he had listened to his pet’s reply to the question. Then he moved on to sit down, leaving only one chair empty between the two of them. Holding the wat in his lap, he bent over the table and started to ladle soup into his mouth. There were some traces of a small smile left and visible between the spoonfuls, but he did not look up even when Jonah launched into talking to him.

“Did you finish your spinning work? I bet you did. You’re so fast.” After a pause Jonah continued in the form of his report to Remus. “Almost everyone here works on the wool now. I think the rest of the sheep are going to be sheared today.”

“But that’s excellent.”

“Of course, not everyone’s here. Rose herself – she took a group of those who can best help fix the barrack... and defend it.”

Jonah’s casual tone had turned cautious and he glanced between Remus and Frank, who concentrated fully on feeding the rest of his soup to the wat.

“It’s all right,” Remus said, attempting at a reassuring voice – while realising how he had involved the children in a conflict which would not have needed to concern them.

An attempt at an explanation to Frank served in clearing his thoughts. “You must have noticed that my little outing was not a complete success.”

Perhaps they would all have been better off without him. Bafflegab, too... He had probably been there only because Umbridge had known or guessed that Remus would come.

Now in any case this was no longer his place to stay, even though the quiet moment in the comforting company could have made it tempting to fall back to forgetfulness. He tried to focus on the simple satisfying experience of eating, but he could not ignore the impatient thought that its purpose was to quickly make him strong enough to be of some use to somebody. Of course, it might have been most reasonable to apparate all the way, but he did not know how soon he could venture to do that, and he did not want to wait.

“Thank you, Jonah, for everything. I’ll hear the rest from Rose and Paul themselves. I must go now.” He moved his chair backwards and managed to get to his feet before Jonah stopped him.

“No, you mustn’t. I mean, we can only hope you are able to walk outside. Just before you got up and down here, I told Mrs Hopchin that you might be, after having some lunch. She came to say that there’s a visitor for you, a friend. You’ll see there’re important things for you to do here.”

The cosy, warm room had looked so dusky that it had not occurred to Remus it could be only early afternoon on a bright, almost cloudless day. This is how he perceived the day at the moment when he pushed the door open: perfectly clear, crisp air through which every nuance of any colour left in the wilting landscape shone to him in enchanting invitation to explore and store in memory, so as to perhaps depict it in a painting, someday during an unforeseeable peaceful era.

He took a step out and lifted his face towards the sun. When the light dimmed, he could have first explained it with an occasional cloud – had a stab of pain in his head not made him seek support of the door. Everything in his vision was blurred down to shades of grey and to figures with soft edges. He hardly dared to turn and look when he heard Jonah’s voice.

“How are you? You know, Thisby said that bright light could still disturb you.”

“I’m all right.”

He had to be. His sight would be back to normal soon. And he could still see the concern on Jonah’s face – unless he only heard it – as well as Frank stepping closer and offering an arm like to a lady.

“Want to come with me – you and your pet?” he asked as cheerfully as he could. “I suppose we’ll just go across the orchard.”

After walking a stretch in the bleak haze he continued, “Can you see someone waiting over there? I think I can.” He had started saying the last words before he realised that Frank was replying.

And the reply was not a nod, but, for once, a focused outtake – or perhaps intake – of breath. “Yeah.”

“Yeah, you must be right. There is someone there, among the apple trees, leaning on one, right? Perhaps I should have asked whether Mrs Hopchin had mentioned who wanted to see me.”

But any worries about his inability to recognise the visitor disappeared before he even tried to distinguish the facial features. While he was instinctively looking down for a moment, so as not to stumble when leaving the lane, the visitor approached swiftly. Remus might not have been totally aware of the fine fragrance back at Halloween, but now the scents of orange and ginger were familiar enough to prepare him for the eager grip of his upper arms.

Prospero’s first words, however, lacked the solemnity he expected, even all politeness, while the delighted, almost tender tone made them sound like Good to see you. “You look terrible.”

Just as when they met for the first time, Remus was unusually conscious of and uncomfortable about the way he was dressed. Thanks to Jonah he was at least reasonably clean. “Obviously. If you wanted to see someone good-looking, you wouldn’t have come to me. But this here is Frank Longbottom. Frank, this is Prospero.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr Longbottom. But seriously, Remus... Forgive me. I can see I should not have made you come out.”

“I’m used to wounds on my arms, as well as to overall terrible look. But I have nothing against getting back in, and I trust that, even with the wand in my left hand, I’ll manage to conjure the parchment to allow you entry,” Remus was saying before he became aware of his attempt at hiding behind all these words from the visitor’s unfair perspicacity. “Having you as my guest will be an honour and a pleasure.”

When pulling the door open and letting the others enter first he wondered if Prospero had expected this gesture of trust. Remus had not needed to stop to consider anything, as if he had dreamt of this visit and seen exactly how he would receive it.

Now he actually saw very little, but he was determined to wait calmly for his eyes to get used to this lighting, which had not bothered them before. Jonah had cleared the table, left the vase, yes... but in his eyes the flowers had lost their blue colour.

There was a tap on his shoulder. Then he realised that Frank was already retreating towards the kitchen.

