Chapter 20 — Blood Kisses
By Lady Alchymia
"It’s okay," Remus said from across a rug on the grassy rooftop of Grimmauld Place, "I didn’t cook. Molly took pity on me."
Elizabeth stifled a laugh and speared a meatball with her fork. Behind her husband stood a new conservatory filled with his orchids and other delicately perfumed flowers and ferns. Standing proudly beside that was a violently purple wishing well.
"Dedalus?" guessed Elizabeth, waving Molly’s meatball at it. Remus just grinned and uncorked the wine.
"So, what’s the story with this island?" he asked curiously after they’d demolished a rather tasty dinner and a bottle of red.
Elizabeth sighed under her breath at yet another safe subject. Ever since leaving the hospital, they’d talked about Harry, politics, mutual friends â€” everything except themselves. She knew she had no one to blame but herself; she’d asked for time to digest everything before they really talked. Flopping back onto her pillow, which sighed with pleasure at a job well done, she stared up into the starless sky. A slim silver crescent signalled the new moon was nigh. Two weeks, then, she thought, before he’ll try to make me leave. In the darkness, she felt his eyes upon her. It occurred to Elizabeth that you could do a lot in two weeks. She closed her eyes against the dull London sky and recalled the brilliant diamond-littered canopy that as children she and Sirius would stare into atop Finnegan’s Bluff, the waves crashing far below. What little remained of her guard disintegrated as sweet scents wafted from the conservatory, transporting her to another life, a shared-life, filled with laughter and passion.
"You can see a million stars from the island," she said softly. "Everything’s so lush, so full of life ..." she whispered dreamily, stretching her arms behind her head, "... even the air â€” you can feel the ether all around you … touch it, even ..."
Remus said nothing. Elizabeth rolled back to face him, curling cat-like around her grateful pillow. Remus continued watching her intently, his grey eyes glimmering in the candlelight. Evil lay in his lap, purring softly.
"He misses you terribly," whispered Elizabeth.
"I miss him terribly, too," Remus countered huskily.
Evil hissed sharply.
"Sorry, sorry!" fretted a female voice.
"Sorry," she whispered apologetically to Remus. "I got your message to come over ..." Hestia’s voice trailed off as she looked between the pair on the grass and at the remnants of their dinner. "I can come back later ..."
Remus started to agree, but Elizabeth was already on her feet, cursing herself for being such an idiot. What was she thinking? He was clearly seeing this Jones woman.
"It’s getting late," she said stiffly. "I might turn in."
"I’ll show you your room," Remus offered, sending fur flying as he scrambled to his feet. "It’s all made up."
"No need," insisted Elizabeth, backing away. She was very glad it was dark. "My tent’s fine. Goodnight, Hestia, Remus."
Elizabeth couldn’t sleep. Her WizChat was trembling and glowing so brightly she didn’t need candles. She ignored it. A letter was folded in her palm, so creased and worn it was falling apart. It didn’t matter â€” she knew it by heart.
… and by the time you read this, I will be gone. Please don’t try to find me â€” I’m begging you.
A sudden burst of big-band music sounded from somewhere far above. It stopped immediately, but Mrs Black awoke, cursing and screaming. By the time Elizabeth had half-dragged on a silk robe and opened the door to the hallway, Remus had already silenced the portrait. As he turned, their eyes met. His gaze travelled downwards. Blushing, Elizabeth closed her robe over her blue negligee.
"Sorry," he whispered, looking rather hot under the collar himself. "We’ll try to be more quiet."
After his Occlumency lesson, Harry scored two whole hours of blissful oblivion inside his sea-snail before his mind awoke and came loose from his body. He floated over his hospital bed, surprised to find his guardian slumped in a chair beside him. Remus was dozing, his head lolling under the light of a few floating candles. There was no sign of â€” Lizzie. The name just popped into Harry’s head. Golden hair spilled through his fingers â€” Remus’s fingers. Blue silk slid off Elizabeth’s shoulders and he buried his lips in her neck. Harry panicked; he did not want to be seeing this! He felt a twitch in his finger and urgently tried to wake himself up, putting all his energy into that single digit, desperate to make it twitch again before Elizabeth’s hands could travel any further down his chest.
"S’up!" Harry complained, poking hard at Remus’s knee.
Remus jolted awake. He quickly hushed Harry and tried to get him to go back to sleep. Harry dragged his leaden body into a sitting position.
"Why are you here?"
"Just wanted to make sure you were okay," Remus said unconvincingly. "How was Lizzie?"
This was hardly a subject Harry could approach with composure. "Is everything okay with the Order?" he ventured instead.
Remus flinched. "It’s nothing â€” nothing that can’t wait till morning. You should go back to sleep."
The hairs on the back of Harry’s neck tingled in warning. "Why d’you come here, then?"
"I â€” I just needed to get out of the house for a bit," said Remus. "Clear my head."
"About the Order?"
