Notes: There is some use of Welsh; I did not provide translations because it is explained within context. All Welsh mythology is genuine in source, and only slightly twisted to suit my plot purposes. I was at some times rather free with JK Rowling's explantion of the pre-Harry world.
Disclaimer: The lovely and talented JK Rowling so far surpasses me that I hesitate to post; but one cannot help but imagine.
1980 : Christmas
She filled the sink, and took a slender red taper from the medicine drawer. She lit it with a murmured word, and rolled it between her palms as the melting wax collected at the tip. She closed her eyes, and whispered a good luck charm, and let the wax drip into the water in the sink.
When she opened her eyes, she poked at the twisted shape of the red wax, instantly cool in the cold water and floating on the surface. It was true, then. She was pregnant.
It was a good thing the wedding was only months away. She wouldn’t be showing. She drained the sink and tossed the wax into the waste bin, covering it with a tissue. Jamie would be happy. Wouldn’t he? A little boy or girl with his hair and eyes. She touched her stomach, and made a face. Morning sickness. She’d have to ask Mrs Potter if she knew any charms against it.
And then she couldn’t deny her own excitement. She bit her lip against her smile, then gave a little whoop. She left the bathroom behind, and started the stove in the kitchen. With their guests coming today, it wasn’t the best time to spring the news. She wanted privacy for that, and Jamie tended to get rowdy when he had a lot of friends by.
James stood to pour another glass of wine for Peter. ‘What’d you do then, Petey?’ he asked, settling back on his sofa and tossing his arm around Lily.
Peter rubbed a hand over the somewhat ratty beard he was attempting to grow. ‘We managed to get him,’ he said. ‘He put up quite a fight though. He actually bit Jenny. We had to put him in isolation.’
‘I hope she got herself tested for rabies,’ Lily said, mock-seriously. ‘John Eddington always was a nasty sort.’
‘He used to pick on the younger years,’ James remembered. ‘Figures he’d be stupid enough to be caught. Has he told you anything?’
‘Nothing we didn’t already know. He’s a flunky.’ Peter shrugged, and sipped his wine. ‘He’s not very bright, either. All wind.’
James grinned. ‘You know, I almost hate to say it, since we’re bringing so many in– but if we capture all the low-level no-bodies, we might just drive Voldemort and his inner circle further into hiding.’ His smile faded. ‘It’s not desperate yet, but I’d hate to see it get that way.’
Peter opened his mouth to reply, but a knock at the door forestalled him. ‘That’ll be Sirius,’ Lily said, and rose to answer the door. Sirius bussed her noisily on the cheek, tall and damp from the rain, and hollered cheerfully at James and Peter.
‘Look who I brought,’ Sirius said. He reached back and drew a cloaked man forward from behind him; he pulled quickly at the hood, and Remus Lupin emerged into view.
James let out a crow and jumped from the sofa to envelop Remus in a hug, over the younger man’s protests about his soaked clothes. Peter shook Remus’s hand rather formally, but then pulled him into an embrace after all, his ears red. At last, Remus extricated himself a little breathlessly, and his eyes met Lily’s.
‘Simms,’ he said softly.
She smiled, and held out her hand, palm up. ‘Soon you’ll have to call me Potter.’
He crossed her palm with his, and turned her wrist to grip her hand gently. ‘Suppose we could settle on “Lily,”’ he replied. ‘I got all your letters,’ he added suddenly. ‘I wanted to write back. But I didn’t know what to say, except that I appreciated your kindness.’
‘You wrote him letters?’ James slung his arm over Remus’s shoulder. ‘You never told me.’
Lily only shrugged. ‘You’re sopping the carpet, you two,’ she noted. ‘Into the kitchen and lay those cloaks out to dry. Anyone for a glass of wine?’
Sirius slipped under the covers beside him. ‘Weren’t they shocked when I said we didn’t need the cot,’ he whispered, wrapping a warm bare arm over Remus’s chest and settling against him.
‘You shouldn’t have done that.’ He reached down to fend off the hand that was moving south to his groin. ‘Please,’ he said, ‘Sirius, I’m just tired tonight.’