Perhaps Remus was still tired: he was slow, behind in his perception. Now he had to peer around to finally notice Prospero standing near the bench on which Simon had lain down on his first night here.

He almost managed to offer, “What would you like to have to drink or...”

“Thank you, I am fine. I have just enjoyed Mrs Hopchin’s hospitality.”

As Remus stepped closer to him, Prospero’s features remained soft, as if out of focus. As if not truly here. The resulting anguish was hard to ignore. Perhaps it showed, too – made Remus look more ill.

“Please, I think you need some more rest,” Prospero continued. “And would you allow me to... I mean, has your wound been examined by any goblin or half-goblin, and what do they say?”

Remus sat down on the bench and pulled the sleeve up to the elbow. “I don’t know if anyone besides Thisby and Jonah... I suppose you can take off the bandage, if you want to see what Bafflegab did. But I don’t think the wound is anything particularly serious.”

Prospero knelt close to him and reached to arrange some pillows, then to push him to lie down. The touch of the fingers, as well as any performance of magic making the bandage unwrap, was hardly perceptible. Instead, the ache intensified, as if unleashed, and Remus concentrated on not moving and on breathing deeply.

“No, you are right,” Prospero said. “This is no extraordinary wound, even though he did it more roughly than they usually bother to do.”

Did what? Remus turned his head cautiously so as to take a look. He saw only a dark zone circling the wrist. Exceptionally he felt no urge to examine the wound in detail, and he refrained from commenting.

“There is a strange aura... Oh yes, some magic of the veela. Miss Thisby, I assume...”

“Yes, Jonah just explained to me in the morning that a part of the wrist bone had been fragmented, and Thisby did something to it to make it start healing gradually. But the wound itself is... ordinary?”

“Yes. This is the routine procedure. Umbridge must have been eager to have you properly stigmatised.” Prospero drew a shuddering breath but hurried to continue. “Perhaps she wants you to live with it for a while, too. Therefore I should say it is possible that she knew about the hags – and intended to get rid of Bafflegab.”

The routine... Remus squeezed his eyes shut. Now this young man saw how it was all not only an illusion. This wound was not only a random injury. All right, he had seen it, and did he now wish he were not here? He was still talking about Umbridge and Bafflegab, and Remus needed to listen. Even in case it was all just guesses, this discussion could help him sort out his thoughts, figure out alternative explanations, perhaps prepare himself against the next cunning plots.

Yet, now Prospero hushed. Perhaps he had talked only to cover his shock, his disappointment. Whose dream had it been that the two of them could share something in common? His fragrance was now less perceptible, too, so he was evidently not bent close any longer. Before he had enough time to leave, Remus had to sit up so as to focus on resuming the discussion. The ache on his arm was getting ever worse now when the bandage was not supporting the wrist... and yes, he could bear worse than this.

Opening his eyes, he faced the fact that his sight had still not got normal. At the same time he escaped this and any other bitter thoughts by moving abruptly, so as to struggle to a sitting position, while this made the pain sear through his whole right side. The bandage shone dimly against a dark pillow and he managed to grab it in his left hand.

But Prospero’s fingers closed over his, smooth and strong. “Let me. I should not have delayed in wrapping it back. Miss Thisby knew well how to make the injury a bit less painful. I am sorry.”

Remus gave in. Leaning against the wall, he watched Prospero under half-closed lids. The slender fingers did not hesitate to touch him even as much as they had hesitated before the wound had been revealed. There was no healing magic at work, but there was something soothing about them in any case. He was now able to speak in a calm voice again. “It’s all right. I could have tied it myself. A bit clumsily, I admit.”

“No, I mean I am sorry this was done to you.”

“Why should you be? I am one of them. I want to be.”

Prospero sat up onto the couch next to Remus. “Still. You are not only that.”

“I decided to join these werewolves, so I doubt I’m any longer the person you want to talk to. I’m not staying here...”

“But you cannot escape the responsibility! You are the leader to unite us all. Umbridge wants us to abandon you. Yes, perhaps that’s why... I first thought she only meant to torture you – physically and mentally. But she also did not want you to die before your various followers would first cease to regard you as someone obviously worthier than... any common werewolf. As someone whose memory and example would still encourage them to continue their joined efforts. And she is wrong. This stigma does not need to alter anything.”

“For me it does.”

“In that case it presents you with something, but deprives you of nothing at all.”

Remus caught himself smiling again. Even gazing at the mere blurred image of the face now gave him pleasure. “Who are you? I mean, how can I be given so much – someone who has faith in me like this?”

“They all believe in you. Perhaps unlike some others, I am able and willing to talk to you about it. I also believe that, in addition to this gift of confidence, I can offer to you, if not sure facts, at least some well-informed guesses.”

This young man was incredible. Young for a goblin, he had said. He possessed both youthful faith and the awareness of someone more mature. His guesses had to be worth hearing, while this also gave Remus a chance to avoid discussing any more intimate issues, so he encouraged Prospero to go on.

“You mean, concerning Umbridge and Bafflegab?”