"Er â€” kind of. I was working with Hestia on the music box when Professor Dumbledore came by. He had a few things he wanted to discuss with me, that’s all."
"It’s about me, isn’t it," Harry declared bluntly, to which Remus nodded reluctantly. "You may as well just tell me; I’m not going to get to sleep if I’m worried about it."
Defeated, Remus cast an Imperturbable Charm on the room.
"Harry, you have to understand that this is just an idea, no decision has been made, and if you don’t want to do it, then it’s dropped, right?"
Harry nodded and listened attentively to Dumbledore’s proposal.
"He wants me to do what?!" he cried, flabbergasted.
Remus winced. "I know it sounds off, but you have to see it could gain considerable tactical advantages for the Order."
"Whose stupid idea was this anyway?"
"Er â€” Snape, I gather."
"Right!" Harry snapped, shaking his head in disbelief. "So, let me get this straight: Snape wants me to help him take credit for trying to kill me so he can get in good with Voldemort?"
"Solidifying Snape’s connection to Voldemort’s supporters will enable him to be a more effective information gatherer."
"A spy, you mean!"
Remus did not try to deny it. "Even though the supposed attack was unsuccessful, it could considerably improve his credibility with Voldemort’s supporters â€” perhaps even with Lord Voldemort himself."
"Well, yeah!" Harry cried incredulously. "Exactly! I’d be helping him become a better Death Eater! You don’t see a problem with that? How do you know he isn’t really a traitor?"
"Snape is already privy to many sensitive matters â€” the Headmaster trusts him."
"Well, I don’t!" Harry declared defiantly, enraged at even thinking of helping that twisted cockroach. Snape! All the work he’d done in calming his mind destroyed by that single word. The way he tormented Sirius, calling him a coward for simply doing what he was supposed to do, goading him at every opportunity. "I’M SICK OF THIS!" Harry roared, shaking off Remus’s hands. "I DON’T WANT ANY PART OF IT!"
"Harry, calm down!" Remus ordered him sternly. "I’ll tell Dumbledore â€” don’t give it another thought."
Remus asked the impossible. Harry’s guts writhed as if a snake fought to escape his belly.
"Snape stuffs up his stupid spell," he spat viciously, ignoring whatever Remus was saying, ignoring the ravens screeching in his ear, "I get ripped through the pipes! I get burned to death! AND NOW DUMBLEDORE WANTS TO USE ME! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH PAIN â€”"
Harry stopped dead â€” he couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Remus grabbed him by the shoulders, shook him, yelled something at him, but the sound of his voice â€” it was disappearing. Then Harry was no longer in his body. Time slowed to nothing. He watched in a daze as Remus drew his wand in slow motion and twisted towards the door. Before he could even cast his spell, Harry’s heart started beating again. His soul was yanked back into his body and his lungs were fighting for air.
"Harry?" Remus’s head whipped around. "Hold still, I’ll get the Healer."
"No!" Harry blurted shakily. "I’m fine â€” fine, I just â€” just dizzy â€” I’m fine."
Remus did not believe him. After fetching Penelope, he hovered tensely over her shoulder, arms folded, as she examined Harry’s Wheel of Anxiety.
"I should probably let Healer Dee explain in the morning, Professor Lupin," she said in a calm tone that didn’t fool Harry one little bit.
"You know what it means," he said grimly. "Just tell him."
"Penelope, it’s fine," Remus added calmly, though Harry knew he was feeling anything but. "We just want to know what we’re dealing with here."
With evident reluctance, Penelope explained that Harry’s salts weren’t a tenth of what they should be.
"If they get any worse," she said, "then your grasp on reality could become unstable; you could become literally consumed with emotion."
"What," he said, trying to laugh, "so I’d become a proper nutcase?"
Penelope winced. "I wouldn’t say that. And in any case, you already seem to be past that point. Oh, sorry," she said quickly at the look of indignation on Harry’s face, "that didn’t come out the way I meant. Harry, if your salts keep falling, there’s a very real risk that your soul could be ripped from your body."
Penelope and Remus kept talking, but Harry wasn’t listening. A chill of dread raced through him. Ripped from his body? That was what Voldemort said happened to him when the death curse rebounded, that he’d become less than a spirit, less than a ghost. That he’d drifted away, never sleeping, forcing himself onwards, endlessly searching, going to far away places, unable to do anything but possess creatures that made the fatal mistake of crossing his path.
"Harry?" Penelope said. She stroked his hair; Harry jumped as if burned.
"What? Sorry â€” sorry."
"I asked if you’d like a Draft of Peace," Penelope said gently. "And a dash of Euphoria wouldn’t hurt."
"I think you should, Harry," Remus said very seriously.
Harry nodded uneasily. Ripped from his body? He really needed to get a grip on himself.
Penelope’s potions took effect immediately, making him feel decidedly mellow and energised at the same time.
"Try to rest," she pleaded before leaving.