‘You don’t regret coming?’
He looked up into the brown eyes that gazed down into his. Already there were lines around Sirius’s eyes. He made himself smile. ‘No. Of course not. It’s just... ‘
‘Overwhelming.’ Sirius kissed him, then his jaw, and began to tug at his scarf. ‘You don’t have to wear this thing to bed,’ he muttered, pulling apart the knot and kissing his neck.
‘Please,’ he repeated, turning his face away. ‘Sirius, I’m tired. I just want to sleep.’
Sirius sat up on one elbow. ‘What’s the matter? You act like you’re scared of me.’
‘You don’t think it’s strange to make love in your best friend’s home?’
Sirius relaxed into a laugh. ‘What do you think Jamie and Lily do with their nights? They’ll not notice any noise, trust me.’ He traced his thumb over Remus’s upper lip. ‘If it makes you feel better, we’ll just have to try and keep as quiet as we can.’ He grinned. ‘I haven’t seen you in entire months. Is it so bad that I missed you?’
‘It was barely two weeks,’ Remus corrected him drily. ‘And I know very well what you missed.’
‘And I repeat, is that so bad?’ They’d had the argument twice already in Asper’s cottage, though Remus was privately sure that Asper was more than aware of their affair and went out of his way to encourage it. He didn’t want to seem overly prudish, but he couldn’t adopt Sirius’s devil-may-care attitude. There were few things Remus could think of that would be more embarrassing than Lily and James or, God forbid, Asper hearing them.
Sirius sighed, and lay back. ‘Fine. It’s okay. I understand.’
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘Sirius...’
‘Don’t worry about it.’ Sirius smiled at him. ‘You always worry. All right?’
‘No. I mean– I missed you too.’ He rolled onto his side to face Sirius. ‘We can be quiet.’
‘You don’t have to pretend.’ Dark eyes looked steadily into his. ‘If you don’t want to do it, I’d rather you didn’t.’ He chucked Remus under the chin teasingly, but there was no like glimmer in his face.
It was Remus’s turn to sigh, but only inwardly. ‘Has anyone ever said “no” to you, and won?’ he asked.
‘Sorry to ruin your record,’ he retorted. But he placed a kiss on the heavy muscle of Sirius’s arm, and a second one on his chest, and knew immediately when he’d been forgiven.
‘Sometimes I forget how young you are,’ Sirius murmured, and wrapped both arms around him, tugging him close. ‘You still want to please.’
He rose early and left the warmth of the bed, rolling socks on over his bare feet and pulling on a spare blanket over his shoulders. He left Sirius sleeping soundly and closed the door of their room behind him, and walked slowly down the hall toward the kitchen.
Somehow he wasn’t surprised to see Peter there. He said, ‘Good morning,’ and took a mug from the tree on the table, and poured hot water from the kettle. ‘What are you doing up so early?’
‘I sleep less these days.’ They smiled at each other, and Peter pushed the sugar bowl toward him when he joined the other man at the table. ‘Getting used to being called out of bed at all hours.’
‘Do you enjoy it? Being an Auror?’ He added several spoonfuls of sugar to his weak tea, and stirred slowly. Peter only smiled in response, and drank from his own cup.
‘Do you like the house?’ the Gryffindor asked after a time. ‘Lily told me it’s a gift from her parents.’
‘In Surrey?’ Remus cracked a smile. ‘Right next to her dear sister, no less.’
Peter rolled his eyes. ‘You haven’t met her yet, have you?’
‘I’ve heard Lily complain. She’s married, isn’t she?’
‘The husband is a real treat, too. They’re pregnant. You’d think the baby is coming royalty, the way they go on. They’re supposed to come by tomorrow.’
Agreeably he nodded.
‘So.’ Peter set down his mug, and stood to grab a box of biscuits from the countertop. His watery eyes seemed absorbed in the task of opening the box. ‘Sirius told us you’d reconciled. Are you living with him, then?’
He coloured, and gave himself time to answer by pretending to be just as absorbed in his tea. ‘No. He moves around too much. And I’m needed at home.’
‘With Professor Asper?’