“Bafflegab was becoming more trouble than use for her. Almost all goblins are now on your side in any case. I think she truly wants only human allies.”

Prospero had turned his head, so as to face Remus, and was tilting it. He spoke more slowly now, as if measuring his words carefully. However, perhaps he was actually examining Remus, assessing any injury he had suffered in addition to the harm done to his wrist, whereas the speculations concerning the enemy were flowing effortlessly. “It is possible that she calculated how Bafflegab would not – when following her instructions – manage to defend himself against all of the invaders. She must have sent him to brand you, and the strategy also seems to have been to cause both immediate and long-term harm to your wand arm. I wonder how much she knows about the capacity of your left hand, but perhaps she particularly enjoys preventing you from using the magic of educated wizards.”

“Bafflegab had seen me use some magic of needs and flames. You can’t be familiar with the details of my first encounter with him, are you?”

“I am.”

Before continuing, Remus had to smile in response to the gently amused tone of Prospero’s voice. “I think that with his light he paralysed at once also the left hand, or perhaps my mind, momentarily. I felt totally incapable of any defence. Besides, the light must have caused this problem I now have with my sight.”

“It’s not the same kind of blindness that... the stepfather of one of your followers was afflicted with, is it?”

How did he know about that, too, and care to remember? Despite the sudden hesitation in Prospero’s voice, Remus did not want to accept the thought of losing all hope. He had to seek solace in talking, in posing questions, even if he did not expect answers. “We can’t be sure if in his – Kostas’s – case there was an abrupt complete loss of sight. I can still see something – no colours, nothing in focus really – and I wonder if... it’s getting worse.”

In a lingering movement Prospero’s hand brushed over Remus’s face, filling his nostrils with the scent of orange and ginger. “No, I trust it will pass. Just have faith.”


I was brought back home so soon that my solemn preparation for the sacrifice of abandoning all this now looks ridiculous. But I still intend to join the werewolves; I’m only waiting for another brief visit.

While restless, I am also grateful for this chance to still continue the story I’ve wanted to offer to you. Perhaps I should be able to think of something more useful for you, and this is for my solace, my indulgence. At the same time I am almost terrified to face my past mistakes and losses in this way – and even more now that I’m using my left hand, which normally serves me by channelling emotions through images – at least as much as I am scared of new ones. Could this help you admit to yourself that you are scared, too, while you are, without hesitation, approaching the task appointed to you? Could this help you still question the inevitability of such a fated tragedy as well?

The tragedy of your parents and their friends could have been avoided. The only consolation is that we were not meant to know how – not even to predict what we were approaching.

We had the boldness to proceed despite any danger, or perhaps we rather had the trust that nothing could go wrong. No, maybe finally only Lily had the trust – at those moments, too, when something that had gone wrong was undeniable reality for the rest of us. But there were times when I was too scared to look and see the disaster.

I squeeze my eyes shut as soon as the cold glow of lumos appears. The approach of her footfalls sounds hesitant. No, Harry, these ones are not Lily’s yet; she never hesitated. Pomfrey’s. But you still wouldn’t know what I am talking about. I haven’t shown you the tunnel; I won’t let you touch this blood. This is my nightmare, not to be shared with you, Harry.

Where my hands used to be – where I was me, seeking to sketch images of life, and seeking a human contact – I have only ache, only something ripped to shreds. Still, there is no such mercy as putting an end to it all, or just switching off my mind for these moments. As if the wolf always knew well how to only torture me – how not to cut the veins deep enough to let me bleed to death before regaining consciousness. Did it control in the same way what it did to the other boy?

What have I done? Whether I’ve killed him or turned him into the same kind of monster, I do care, while I still can’t tell which would be worse. What it can possibly be in me that cares, I don’t know, when there’ll soon be nothing left. If I’ve ever been any kind of a person, I am certainly no one any longer. This nobody will be sent away, locked away, chained up for the last procedure – most probably another tedious one, executed by the least competent, the most ineffective officials. There is only a beast to be executed – or rather disposed of.

The scent of healing herbs that has impregnated her robes reaches me through the stench of my pain and guilt, but I try my best not to stir. She does not need to move me or lay her fingers on my skin. The mere tentative touch of the diagnostic magic from her wand unleashes such agony in my injuries that beyond it I catch an odd sensation of relief. I’m dying as soon as now, am I not?

Disappointment, weary fear arises when I open my eyes to see the ceiling in the hospital wing. I dare not think what will happen now. And I can hardly believe that it has all been real.

No, the boy’s face in the tunnel was nothing but a product of my imagination. Perhaps I was inside the Shack, too, all the time, and I only mauled myself so mercilessly, and had weird hallucinations, just because for some reason my friends failed to keep me company. Perhaps I’m not even hurt so badly. My limbs are resting comfortably...

No, that’s it. Pomfrey applies the extreme magic to let me lose physical sensation only when she needs to relieve me from exceptional pain.

I am actually able to turn my head without feeling anything at all. I can see my arms folded, my hands resting on the blanket. They are all covered with bandages, and there’s blood still seeping through. That means the wounds are too numerous, so that closing them all at once with the most powerful healing charms would shake the balance of my body too forcibly. Or Pomfrey’s been busy tending to someone else. I can just hope she’s here now to tell me...