Remus sat on the edge of the bed, leaning over Harry and regarding him searchingly. "Are you okay? I’m so sorry I upset you before ..."
"What? Oh, that," Harry said dreamily, finding it hard to feel anything stronger than mild irritation right now. "What were you saying?"
"About Snape, I don’t want you to worry about it. I’ll tell the Headmaster you said no."
Harry gazed fondly at his guardian; he wasn’t accustomed to adults agreeing with him.
"What’ll happen?" he asked, though he was finding it increasingly difficult to care just at the moment.
"Nothing," said Remus simply. "I’ll let Professor Dumbledore know you’re against the plan with Snape, and that’ll be the end of it."
"I just don’t trust that dark bastard," Harry said dreamily. He’d been upset about something â€” what was it again?
"Harry, you don’t need to explain â€” your concerns are perfectly understandable," said Remus. "I want you to try to sleep now."
"I have to go to sleep now," Harry advised Remus amiably. He gazed dreamily at the dancing candles and exhaled a happy sigh. "I’m perfectly understandable."
Remus’s lips twitched. "Yes, you are," he agreed and started extinguishing candles.
Majestically, Harry waved his hands and all the candles lit up again. He tried to stand up on his bed to reach them, but Remus kept pulling him back down again. Didn’t Remus understand? "I have to go dancing with the candles," Harry explained patiently.
"Harry â€” Harry, get back down. Harry, please, you need to lie down. No, no â€” down, yes, that’s the way. How about I leave one candle, it’s a very special candle ..."
"A special candle?" said Harry, squinting curiously amongst the dancers, trying to spot the special one. "But you need two candles to dance, silly."
"Two special candles then," Remus said as he tucked Harry tightly into bed, "but you can’t see them properly if the others are in the way."
"No," Harry agreed wisely. "The others are always giggling. You can never get them on their own."
"Er, very true ..." Remus agreed sensibly, and swiftly extinguished all but the two special candles.
The special candles circled Harry’s head in a graceful dance. Harry hummed along happily, growing drowsier and drowsier as the dancers dipped and swayed in time with Remus’s wand.
"Sir?" sounded a woman’s voice. "Master Harry? It’s Jenkins, sir."
Harry blinked open bleary eyes to find a female Peacock Knight leaning over him. A second blue-robed figure stood at the end of the bed.
"Sorry to wake you, sir," she said politely, "but it’s time for your fit."
Harry blinked groggily. "Wh â€”"
"It won’t take a moment, sir."
It was five in the morning and the guards revealed orders from Remus Lupin to ensure his ward was full of painkilling potions before the morning edition of the Daily Prophet. Harry tried to tell the guards he felt fine, but they had their orders, and soon Harry was lying on the floor, artfully entangled in his sheets. Fake vomit lay nearby and his legs were jerking from a Jelly Legs Jinx. Jenkins raised the alarm and a frightened Donna came rushing into the room. Harry clutched at his scar and feigned the appropriate pitiful moans and groans (a talent he’d picked up from playing the vanquished beast in endless DADA re-enactments for Professor Gilderoy Lockhart).
Back in his bed and feeling all the joy to be had from lovely potions, he cuddled his pillow and fell asleep in wonderful daze, dreaming of feeding paper-doll Chos into his Uncle Vernon’s shredder. Even odder dreams followed, and he had just managed to extricate himself from Quirrell’s turban and was bobbing over his bed when it hit. Harry watched with morbid curiosity as his unconscious body writhed and jerked in the darkened room.
For once, Harry was deeply grateful his feeble body wouldn’t wake up; there was no way he wanted to be down there right now. Blazing red eyes and coiling grey scales flashed past, as if glimpsed through the windows of a speeding train. Harry sensed the creature still out there somewhere, cautiously poking the mind of the body in the bed. But it was skittish; it didn’t want to get too close. Within seconds it was gone and Harry felt himself being sucked along in its wake. To his immense surprise, he became a luminous golden spirit soaring through the clouds on the back of an eagle-owl, the mist fresh on his shimmering face, the wind whistling in his ears. Voldemort disappeared, but Harry could still hear his high, cruel laugh. He was with someone â€” Wormtail!
"The boy is barely alive," Voldemort was gloating. "Surely, death cannot be far!"
Harry strained to hear more, but then they were flying again, for a longer time now, leaving London far behind. He tried to make out where they were going. Could he discover Voldemort’s secret lair? His owl dipped below the cloud, drawn like a magnet to wherever Voldemort was going. Harry whizzed past trees, fields, villages â€” nothing looked familiar. Then they were rushing through a town. A giant yew came into view. Just visible through the tree was a building â€” no, a church …
Abruptly, Harry fell off his owl and onto his hospital-room floor. A frightened Donna was shaking him; ravens shrieked madly; blue shapes rushed around his head, then turned lime-green. Drenched in sweat, his scar exploding though not as badly as it might have been without Donna’s painkillers, Harry was nonetheless livid; if she hadn’t woken him, he would’ve discovered Voldemort’s hideout! Through blurred vision, he sought out the blue figures.