Peter offered the box to him, then sat not across from him, but beside him. ‘Remus,’ he said. ‘You know that Sirius isn’t... well, he isn’t– queer. You realise that?’
He opened his mouth to make a hot retort, but then clamped his mouth tightly shut. He crumbled the biscuit onto the tabletop. At last, grudgingly, he said, ‘I know.’
Peter nudged his knee. ‘We’re friends. Friends should be honest with each other.’ He smiled hesitantly. ‘It doesn’t seem that you and Sirius are being all that honest with each other.’
Remus stared hard at the pile of crumbs he’d made. ‘We haven’t seen each other in years,’ he said quietly. ‘I’d like it if we could wait to start judging each other.’
Peter stared glumly at his hands. ‘It’s just, one of you is going to be hurt in the long run. I don’t want it to be you, if you start thinking he’s....’
‘I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself. There’s a hell of a lot of gay men who do.’
‘None of us care what you are. Or aren’t.’
‘Except that you do. I’ve been an outsider long enough to know it when I see it.’ He took another biscuit and dunked it into his tea. ‘What Sirius does is his own business. If he’s doing it with me, then it’s between me and him.’
The tense silence that grew between them was broken by James’s entrance. He stood in the doorway staring at them muzzily, squinting without his glasses. ‘You two are grumpy,’ he said.
Remus forced a smile. ‘Catching up,’ he answered.
‘Oh.’ James shuffled to the table and flopped gracelessly into a chair. ‘Is it just me, or is it too damned cold in this part of the country?’ He sniffed with interest, and pulled the biscuit tin toward himself.
Remus said, ‘You clearly don’t remember what it was like at Hogwarts. Down in Slytherin, it was all you could to keep your toes attached.’
James grinned. ‘And you had to walk five miles to class in the pouring rain and snowstorms, right?’ He rubbed his eyes, looking owlish without his glasses, and drank from Remus’s mug before he could protest. ‘You’re staying through the week, right, Remus? We’ll be entertaining. Lily’s charming kin will be joining us for Christmas Eve, and half the Ministry for New Year.’ He made a face. ‘All the parents will be coming, too, and Sirius’s. They’re in their element. I don’t know where we’ll put them all. And it’s a damn good thing they’re paying me well.’
‘I’ll be here, but I should check on Professor Asper,’ Remus said.
‘You know, the man did cook his own meals once upon a time. He probably even made his own bed.’ Peter snickered, and James winked at him. ‘I mean, we all had crushes on a professor, but most of us chose someone a little prettier.’
Peter looked away, his doughy face carefully blank.
James leant his chin on his hand. ‘Blimey, but it’s good to have you back, Moony. Imagine, the four of us back together again.’
Lily’s green eyes were snapping, and lively colour had suffused her pale cheeks. She doesn’t look angry, Remus mused, sipping his champagne. Not so much as ready to get a few punches in. James, on the other hand, had been wearing a fixed smile for the past hour, and it looked ready to explode off his face. He wondered idly what Sirius’s parents were like, but imagining what that meeting would be like only made him depressed. He’d definitely need more liquor, if all he could think about at a party was something as gloomy as that.
Lily’s blazing orbs lit on his face, and he knew better than to ignore the summons. He left his cup on the window sill and drifted across the room. ‘Happy New Year,’ he said.
James gazed at him with such relief that he was fighting a genuine grin as Lily took his left arm. ‘Petunia,’ she was saying, ‘this is one of Jamie’s mates from school, Remus Lupin. Remus, my sister Petunia, and her husband, Vernon Dursley.’
He presented his hand. Neither of Lily’s kin took it. And so he inclined his head and said, ‘I’d heard you were pregnant, Mrs Dursley. Congratulations.’
She scowled at him, her thin cheeks ticing. At last she forced her painted lips into a polite smile. ‘Thank you, Mr Loop.’
Lily squeezed his arm. ‘Ignore it,’ she muttered, winking up at him.