There is no feeling in my body to distract my mind from the question. “Have I...” My voice is almost completely gone. Although I’m not sure anyone heard the first attempt, my best chance must be to try to utter one more word. “... killed?”

“No, child.”

Her soft voice close to me, answering so promptly, is some kind of comfort – or perhaps I can’t afford considering it anything else – while I don’t know what the single word implies. I’m hoping for the best so hard that the continuation could as well be only hallucinated.

“Nobody got killed. Nobody got hurt except you.”

“All the blood...”

“Yours. Now sleep.”

Harry, I’ve got something for you here, when I wake up again, something I’ve wanted to show you: James and Lily together. They are a wonder and a joy to look at. (And now that I can’t see the colours on my palette and must face the prospect of never painting again – after wasting so many chances to do it) I can only hope to reach the moving image by describing it in words (these words which I, barely distinguishing the lines they form, am not able to read), so you can watch the pair of them, too.

Some agitated whispering draws my eyes immediately from the bleak shadows in the ceiling towards the door. Through the lingering stupor I remember that there is no terror left, no need for concern even, so I can let the vigour in the image enthral me. The candlelight flashes on James’s spectacles as he shakes his head. He slams his back against the door – then lifts one hand to ruffle up his hair, more half-heartedly than usual, though, as if in disbelief of the sight in front of him. In my vision his compelling figure, strong and healthy – yes, just like yours, last I saw it – is now overshadowed by hers.

The glowing mane sways from side to side against her back, down to her waist, as she steps briskly up to him. And there is no shadow left, after all, on what I can see of his face behind her: he’s blushing. Her white slender hands have grabbed his shoulders; she’s pressed her lips on his chin. Not on his mouth to exactly force him to stop the responsibly subdued rant.

“...bother to think at all how fatal...” he’s saying, but she does stop him momentarily.

I’d have reason to feel indignant. Is this a time and place for their first kiss, no matter how fervently James has been looking forward to it, making schemes for achieving it? But I feel so blessed – worrying about nothing, as a broken body is in my case something I’m only grateful for – that sharing his triumph is an additional pleasure, a gift they’ve brought to my hospital bed. Besides, she’s evidently comforting him, stroking his arms in a calming manner while she also resolutely moves him aside from blocking the door.

I can trust him completely: he won’t reveal my secret to her even in this distress, which looks so unusual, although perhaps he always hides a part of it in front of me. I’m touched to see him let tears roll down his cheeks – to see him actually cry for me, and in her presence. But then I discern the anger and I’m getting confused even before the words, “And I trusted him as my best... my brother!”

There’s no doubt about who has angered him.

At that moment Sirius flings the door open and it hits James on the shoulder. “Sorry,” he mutters hastily. His face shines pallid next to James’s flushed one, and the bloodshot eyes dart glances to either side, then fixate at me, at my hands perhaps.

“Sorry?” James shouts. “You want to say that to Remus, right?”

After a fleeting moment Sirius does not meet my eyes again, but unlike the others he has cared to check and knows I’m no longer unconscious. His voice is still low, smothered. “Yes, and you’re doing your best to stop me.”

“And you think you can fix anything by just saying sorry!”

Staring at my hands, Sirius has hardly noticed that James’s fists are ready for a fight. “It’s up to me what I say to him. Snivellus should give the promise directly to him, but refuses to see him, and Peter keeps repeating he hates hospitals, so what are you doing here – the two of you! Don’t you dare tell her...”

“Are you giving advice...”

“Leave us alone!”

“All right, tell him what you’ve done, and you’ll see if there’s anything left of any ‘us’.”

Yes, leave me alone with him, Harry. I can bear to face his remorse again. I’ll smile through the moment when I believe he’s going to apologise simply for his absence, perhaps for delaying Peter and James, too, so the wolf had to spend the night in frustrating solitude. He looks so wasted and lost, I feel like stroking his cheek, brushing the damp tendrils from his forehead, but my muscles won’t obey me – I can’t lift a finger.

“You can touch me,” I manage to whisper.

It wouldn’t hurt. I can hardly feel the weight of the blanket. Thanks to Pomfrey’s special treatment, a caress would not even comfort my body much, but I’d share the consolation with him. And he’s already learnt not to fear skin-to-skin closeness – not with me, at least not around the full moon.

But now he won’t touch me. He falls on his knees beside my bed and rubs his forehead with a trembling hand. “He – Snape... sneered and said to me that he’d followed us before. The spying bastard!” After muttering the first words, Sirius has now provoked himself to launching into a fluent account. “He said he knew it was that night again. So I thought he’d already figured out what you... your secret. James says I didn’t think. I did, I do, I think too much. Is it my fault that some others are such bloody idiots?”

“I thought,” he continues in a more confident voice, “I could make him think that we had nothing of that sort to hide. So I told him how to get into the tunnel and after you. He’d learn a lesson... The wolf would scare the shit out of him. I hurried to open the door to the tunnel, so he’d get to see the wolf down there or in the shack. Or he wouldn’t have the courage to go all the way, and he’d have no proof against you.”