"REMUS!" he yelled.
"I’ll get him," said one of the Knights at once.
The Healers hauled Harry’s still-shaking body back into bed and tried to get him to drink their potions; Harry refused; he needed his wits about him. Remus arrived looking dishevelled in his dressing gown and slippers. At a look from Harry, he quietly but firmly cleared the room.
"I had a vision!" Harry panted breathlessly. "I flew â€” I chased him!"
"What do you mean you flew? Are you sure you weren’t dreaming â€” they gave you some pretty strong stuff last night."
Harry fought to drag air into his lungs; he had to make Remus understand.
"Two years ago â€” I had this vision â€” I flew on an owl to where he was hiding; I saw him torture Pettigrew. I was just on the owl again. I followed him â€” I could hear him!"
"What did he say?" Remus said at once.
Harry shook his head impatiently. "Nothing â€” nothing. I mean he still â€” he still thinks I’m about to kick the bucket, but he was going to his hideout â€” I’m sure of it!"
"Where is it?" Remus said sharply, a dark, hungry look in his eye.
"I â€” I don’t know," Harry admitted. Despair now competed with the pain addling his brains. "I â€” I thought I saw something â€” something I recognised, but ..."
"A cottage, a manor, a pub, a forest, the sea, that graveyard?" Remus suggested, his words tripping over themselves, confusing Harry all the more.
Harry squeezed his eyes shut and pursed his lips, trying hard to remember the details of his vision, but it was already slipping away. He felt sure there was something, something on the tip of his tongue, but it was all swimming dizzily in and out of his head. He tried hard to stop shivering; his body was cold with sweat. Remus piled blankets over him.
"Where was he heading," he pressed the boy urgently, "a village, a forest?"
Harry shook his head. "Not a village â€” a town. A Muggle town â€” lots of shops â€” cars on the High Street. He went straight for the centre â€” I’m sure there was a church. Right in the middle. There was something funny about it."
Harry pounded his throbbing scar in frustration; he’d just described every town in England.
Remus stared, hungry for more, but Harry had nothing. Feeling thoroughly useless, he tried to convince Remus to read his mind and see the vision for himself. Although sorely tempted, Remus resisted, insisting Harry’s body was too weak.
"My body’s gonna be dead if we don’t find him!" Harry declared defiantly.
Remus hesitated a moment longer, then drew his wand. "Legilimens!"
It was lucky Remus had an Imperturbable Charm on the CCU, for Harry loosed a blood-curdling scream as Voldemort’s red-eyed creature ripped a hole straight through his forehead. Remus couldn’t issue the countercharm fast enough. Harry’s arched back collapsed. Clutching at his scar, he was astonished to not find blood and brains spilling everywhere.
"I’m okay â€” okay," he panted.
"We are not doing that again," Remus stated unequivocally. Shaken, he laid a hand on Harry’s forehead and said, "You’re burning up. Hold on."
He called the Healers back and waited, grim-faced, while they examined the patient and topped up his painkillers, which helped Harry’s body feel better, but their Soothing Solution didn’t stand a chance against his over-excited soul.
"How are you feeling?" Remus asked when he and Harry were alone again.
"Fine," Harry said fitfully. "Horrible. I’m just kicking myself I can’t remember more of my vision."
"The important thing is you’re okay."
"No, it’s not! The important thing is finding Voldemort! Arrgh!" Harry grabbed at his hair in frustration. "I could kill Donna! I was this close to following him into his hideout!"
Remus rubbed his hands over his lips, thinking. "Do you think you could draw the town?"
Harry stared stupidly at the man; why didn’t he think of that? After fetching Harry’s drawing things, Remus left again to â€˜inform the Headmaster’. Whilst he was gone, Harry struggled to remember something â€” anything â€” useful. Remembering the vision hurt almost as much as Remus’s Legilimency Charm, but Harry had no intention of sharing this minor detail with his guardian. Fortunately, once he fixed upon an image, the actual drawing part wasn’t so bad. He sketched a pair of overhead views of the High Street he spotted â€” the church eluded him.
"They’re not very good," he apologised when Remus returned. They just showed the tops of cars and a row of anonymous-looking market umbrellas â€” but Remus was intrigued and examined them closely. "Do you recognise anything?" Harry asked him.
"Something about it does look familiar," admitted Remus. "Hang on," he said warningly at the look of victory on Harry’s face, "it’s been a good fifteen years. It could be any one of a hundred towns."
Harry beamed at him anyway, gratified to provide a concrete clue for once. "But you think it could be useful?"
"Could be," Remus agreed, squinting at the market umbrellas. "I’ll do some recon; see if I can find it again."
Harry’s smile vanished.
"You’re not going there?" he blurted before he could stop himself. "If Voldemort’s in that town â€”"
"Harry, calm down," Remus ordered him. "It’s only reconnaissance. I’ll do a flyover â€” it’ll be fine."