Vernon Dursley was the opposite of his thin wife. He had the broken veined nose of a drinker, and the paunch of an eater. His vest fit him ill, and what there was of his hair had been so meticulously combed that Remus was reminded of Lucius. ‘So,’ the fat man began gruffly, fingers rubbing his moustaches, ‘what is it that you do, Loop? You one of those– wizard– chaps?’
‘Mm. Not an Auror, though.’ James was staring at the wall so intently he was amazed a hole hadn’t burnt through it. ‘I’m afraid I’m just an academic.’
Vernon’s bushy eyebrows came together. ‘An academic?’
‘A scholar.’ He wasn’t sure what to add. ‘I’m putting together some research for a book.’
‘Mm,’ said Dursely.
‘Well,’ Lily interrupted cheerfully. ‘We don’t want to monopolize you, dear sister. Remus, have you tried the eggnog? Let me get some for you.’
‘I’ll do it,’ James said.
‘No, no, be a good host, Jamie.’ Lily grinned rather viciously at her fiancé. ‘Why don’t you introduce them to Alaster Moody? He’s over there by the fire.’
At last a gleam of hope entered James’s face. ‘Good idea,’ he said. Remus shook with silent laughter as Lily drew him away toward the kitchen.
‘Well,’ she whispered, ‘what do you think of my family?’
‘They’re horrid,’ he whispered back. ‘I apologise for every time I thought you were exaggerating.’
‘I forgive you.’ Safely alone in the small kitchen, they returned to normal tones. ‘The reality always surpasses the imagination. Good Lord, isn’t Petunia huge? That baby of hers is going to be fifteen pounds if he’s an ounce.’
Sirius joined them from the back door, wet with snow and carting firewood. ‘It’s a mess out there,’ he said. He kissed Lily on the cheek, and shifted his load into Remus’s arms. Remus rolled his eyes, was ignored, and took the wood out to the foyer. ‘I just saw the most amazing thing,’ Sirius was saying when he returned. He had drawn apart the curtains on the window and was pointing out into the darkness. ‘What is that thing?’
He and Lily squinted past the bright panes into the night. ‘It’s a motorcycle,’ Lily said. ‘I think it belongs to Uncle Rich.’
‘Which one is he? Balding and short?’ Sirius washed his hands in the sink and dried them briskly. ‘I have to talk to him. Who knew Muggles could come up with things like that?’
Lily watched him go with amusement visible on her face. ‘There’s no-where to park a motorcycle outside his flat.’ She laughed as she opened the frigidaire, and drew out another bottle of champagne. ‘Give me your glass,’ she said, and refilled it to the brim. She took a tea mug from the tree on the table, and filled it for herself. ‘Cheers, mate,’ she said, and they clinked their glasses.
‘Full moon tomorrow,’ she noted, nodding toward the window. ‘I wish you could stay.’
‘It’s better all around if I don’t.’ He startled himself by feeling– wistful, perhaps. On the other side of the kitchen door the party raged on. For a week, it had been as if nothing had ever changed, and all he wanted was to leave.
Lily said, ‘You can come right back afterward, though. You’re always welcome.’ Then a small smile– a smirk?– crossed her lips. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘come this time next year, I’ll have converted your guest room to a nursery. But we can get one of those pull-outs. Muggle-loving Sirius will enjoy it.’
He widened his eyes. ‘Are you saying–‘
She showed her teeth in a sparkling grin. ‘Yes.’
‘But that’s wonderful. Lily, I’m so glad.’
She impulsively kissed his cheek. ‘Don’t tell the others. I want to be the one to do it. And thanks, Remus.’
Sirius crouched beside her. ‘Happy New Year,’ he said. James grinned at him, and Lily touched his cheek. ‘Listen, Remus is toasted. He wants to go home, and you’ve got plenty going on here. I’m going to take him. He deserves to have someone with him during the full moon.’
‘You need help getting him out?’ James started to stand, but Sirius waved him back.
‘We’ll borrow some Floo powder though, if you don’t mind.’ Sirius got to his feet with a groan. ‘I haven’t drunk so much in ages.’ He glanced back to where Remus sat beside Peter, clearly feeling the effects of the champagne, on a sofa across the room. ‘Apparently I’m not the only one.’