He’s now lifted his face towards mine. “He wouldn’t believe I wanted to expose you, so he’d think the werewolf had to be someone else – someone you just came to see with Pomfrey, perhaps a relative. How was I supposed to guess he never thought of werewolves at all? He had some stupid ideas about some treasure of powerful magic we worked on with help from the influence of the moon. And why did he have to go there earlier than I said he should? So he actually recognised you when you were half...”

Can this be how he says sorry? And for what? Perhaps I’m lucky to hardly have a clear idea of how what he is saying can make any sense, while he believes he’s reaching an obvious, all-encompassing conclusion.

“I told James what happened and he caught up with Snape. But, of course, he couldn’t become the stag in the tunnel, so the Animagus secret is safe. And your secret is safe, too. It’s my fault that Snape knows. But Dumbledore made him swear he won’t tell anyone.

That was it: his confession. He’s been staring at my face for a while and I realise that now, finally hushing, he looks relieved. There’s something here I can’t start to comprehend. The complete relief. He’s just forced me to know it was real, after all: the tunnel, and Snape was truly there. James, too. What I could have done to them both! Can I rest assured I really didn’t do it?

Later I’ll try to tell myself it’s no use letting this upset me: something that could have happened but didn’t. But can’t he see it’s not about keeping or revealing secrets – that it’s about life or death, about humanity or losing it forever? It’s about integrity: mine and everyone’s who is involved. He mustn’t play with us, no matter how good a player he thinks he is. What can caring for me – or for James – possibly mean to someone who acts like that without thinking – or worse: without seeing the point before or after, despite all that thinking?

I can’t say anything to him. Just so tired, in resignation, I close my eyes, and I don’t even know whether I am crying or not. Nothing will be the same again, or change from this moment where I’ve been deprived of all feeling, until he dares touch me, tries to convince me. I won’t make another initiative, telling him again that he can...

Harry, can you believe Dumbledore didn’t even question whether everyone would be convinced – everyone involved completely happy with his brilliant solutions. He beckoned me to sit in front of his desk, in the chair next to Snape’s.

“There’s no need for secrecy,” he said with a wink. “An unfortunate event: a prank and an accident. But no serious harm done. Everybody knows that Mr Potter saved you both from the Willow. Mr Black was reckless to challenge fellow students to approach that tree. The branches can inflict quite some injuries. But I believe in rewards instead of punishments. Well, a detention was due and has been served without delay. I will think of a proper reward for Mr Potter. What do you say, if I make him the Head Boy? You, Mr Lupin, are just a victim. Isn’t that correct, Mr Snape – a victim, just like you?”

That was how there would be no punishments for Dumbledore, either; he was innocent of taking any risks, of breaking any rules, of hiding anything from the Ministry and the Hogwarts Governors, of experimenting with a part-human. Of course, I had to be grateful.

I could not stand seeing his complacent smile. Instead, I stared at what I could see of Snape’s profile: the curve of his nose behind the too long, lank hair. Snape did not acknowledge my presence at all – not in this meeting where he was supposed to confirm that he wouldn’t betray my secret, and not during the following years. Any attention I’ve got from him ever since has been expressions of contempt.

“He just fears you,” Peter whispered to me in the corridor, where he had been waiting with his schoolbooks.

I think he knew well what he was talking about. He must have relearnt to fear me. This incident had reminded him of what werewolves are: he had seen me through Snape’s and James’s experience. That’s why probably he hesitated to get close to me even after the wounds had stopped bleeding – to make use of the opportunity to be my closest friend again.

After settling back in the dormitory I kept finding the black dog curled up at the foot of my bed. But in my eyes he had turned into an omen of death. So as to reach some kind of serenity, I needed to ignore him.

Peter would come to show me the homework, but he was awkward and couldn’t make himself talk about anything else. I didn’t care to make the effort either. He soon drifted to spend his time with James, while Padfoot and I were stuck on the simple contact of his furry back against my leg when I was lying down, reading.

Perhaps Lily simply found it unbearable that Peter constantly forced his company on her and James, or found the whole of our Marauder interaction disappointing, now that she’d finally taken the step to join us. In a week she acted.

After she had – to everyone’s amazement – skipped the late afternoon classes, her owl brought to James a message in which she insisted that all four of us meet her behind the Hog’s Head as soon as possible. I could not help cherishing the shared excitement when we stole through the corridors towards the start of one of the secret tunnels – the one you, too, have used so as to get all the way to Hogsmeade, to Honeyduke’s cellar.

Peter had turned into the rat, but James’s cloak was no longer exactly big enough to make even three of us totally invisible. I found myself stumbling between James and Sirius, involuntarily pressing against them, dizzy from their smells of adolescent sweat and posh perfumes – and from the sweet self-delusion that we were back in our harmony: the four of us as one, particularly the three, as I’d had to admit, also in three evolving pairs – with the inspiring traces of mutual jealousy, the respective secrets adding only intrigue and depth and no threat.