"Your broom’s rubbish!" fretted Harry. How could he have thought finding Voldemort was a good idea? "At least take my Invisibility Cloak," he insisted. "And my Firebolt."
Remus’s lips twitched. "My broomstick is not rubbish, thank you very much, but I must admit burning around the countryside on a Firebolt does sound like fun."
Suddenly feeling foolish, Harry realised the man must do this kind of thing for the Order all the time. And he was a Defence expert. Still, Harry didn’t fancy losing another guardian. Then the solution hit him.
"Take Elizabeth with you!" he demanded, amazed by his own brilliance. "She’s an Auror!"
"She is," agreed Remus, "but I’m sure she’d prefer to spend her time here with you rather than hooning around the countryside with me." Harry hid a smile; he somehow doubted that. "Anyway," Remus continued carefully, "I’d have to tell her about your visions â€” in case we ran into trouble â€” and I thought you wanted that kept just between us and Professor Dumbledore for now."
"Oh ... right," said Harry. He wasn’t used to adults paying attention to what he said. "But you trust her, don’t you?"
"With my life," Remus agreed without the slightest hesitation.
Harry decided Elizabeth would be okay; she had nothing to do with that rotten Summoning Charm, after all. Remus gave a slight nod, but Harry could tell he was deeply relieved.
"Will they let me go home today?" asked Harry.
"I don’t think that’s too likely, son," Remus replied sympathetically. "Not if Voldemort keeps setting you back."
"What â€” you mean if he comes back here again?"
Remus looked confused. "Back?"
Harry stared blankly at his guardian. "Didn’t I say that? Voldemort was here â€” in my room, he â€”"
Harry fought back a rather unmanly giggle. "What exactly are you planning on doing with that?" Remus went a little pink and stuffed his wand back into his dressing gown. "He wasn’t here here," Harry assured him, "I just sensed his mind."
"Sounds pretty â€˜here’ to me!" Remus complained. "You might have said something earlier."
Harry shrugged apologetically. "I’ve felt him before â€” at school and stuff. It’s not new."
Remus remained rattled. "Did he try to possess you?"
Harry gave the question some thought. "I don’t think so. Not after what happened in the Ministry. I think he was just trying to see if I was alive. He was only here a few seconds â€” it’s like he didn’t want to get too close."
"But you’re okay?" checked Remus.
"Yeah, I’m fine now. Those purple painkillers are wicked."
Remus ignored that last bit. "Harry, what happened in the Ministry? With you and Voldemort?"
Harry chewed at his lip. "What do you know about possession?"
"Not much, I’m afraid. No one does; possession is a very rare gift â€” something a person is born with, like being a Metamorphmagus or an Animagus. You can find diaries of astral travellers dating back centuries."
"So, when I’m out of my body," Harry checked, wanting to be clear, "like having a vision, I’m doing this astral travel thing."
"Well, I expect so," said Remus, tilting his head a little, "unless I mistook you and you actually have been off gallivanting around the countryside on the back of a giant owl?"
An uncomfortable chill swept over Harry. He always thought his visions were something he picked up by accident, kind of like radio static. But Voldemort had nothing to do with the way he’d been moving around the hospital, visiting people like Frank Longbottom, messing about with Cho, getting tangled up with Crouch and Kreacher and Lockhart. The Healers said that hearing things was normal for patients in his condition, but possession sounded really rare.
"But it’s Dark Magic, isn’t it?" Harry said slowly. "So if you’re born with it ..."
"Harry, being born with abilities in the astral plane doesn’t make a person evil, any more than being born a Parselmouth does. It’s what you do with your abilities that matters."
Harry was afraid of that. Could Voldemort have transferred more than Parseltongue when he cursed him?
"I don’t think you need a lot of visitors today," Remus suggested and wisely took Harry’s dismissive shrug for the emphatic agreement it was. "I’ll let Donna know."
Remus and Elizabeth stopped by before leaving on their mission together. Harry didn’t want to sound like an old woman, but he was deeply conflicted about them going off on a mission based solely on information he’d gleaned from a Voldemort-related vision. It didn’t feel like a trap â€” just a ordinary vision, but still ...
Elizabeth managed to ease his mind by describing at length exactly what kinds of stealth and concealment charms they were going to be using. For the mission, Remus was taking Harry’s Firebolt and Elizabeth was using Remus’s broomstick because hers was damaged. Remus actually wanted to do it the other way around, but Elizabeth said she’d prefer something simpler she knew she could control.
"What happened to your old broom?" Harry asked curiously, deeply impressed that she’d flown all the way across the Atlantic Ocean on it.
Elizabeth went a little pink. "A goat ate it."
Remus and Harry burst out laughing.
"It’s not funny," she said stiffly.
"It really is," Remus assured her.
"So, was this a flying goat?" Harry asked with an innocent air.
Remus turned to Harry. "Doesn’t a Chimaera have the body of a goat?"