‘Wish him well for us.’ Lily took his hand and squeezed it. ‘Owl us.’
‘Will do.’ Sirius left them, and collected his coat and Remus’s cloak, and smiled at Peter as he came to a stop beside the two young men. ‘Enjoy yourself?’ he asked.
Peter gave Remus a hand to his feet, and laughed when Remus swayed a little. ‘I think I’m drunk,’ Remus mumbled.
‘Happy New Year,’ Sirius told Peter, and led Remus back to the kitchen fire place. ‘Come on, Moony. Think you can do it on your own?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ Remus muttered. He flung a handful of Floo powder into the grate, and said, ‘Cottage.’ He disappeared. Sirius followed after a few moments, and stepped out of the fireplace into the surprising warmth of the kitchen of Asper’s cottage, brushing soot from his shirt.
‘You want to bathe or anything?’ he asked Remus.
‘No. I want to go to bed.’ Remus rubbed his eyes clumsily. ‘Shh. Don’t wake him up.’
‘Sorry.’ He took his lover by the arm and took him down the hallway, tossing their outerwear to the foot of the bed. ‘Come here.’ He sent Remus’s scarf to the pile, and then his shirt, and then his trousers. Remus kissed him and crawled awkwardly under the sheets. ‘If you’re going to be sick, let me know so I can get a basin,’ Sirius warned, stripping himself and wiping sweat from his temples. The room was hot. He opened the window and stood for a moment in the welcome blast of icy air, before turning and slipping into the bed beside Remus. ‘Good night,’ he said.
Remus tugged at him. ‘It’s the New Year. Celebrate with me.’
‘You wouldn’t even remember it in the morning, Moony.’
‘Oh, don’t be a prude.’ Remus tugged harder, and Sirius gently pried his arm free. ‘You’re the one who wanted all the sex.’
‘I’ve noticed that it’s better when there’s two of us.’
‘If you don’t do it, I will,’ Remus warned. He kicked the sheet away and threw their pillow across the room. Sirius laughed, and pulled him back down.
‘I love you,’ he told Remus. It was only an impulse, but the fun went out of Remus’s face. ‘What?’
‘Nothing.’ Remus sighed, and dropped his cheek to the mattress. ‘Never mind. Get the pillow?’
He obeyed, and brought it back to the bed. ‘Still want to...?’
But Remus was already asleep. Sirius shook his head, amused, and left the pillow on the floor when he climbed back into their bed.
He woke with a fright at the buzzing. Sirius quieted him with a kiss on the forehead, but his heart raced for a full minute as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. ‘What is it?’ he asked.
‘Go back to sleep.’ Sirius crawled out of the bed and found his trousers. ‘I have to go for a little while.’
‘Go where?’ He sat up, and was finally able to see the pale splotch of Sirius’s back. ‘Now?’
‘It’s the Ministry.’ Sirius gripped his shoulders and pressed him back to the bed. ‘Sleep it off, love. I’ll be back tomorrow.’
Later he wasn’t sure if he’d dreamt that or not; he searched the bed with his arm and found the other side cold. It was hard to stay awake and focussed. His dreams were jumbled and confused. He had forgotten the effects of strong alcohol. He woke several times, but soon he wasn’t sure if he were really waking or only believing he was. He dreamt of the moon, of the wolf. He dreamt that he bit Severus Snape, then that he killed him, that Sirius sat on the bed in the Shrieking Shack and laughed.
When he opened his eyes it was pitch black; his candle had gone out. He was cold. Dazed, he rose from the bed and lit the fire with his wand, but it wasn’t enough for warmth. He crossed the window, and found it cracked open. Frost was gathering on the sill and the panes of glass. He scraped the ice away with his fingers, and pulled the window shut.
Was that the moon? He rubbed the clouded glass with his palm, staring up into the night sky. So bright that Remus could pick out the scars of ancient riverbeds and craters on its surface, so bright that it lit the pathetic remains of his frost-ridden garden. His fingers turned numb from the cold of the window pane.