At the moment the driving force, the scheming mind was outside of us, but I did not care. Before the so-called accident I had been looking forward to promptly welcoming Lily to our midst, to make her promising changes in the balance. Still, after reaching the dark tunnel I could not make myself contribute to banishing the awkward silence in which we continued to hurry towards a destination we did not care to guess. Only James attempted at a proud and enthusiastic comment, “I told you that she’d be another Marauder.” It occurred to me that Lily might have only decided to make us feel that we could still enjoy intense closeness in purposeful action, whereas there was, in fact, nothing noteworthy going on in Hogsmeade.

Sirius went dog and sped after Wormtail. James turned to glance at me in the light of his wand and the guilty look on his face showed that he had only now realised how hard it was for me to keep up.

“It’s all right,” I said. “Don’t let me slow you down. I’ll see you, if you’re still there when I arrive.”

“She wants all of us.”

“She wants us to... forgive Sirius.”

He quickened his step again, probably without noticing. “She doesn’t know what he did.”

“You can tell her, if you want to.” Unless he thought it risked the relationship. In my view he should not have kept a secret like this from her, but it was up to him.

“Are you sure? That you can trust anyone after...Thanks!” he said, lifting an arm across my back and leaving his hand to squeeze my shoulder almost painfully. “She can try her best to convince me after that, if she still wants to.”

It was the beginning of March. Did I forget to mention that? I had not come of age yet, not been summoned to the Registry for the confirmation of my status – or rather lack of status – in the society. For almost a whole year the wolf had not been lonely, and I had got tempted to believe that I was as human as I needed to be. Yes, now again that I was no longer regularly woken up by the nightmare in which the disaster had not been avoided, I was resiliently building up my hopes for the future anew. I could see this clearly in the evening light, which caressed the cold landscape with a promise.

She was not exactly lurking in the shadows, even though nobody could have spotted her when passing by on the high street. As soon as we had waded through the junk in the alley between the Hog’s Head and the neighbouring shack, and rounded the corner, we saw her squatting on the slope among some birch trees.

The trunks shone purer white than they ever had appeared against snow, and the bare branches were painted with pale purple. But the only bright colour was in her. Instead of wearing her pointed hat, she had covered her head with a green scarf, wrapped it around her neck and tied it behind. She had even pulled it down on the forehead, so that only a part of her fringe glowed in its’ complementary colour between the dull-lustre fabric and her emerald eyes’ twinkle.

When she leapt up to greet James with a quick peck on the cheek, and the rest of us by reaching to squeeze our hands, I noticed that she’d been sitting on a rolled-up carpet.

“So you aren’t against breaking rules any longer?” Sirius said too abruptly.

She smiled and could not hide a trace of smugness. “Oh, I’ve had it since the first year.”

“Had what?” I had to ask.

“This carpet, of course.”

James knelt to help her unroll it.

Peter hurled himself on it. “It really is... It’s big! And it is authentic. I know. The fringes curl when you stroke them – look – just like the black-market salesmen say...”

He trailed off, blushing – unnecessarily. I doubt his father had ever seriously carried on that business either. Lily, instead...

She might have mentioned her secret to James first, but she had evidently not offered much as an explanation.

James still looked as much puzzled as awed. “You bought an illegal artefact when you were what... hardly twelve – and you’ve kept it for five years?”

“It’s not such a big deal. Who says I’ve ever worried about breaking rules, if it doesn’t harm anyone, and if I trust I won’t get caught?”

Peter’s admiring gaze kept shifting between her and the carpet. “But this is risky, sitting out here on it alone, or with us, for that matter! Someone can see you from upstairs of the Hog’s Head at least.”

“It’s safe here. Aberforth takes care of it – of the carpet, too, actually. He helped me buy it, and I keep it at his place. He’s a good friend since the first year.”

James did not quite succeed in sounding only incredulous – in keeping all jealous indignation from his tone. “You don’t mean... the barman?”

Sirius snorted. “Your selection of friends...”

But Lily immediately launched into fluent explanations, hiding any potential insecurity. “Wouldn’t you get bored with the topics most young girls talk about? I’ve always liked some more mature discussion for a change. Besides, I’m not trying to be friends with Snape anymore.”

The mention of that name made James and Sirius glance at each other, as if they had still been capable of effortless co-operation in banter against her, of completing each other’s sentences, reaching irresistibly insane arguments. They failed to say anything, and she continued, “That’s not the point... or maybe it is. I meant to only reveal this little secret. So you can decide it’ll be all right, if I get to know some of yours.”

“You wanted to just show the carpet to us – not to let us use it?” Sirius asked.

“Of course, I planned to offer you a ride to make you see how much fun we can all have together. But I happened to overhear something interesting... Now I’d also like to take you to a little mission of espionage.”

Before she had finished, Sirius grinned and pushed James to sit, flopping down next to him on the carpet. “Come on, then. Let’s see: has little Evans managed to buy a real flying rug, and is it as great to ride as a broom?”

“Now? You mean we’d fly out now?” Peter cut in. “The sun’s still up.”

Lily drew out her wand. “I can make the carpet and us a bit less visible. Only for a while, I admit. This charm... is not so easy.”