"It was just a goat," moaned Elizabeth.
"And the tail of a dragon ..." Harry said, nodding wisely. "Dragons can be tricky."
"Oh â€” and the head of a lion â€” mustn’t forget that," said Remus. "I don’t think they fly, though, do they?"
Elizabeth groaned. "An ordinary, run of the mill, goat."
"I bet Hagrid would know," Harry offered. "He’s probably breeding them for class next year. They better not get loose in the broom shed, though, Madam Hooch would not be at all pleased."
"Indeed not," agreed Remus. "Lizzie, you’re not trying to smuggle banned Chimaera eggs into the country for Hagrid, now, are you?"
Remus and Harry exchanged a grin when Elizabeth at last cracked a smile.
"You can both just shut up right now, thank you very much. Come on, you wretch, time to fly."
"I’m not sure how long we’ll be, Harry," said Remus, "but the guards know how to reach us in need. We can be back within minutes. You need to rest, remember. I’m serious. Peace and quiet. You’ll be okay?"
"I’ll be fine, Moony!" moaned Harry. He was more worried about them than himself.
Elizabeth gave Harry a swift kiss on the cheek.
"Don’t forget to practice your shielding," she reminded him as Remus tugged her out the door.
"Bye!" Harry called after them. "Fly safe!"
As the door swung shut, Harry self-consciously touched his fingers to where Elizabeth had kissed him. She’d just done it â€” just like that â€” as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
Harry got his first proper look at the Peacock Knights when he was allowed to walk on watery legs down the corridor to the bathroom. He quickly discovered the Knights were worse than Mad-Eye Moody. And there seemed to be more of them now. Communicating by hand signals, eyes everywhere, as if in combat, they insisted on casting a Disillusionment Charm on him even to just visit the loo, which certainly made finding the toilet bowl interesting. On his retuen, Healers Dee and Abercrombie gave him a thorough post-Transmutation examination. Although concerned about his fits, they seemed generally pleased with his progress. Oddly enough, no one made any further mention of Psycho-Healers.
Cho was working as a volunteer again and brought Harry his morning tea. Harry suspected she’d been hearing about his fits from that useless Donna. She was nervous and tired and conceded she hadn’t slept well. He was quite relieved when, after inspecting his Wheel of Anxiety, Healer Dee pointedly suggested that Healer Smethwyck could use a hand down in Bites and Stings. Cho left him a copy of the Daily Prophet to squint through, and he was surprised to find there was nothing in it about his condition, nothing at all. He supposed that was why Voldemort came to the hospital. The only mention was in the Sporting Section with the Holyhead Harpies pledging to donate any winnings from their next game to Saint Mungo’s Hospital as a sign of respect for that â€˜brave young Harry Potter’.
The rest of his morning passed tensely, his lack of visitors giving him plenty of time to worry about the Lupins. Fortunately, Donna managed to forget to pass on the message to Penelope about â€˜no visitors’, and after lunch Harry received a welcome distraction in the form of Ron, Hermione, Hannah, Susan, Padma, and Parvati. And with them was another very welcome visitor.
"Good afternoon, dear boy," Frank hissed regally as Susan carried him into the CCU on a silver-tasselled, red-velvet pillow.
Whilst Ron Doodled in a corner and Hermione stood glued to Harry’s wall charts, the rest of the girls perched around the edges of his bed, chatting cheerily about nothing. Harry found himself deeply content to lay propped up in bed, smiling and nodding in the right places, relishing the girls’ uncomplicated feelings of affection and relief. He didn’t even mind Susan fussing over his fingers, showing admirable patience while she and Frank carefully inspected them for any lasting damage.
"The things boys will do to get out of music practice," Susan observed dryly as she turned Harry’s hands this way and that. "You know, you’ll never get on top of Charlotte the Harlot at this rate."
Harry snorted a laugh.
Frank looked curiously around the room. "Do you hear a dove?"
"I do indeed," Harry replied in Parseltongue. "It means I’m getting happy for real."
"Well, of course it does!" Frank said, jerking his head meaningfully towards Susan. "What have I been telling you?"
Ever since the girls arrived, Harry’s salts had been steadily improving, and whenever Hermione flitted past, she beamed at him with pride, but when Cho came by with afternoon tea and biscuits, she was deeply unimpressed to find Harry’s room full of competition. She was even less impressed to see Frank, who by now was coiled possessively around his boy’s neck. Cho immediately nudged Parvati aside to make room for Harry’s tray and pulled up a stool up to sit closest to him; she was playing second-fiddle to no one.
"Who brought that in?" she said, sparing a look of distaste for the python that was returned with interest.
"Me," Susan said. "I hope that’s okay. The Healers said â€”"
"That was an exception," Cho declared forbiddingly. "They don’t ordinarily allow pets."