Where had he packed it away? He couldn’t remember. He left his room and searched the hall closet, then moved on to the study. He threw open the desk drawers and shoved aside the books and parchments. Where was it? He returned to his room, furious now. He scattered his clothes on the floor, feeling into the corners of the drawers of his bureau. And at last, he found it, hidden in the bottom drawer. His fingers were shaking as he ripped open the packet. The brittle dried herb crumbled at his touch. He knelt beside his small table and managed to get most of it into his glass. He hesitated for just a moment, the glass cold in his hand, reflecting moonlight from the window; but then he steeled himself. The brandy was harsh on his tongue and throat as he swallowed it. He crawled back to his bed and huddled into his blankets, shivering.
The cramps started within the hour. Shooting pains behind his eyes blinded him not long after. When the chills began, he tried to call for help, but his voice was weak even to his own ears and his legs would not support him. He curled on his side in the bed, panting and trembling. He vomited blood, and then, mercifully, he lost consciousness.
Voices swam above him. Something cool came down on his forehead, and he turned his face into it. He begged for water, but they didn’t hear him. Light lanced his eyes. He cried from it, from the pain of it, and there was a hand in his hair and it hurt everywhere they were touching him, they pricked him with needles.
‘It’s all right, Remus,’ Asper said. Through his tears he could see him. The hand in his hair was Asper’s. ‘Don’t fret. Don’t fret yourself, boy.’
‘He can’t hear you,’ another voice said. ‘He’s too far gone.’
The wolf was with him. The moonlight from the window gleamed on its silver fur where it lay in the bed with him. He couldn’t make a sound; he closed his eyes in terror as the werewolf crawled for his throat. He felt the teeth pierce his skin, but there was no pain. He lifted his hand to his throat– there was no blood. And the wolf had not mauled his arm. He stretched it out before him, staring at the whole, white skin. It was a perfect arm, the arm of a nine year old boy.
The wolf lay on its stomach, muzzle sedately on its forepaws, a mere few inches from Remus, its long pink tongue lolling out as if it were laughing at him.
Remus closed his eyes. There was no breeze, and the trees were indistinct, fuzzy around the edges and blurred by the moonlight. ‘You’re a memory,’ he whispered.
But it was not the werewolf now; it was the prince of the tylwyth teg, Eflyllon, who stood there, and they were not in the woods behind his house, but in the snowy yard of Hogwarts. The lake was steaming, and Remus was wearing only his night clothes. He was not cold. In the distance he heard a howl from the Forbidden Forrest. There was an answering tingle down his spine, and without comprehending how it was possible he knew it was himself releasing that cry of grief.
‘He’s in pain.’ Asper tried to make him drink, but he choked on it. ‘Can’t you do something more?’
His mother took his arm, and drew him down beside her at the campfire. Remus reached for her earring; the shiny gold held him rapt. ‘My little darling,’ she laughed, and pulled him onto her lap. ‘What tale do you want to hear tonite?’
James helped Professor Asper up the carriage steps, and turned to Remus. He offered his hand, and Remus took it. ‘Will I ever see you again?’ he asked.
James smiled for him. ‘We’ll always have Hogwarts.’
He slept with Bran when Bran had nightmares and was afraid to tell Mam. Bran came creeping into his room and Remus lifted his blanket, offered Bran an edge of the pillow, and took the clammy, chubby hand in his own. Bran gazed trustingly at him, tear tracks gleaming on his cheeks and snot rimming his nose, and then he sighed a little sigh and closed his eyes. Remus watched until he fell asleep, and then he slept himself.
Asper slumped into the chair, exhausted. ‘Pour me some of that,’ he rasped.
Sirius did as he was asked silently, and pushed the glass of brandy across the table. ‘Any change?’ he asked briefly.
‘He’s quiet now.’ The professor drank deeply, wincing at the burn. ‘Have you slept?’
‘I tried.’ He ran a hand through his hair, limp as he felt. ‘Pomfrey’s still in there?’
‘Potter’s girl is spelling her.’ When Sirius frowned, Asper added sharply, ‘She’s been at his bedside all night. She’s done all she can. She’s calling Dumbledore– he’ll know something we don’t.’ The old man rubbed his sallow cheeks. ‘He’ll know something.’