While the rhythm of her speech slowed down, she grabbed my arm and guided me to kneel onto the carpet next to her, facing James. She had already lifted her wand over him, and he was about to protest by shoving the hand aside. The wand hit him on the head and her lips formed an incantation silently.

He gasped, and so did the rest of us immediately after, as he appeared to turn into glass. I realised we did not actually see through him, but his form had acquired the exact colours and patterns of what was behind him. Yes, she had Disillusioned him. You know how it feels and looks, but we had never seen this advanced charm before.

“What did you do to him? That must be dark,” Sirius yelled.

“No. There’s no harm. It’s just Disillusionment. Aberforth taught me. You know I wouldn’t hurt James. So you’ll let me do it to all of you, all right?”

“Come on! It’s fine,” James added, fascination evident in his voice.

After reaching out to make sure that I could still touch James’s hand – that my fingers could sense no difference, I only nodded when she glanced at me. Yes, I trusted her.

The cool of the charm dribbled and washed over me, making me shiver. It was unnerving to see my newly-reacquired body change like this, but I was glad to join James before Sirius, who hesitated no longer, either.

Peter, instead, babbled in order to win time or to hide that he was scared. “But that makes no sense: disillusionment. How can this be disillusioning? Does it mean that our visible bodies are only illusion?”

When we were all soaring above Hogsmeade, all beautiful, merged into the sunset sky, and also thrillingly insecure, huddled on the almost invisible, Disillusioned carpet, with our sights unable to reach any recognisable images of ourselves or of each other – Peter leant against me like he had never done after the day when we wrestled on the hillsides above Clun. I, in turn, sought Sirius’s hand, for once without any fear that he would recoil.

And his lips touched my ear when he whispered, “Wish her spell wore off now. I bet James’s got his hands under her robes.”

She’d started to steer the carpet against the wind, and it was so cold up there that I could hardly catch my breath. Not to mention trying to figure out how she could be able to offer us this. Only later did I learn that Dumbledore had let her come to the village as a first-year, so as to facilitate her getting to know the magical world, and also introduced her to his eccentric brother Aberforth. And that her proud parents let her exchange enough Galleons for anything she might need, while she, used to crossing the limit of the conventional, could see no purpose for legal restrictions when magic was fun and useful.

So much fun we had that her words about a mission had been forgotten, if registered at all. But now we heard her snap after repressing a giggle, “James! Not now! We’re almost there.”

The carpet had followed the railway and was reaching the next station south of Hogsmeade. It hovered above the high street of this small town for a moment, then lost height so quickly that we gasped.

She had to shush us, whispering, “I heard how Goyle ordered Snape to Apparate here after sunset.”

We almost hit the bell tower and landed on the roof of the church.

“To the graveyard,” she added in an ever softer voice.

Struggling not to slide down the steep roof, we climbed to sit on its ridge. The waning gibbous moon would not be up for several hours, but the twilight lingered while the open sky was filling with stars. All the glow that remained on earth seemed to condense on the white-blond ponytailed hair of a cloaked figure, who was walking in inpatient circles among the tombstones.

“It’s Lucius,” Sirius whispered, and added or perhaps rather corrected, “Malfoy.”

I knew Sirius had played with him as well as the Lestrange brothers before coming to Hogwarts, but I doubt he had let even James suspect that these older boys had rather treated him as their plaything.

There was a loud bang signalling an inexperienced Apparition further away, towards the centre of the graveyard. Malfoy turned presumptuously to the opposite direction and approached the church without glancing back. Perhaps a similar reaction had prevented him from detecting us despite the sounds our arrival must have made. And that was how he ended up holding his confidential meeting with Snape almost directly beneath us, only a few yards from our prying ears.

“Just listen,” Malfoy said haughtily, having hardly spared a nod to Snape as a greeting. “The Dark Lord has decided to allow some halfbloods to join his party. Of course, any candidate he can consider must have old pure blood on one side. And the right attitude. He wants some young members, too, so I’ve been given a list of sixth-year and seventh-year Slytherins. You have the honour to have been included.

Snape had hastened to the spot, but now he did not express any enthusiasm, if not open reluctance either. He looked aside, avoiding eye contact, and I could not help wondering if he was hiding fear – once again, perhaps – or feelings of inferiority. “So that’s why you wanted to meet me here... Why here? Why all this trouble and secrecy?”

“Here – so you could prove you’ve come of age and learnt at least some skills of an adult wizard. You’ve done that, even though you’ll have to improve your punctuality. Besides, Dumbledore doesn’t approve of his students’ pledging allegiance to any political parties, so I wouldn’t be welcome at Hogwarts on the mission of inviting members. You’ll receive information on your responsibilities by owl, and there will be a convention in London over the summer.”

“I... don’t know. I haven’t thought of joining any group before I finish school.”

“Yes, you do know. I’ve just told you. It seems you need someone to think on your behalf, or you’d remain as ignorant as Dumbledore wants his schoolchildren to be. The Dark Lord has considered it wise to extend his plans to some people like you.”

“I’m as capable as you of considering alternatives.”