Cho looked like she had a lot more to say on the subject, but the long awaited Optic-Healer had arrived. He swept grandly into the room, at least a dozen silver instruments and eyeglasses swinging from his neck, which Harry thought made him look very much like a walking, lime-green grandfather clock. Healer Google’s smile disappeared when he spotted Frank, who was dead set against letting â€˜that great green quack’ anywhere near â€˜his Harry’.
"Do you want me to stun him?" Cho asked the Healer hopefully.
Frank bared his jaws at Cho, as did Susan.
"He’s not hurting anybody," she declared stubbornly, though this was not entirely true, for the python had decided he needed to protect Harry’s eyes.
"Frank â€” Frank! â€” you’re really not helping," Harry said with exasperation, trying to pry the python off his head.
With Susan’s help, Harry finally convinced Frank to let go of him, but the snake continued hissing and lunging menacingly at both Cho and Healer Google (who was staying as far away from the bed as dignity would allow). Harry tried to bribe Frank by offering to share his dinner, but apparently Frank had a very low opinion of hospital food. Harry finally calmed him down by asking him to sing a song.
"He can sing?" asked Susan, intrigued.
Harry nodded; Cho just rolled her eyes.
"Any song?" checked Frank, coming over all coy and tickling the edges of his mouth with his tail.
"Anything you like," promised Harry.
Frank immediately slithered over to Susan, coiled around her arm, and gave a rousing rendition of I’m just wild about Harry!
"I think I hear a tune," said Susan happily. She frowned in concentration and held Frank closer to listen.
Harry smiled through gritted teeth and promised himself that his serpent would pay for that. When Frank was finished, Harry turned silver, puppy-dog eyes on the girls and begged them to sing their school song. They cheerfully obliged, singing Hoggy-Warty Hogwarts to the tune of We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday. Frank delivered to Harry a look of the very deepest disgust.
"Oh, that was low ..." he hissed, ducking for cover.
Harry just smiled sweetly and kept fishing his snake out from under the blankets, the better for him to hear.
Whilst Healer Google examined Harry’s eyes, Cho and the other girls debated the merits of the sample frames spread across the bed. Harry couldn’t have been less interested and asked the Healer to modify his existing spectacles to suit his slight change in prescription. Cho tried hard to convince him to accept a set of contact lenses, reasoning he could use them for Quidditch, but Harry knew she just wanted to turn him into her spectacle-free dream-Harry.
"I don’t need them," he said flatly.
Cho took a moment to beat up his pillows.
"Roger Davies wears them," she observed. "You remember Roger, don’t you, Harry?" she said sweetly, punching a pillow. "Ravenclaw captain."
"Oh, Roger is absolutely dreamy!" Padma volunteered helpfully.
"Totally dreamy," Cho agreed wickedly.
"Fine," he said shortly, and he accepted a pair, but he had no intention of wearing them.
Frank, as usual, was on any side Cho wasn’t, and broke into a lusty chorus of You’re So Vain.
"Branching out a bit aren’t we, Frank?" Harry sniggered in Parseltongue. "What happened to Sinatra?"
Frank stopped singing long enough to sniff, "The Voice is too noble to adequately represent my sentiments."
It wasn’t long before Cho pulled rank and ordered the python home. Frank was far from pleased, and it took both Susan and Hannah to pacify him. Harry took revenge on Cho by giving each Hufflepuff girl a lengthy hug goodbye, thoroughly relishing the feelings of jealousy it provoked in Cho â€” not to mention the lovely sensation of hugging girls who hugged him back so affectionately.
The doves were still cooing from Susan’s farewell when the rest of the DA turned up with Get Well cards and sweets. When Lavender arrived there were tears Harry could have done without â€” and that only stopped when he relented and let her give him a quick haircut. The Ravenclaw boys persisted in pushing for details about the accident. Ron and Hermione were quick to shoot down their inquiries, but Harry decided it’d be better to just give them a few grisly facts to shut them up. To a deathly silent room, he revealed he’d been summoned through the boiler by a broken security charm and that all his skin had burned off, inspiring the room to wince as one and successfully quelling any more questions. On learning he’d been taking a bath at the time, Padma, Lavender, and Parvati turned into hosepipes from worrying they’d broken it somehow during the Jacuzzi Party.
"What Jacuzzi Party?" Ron complained from the floor. Bruce buzzed indignantly on his shoulder.
Natalie Ramsay inadvertently came to Harry’s rescue once again, this time providing a welcome distraction for his friends when they discovered that the Natalie was on the other end of the WizChat. Zacharias, Anthony, Michael, and Terry ignored Ron’s (and Bruce’s) very dirty looks and crowded around him on the floor, each of them keen to send their two Knuts worth to the pretty Canadian from the newspaper.
Hermione, closely monitoring Harry’s Wheel of Anxiety, kept rushing off after the Healers to ask questions. Harry wished she’d bring one back with her; he didn’t want to say anything, but he was finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the swelling crowd.
"Are you okay?" asked Ginny very quietly.