He fixed his eyes on the table. ‘This is my fault. I shouldn’t have left him.’
Asper finished his brandy and set down the glass with a solid thunk. ‘There are a lot of things you shouldn’t have done, Black. But you’re here now.’
His chest ached. He closed his eyes, and said, ‘Is he going to die?’
He turned in his chair to see Madame Pomfrey standing in the doorway. She brushed a wisp of her hair away from her cheek, then looped it irritatedly behind her ear when it fell back. She came to the table, and took the chair beside Sirius. ‘He’s past the worst.’ She wiped at the sweat beading on her temples. ‘It’s the days after he wakes up that we have to worry about,’ she added.
He faced her. ‘Tell me what to do.’
‘Please.’ It was the hardest thing he’d ever had to say. ‘I don’t want to feel helpless. Give me something to do, somewhere to go.’
Her startled eyes met his. ‘He’ll want you here.’
‘I can’t.’ He was painfully aware of their silence. ‘I can’t see him like that. Give me something to do.’
At long last, he got an answer. Pomfrey cleared her throat, and said, ‘Get me a piece of parchment. I’ll need more of certain herbs. You can get them at Diagon Alley.’
He rose thankfully. He kept his eyes carefully averted from Remus’s room as he passed it. He threw on his cloak while Pomfrey wrote down the names of the herbs, and he left through the front door rather than by Floo. The freezing air would keep him from thinking, and that was the only comfort he had.
Lily was with him when he woke.
His eyes ached. Everything ached. Bricks were on either side of his head, wrapped and warm and preventing him from moving. Lily bent over him, and when he tried to speak, she shushed him.
‘Just rest,’ she whispered, stroking his hair like a child.
‘How long?’ he managed, and coughed. Quickly she held a glass to his lips– water and something stronger. Most of it spilled down his chin, but it calmed the agitation in his throat. The ache in his skull grew fiercer and drained him of any strength.
Lily busied herself with tucking the sheets closer around his body. ‘Don’t trouble yourself with that just now. Go back to sleep; it’s the best for you.’
‘Where’s Asper,’ he whispered. ‘He... he was here.’
‘He’s sleeping himself. It’s very late. When you wake up again, he’ll be here.’
‘Is he awake?’ Madame Pomfrey. She took his hand and felt for his pulse. She was fuzzy in his sight. She smiled comfortingly at him. ‘Remus,’ she said, ‘I need to ask you a very important question. Can you answer me?’
He couldn’t nod. He blinked slowly, but she seemed to understand. ‘How much of the wolfsbane did you take? It’s very important, dear.’
Wolfsbane? He hadn’t taken it in years. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘You took the wolfsbane three nights ago, before the full moon.’ Pomfrey patted the back of his hand and laid it across his chest. ‘I need to know how much of it.’
‘I– I don’t know.’ It had seemed like a fever dream. Had that been him? The wolf... It hurt to swallow. ‘I think– the packet. A packet.’
‘Very good.’ She smiled gently at him. ‘Good lad. I know this is hard. Was the packet full?’
Had it been? He couldn’t... ‘Yes.’
‘All right.’ She brushed her cool hand across his forehead. ‘Lily’s right. Sleep will heal you now, Remus. Don’t you worry about anything. We’re looking after you.’
He thought he drifted. They were talking, low women’s voices, sweeter than a man’s, than even Sirius’s. Then there was the hand in his hair again, so soothing, and he felt a tear burning his eye, before it escaped down his cheek in a blaze of salt heat.
‘I didn’t try to kill myself,’ he whispered. ‘I didn’t. Believe me.’
‘I believe you.’ Her voice trembled.
‘I didn’t. Lily.’
‘I said I believe you, Remus.’ She kissed his mouth and then sat beside him, moving the bricks to rest his head in her lap. ‘Please go to sleep.’
Already his senses were swimming with the effort of being awake. He tried to remember what was so important that he had to tell her. It was fading, running out of his reach. He lay with his cheek against her belly, and said, bemused, ‘I can hear his heart.’
‘Go to sleep, Remus.’
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