“Your alternative is Dumbledore’s plan for you. And you know he doesn’t appreciate your best talents or your best heritage. Perhaps you’ve chosen to be the victim, protected by Potter and other bloodtraitors, and mudbloods.”

I turned my head to see my friends’ reactions, remembering at the last moment that I would hardly distinguish their poses. After all, James was almost completely back to normal, and Sirius was quickly becoming more and more visible in front of my eyes, mesmerisingly close to them, too. I could see Lily beckoning us to creep back onto the carpet.

“We must go,” she whispered. “Because the charm is wearing off. Because it’s not wearing off of Peter.”

Perhaps in him there was such a desire to hide that in his case the Disillusionment could not work normally – not as the short-term disguise which Lily now mustered. In the deepening dusk it was hard to see, but she maintained that he was becoming alarmingly fully invisible. As soon as we were out of hearing distance she had to resort to a spoken incantation so as to bring him back. To bring the illusion back, as Peter said immediately after, looking solid but still dazed.

A snap of little claws against the tabletop on his left made Remus lift the quill from the parchment – no, from the thin cheap paper he had used for these recent inordinate ramblings, most of which he would never give to Harry. He did not turn his head, though, and hoped that Frank’s pet, his only companion on his loft in the wee hours of the morning, had not been startled enough to scurry away. It had probably only made a small abrupt, involuntary move, revealing that, indeed, it had no soft paws of a cat. Holding his breath for a moment, he could hear the creature try to suppress its panting. He moved the quill to the bandaged hand, only to confirm that there still was no strength in these fingers for a firm grip.

“To bring the illusion back,” he repeated.

He felt like reading at least the last paragraphs aloud. Having normally no desire for something like that, he now wanted to do what he could not – what he could not have done, even if there had been better lighting than a single candle. Instead, he half closed his eyes, reaching the left hand towards what had once been sold to him as a wat but never properly examined.

At that moment, with these damaged eyes, or perhaps rather with his fingertips, he started seeing more clearly than ever – seeing someone who had for a long time wished to remain invisible. The velvety fur was shorter than a cat’s. He caressed it tenderly, refraining from pressing hard enough to imply that he would not allow an escape. The back arched under his palm, the whole small body trembled, but he sensed no extreme tension, no readiness to spring off.

He ventured to move his fingers in search for the front paws. For a moment he hesitated again, preferring to look at – at least in his mind to simply see – the shades of the fur: there was more white among the grey than last time he had seen this rat. He had just now remembered that he would feel the stump of the amputated paw. How could he have forgotten that there would be more than a single toe missing? These physical losses alone were small sacrifices, if compared with the murders Peter had committed when suffering them, and with all the rest of the tragedy he had caused. Still, at this moment Remus caught himself allowing only pity to shadow the joy of reunion with one of the friends whom the recording of his memories had made so alive as the innocent boys they had once been.

“I think,” he said, “I can promise you’ll have nothing to fear from me. You’ve lost enough, too.”

The latter half of Chapter Nineteen is here.

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from: kellychambliss
date: Oct. 15th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC)

Leaning back in the chair as the magic from decades ago customised it perfectly to support his frame
I want a chair like this!

Prospero’s first words, however, lacked the solemnity he expected, even all politeness, while the delighted, almost tender tone made them sound like Good to see you. “You look terrible.”
Nice pacing -- I can just hear this /g/ Good to see Prospero.

I think she truly wants only human allies.”
Yes, this makes perfect sense.

my solemn preparation for the sacrifice of abandoning all this now looks ridiculous
I love Remus's self-awareness throughout the story. And the way you use the canon backstory of the "prank" at the Whomping Willow -- very satisfying. It helps characterize everyone and also shows how the consequences of youthful action follow one throughout life; they can't be escaped or ignored. You explain the whole thing very believably.

Remus's inability to see colors is so apt and yet so difficult a situation for an artist -- it functions as such an effective metaphor for so many themes in the story. And this line, too: At that moment, with these damaged eyes, or perhaps rather with his fingertips, he started seeing more clearly than ever – seeing someone who had for a long time wished to remain invisible. We see all sorts of different kinds of "sight" and different forms of "art." As with the "creatures," this is a story about ways of seeing and ways of breaking outside our usual "sight" -- which is more often blindness than we realize.

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from: paulamcg
date: Oct. 18th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)

Thank you for another elating comment!

I’m thrilled you’ve been happy to meet again this part-human OC (whose purpose in the story I’ve sometimes had some doubts about) as well as satisfied with my take on the central canon event in the Marauders’ youth. It’s also reassuring to hear that my somehow elusive main villain can make sense to you. And so lovely of you to let me know you appreciate a concrete detail in the magical reality as well as a detail in pacing!

Above all, my heart is warmed by your words about the problem Remus has got with his sight. In the first place, I simply wanted at least him to be somehow harmed by the barrack raid, while I’d failed to show more action or more casualties, and it seems I succeeded in choosing such injuries which would have interesting influence on further events. It’s wonderful to know that this particular injury has managed to carry some deeper and wider meaning, too. Thank you so much for spelling out an essential theme of mine splendidly, truly consummating – as I never could have done myself – the best promises I’ve felt related to the story.

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