Harry tried to make out he was fine, but he really wasn’t. Forget Cruciatus â€” an hour with all of his friends’ emotions madly bouncing around was enough to drive anyone nuts. He was privately very grateful when Ginny turned on the room, clapped her hands, and bossily ordered them all home. Unfortunately, Neville left with them before Harry had a chance for a private word about his parents.
Alone at last with Ron and Hermione, Harry filled them in on his latest vision and the drawings he’d made for Remus. He also told them of Dumbledore’s ludicrous proposal to let Snape take credit for trying to kill him.
"He’s barking!" cried Ron, disbelief etched on his freckled face. Harry and Ron looked at Hermione, expecting her to agree, but she was staring thoughtfully into space.
"No way!" declared Ron. "You think Dumbledore’s right to sell Harry out!"
Hermione’s eyes flashed dangerously.
"I think no such thing, thank you very much," she said icily. "Professor Dumbledore wouldn’t dream of approving this kind of plan if he thought Professor Snape was truly a traitor. He trusts him. I may not be very fond of Professor Snape right now â€”" Ron snorted derisively. Hermione continued as if she didn’t hear him, "Can’t you see how valuable it would be in improving his access to important Death Eater information?"
"And to sell out the Order," snarled Ron.
As Harry listened to his best friends vigorously debating the pros and cons of Snape’s proposal, he felt his anger about it dissipating, leaving him feeling strangely cool and calm.
"What if we said yes," said Harry abruptly. The other two stopped mid-sentence and stared at him. "Seriously," said Harry, "what if I said Snape could take credit for attacking me?"
Although startled, Ron and Hermione were nonetheless up to the task of turning their minds to how Harry might implicate Snape.
"Did they say how they want you to do it?" asked Ron.
"Ah ... that’s the tricky bit," admitted Harry. "I can’t just come right out and say Snape tried to kill me â€” he’d get lynched. They just want it to be an unsubstantiated rumour."
"Easy," said Ron, "just use Rita Skeeter."
"Harry can’t do that!" said Hermione, scandalised. "Professor Snape’s reputation would be ruined!"
Ron and Harry delivered identical looks to her that said, â€˜Yeah, and ...’
Hermione rolled her eyes at them. "Don’t you see? He’s no use to the Order if he gets sacked or arrested or worse. It has to be just a slip of the tongue to the right â€” well, wrong â€” people. Enough to confirm his fake story, but not enough to really do any harm to his reputation."
"At school then," mused Harry. "We could let the Slytherins overhear us in the corridor or something. You can bet it’d go straight to their Death Eater parents."
With Hermione nodding approvingly, the trio started plotting ways they could get a rumour started. Ron had a particularly inspired notion involving Harry having a heart attack at the Welcome Feast and screaming at the top of his lungs, â€˜It was the great bat who done me in!’, before collapsing face-first into a punch bowl.
"Subtle," laughed Harry.
Ron and Hermione hung around until Remus and Elizabeth returned. As soon as Harry saw them, a weight lifted off him that he wasn’t even aware he’d been carrying until it was gone. They both looked tired and windswept, but they were safe! And they’d brought â€”
"Pizza ..." Ron breathed blissfully, his blue eyes misting over as delicious smells filled the CCU.
Harry abandoned his hospital dinner and attacked the pizzas with almost as much gusto as Ron.
"So, d’you find anything?" Harry asked Remus as he reached for a fat slice of mushroom and pepperoni.
Remus stared at him blankly, then his eyes flicked meaningfully towards the others.
"Oh, I already told them everything," Harry admitted apologetically.
"Why does that not surprise me?" said Remus ruefully. "No, we didn’t find anything, but we’ll keep trying. A couple of places looked promising, but none entirely matched your vision." A small sigh escaped his lips as he opened the pizza box near Ron and found it empty.
"Oh, okay," said Harry, in equal parts relieved and disappointed they hadn’t discovered a nest of Death Eaters. "Um, you know dat fing â€” ah â€” hot …" he waved the heat from his mouth and swallowed the food down, "that thing with Snape? Well, I’ve thought about it some more and it might be okay."
"What thing with Snape?" said Elizabeth tensely. Harry looked at his godmother curiously. She hated the man. Absolutely and positively loathed him.
"I think we need more pizza," said Remus firmly. "Why don’t I explain everything while we’re waiting, Lizzie?"
"I wonder what that was all about," Hermione mused thoughtfully after the Lupins left.
"Dunno," said Harry. "She can’t stand him, though."
"Who?" said Ron. "Lupin? Wouldn’t be surprised if she’s upset with him. I mean, after everything that happened between them."
"No â€” not Remus," said Harry. "She likes Remus. I meant Snape. Hang on a minute, after what happened between them?"
"Oh, nothing," Ron said airily, idly watching Bruce creep in and out of his fingers, "just going on what Natalie told me ..."
Hermione and Harry were all ears.
"Are you gonna eat that?" asked Ron, pointing to Harry’s pudding.
Harry shoved the whole dinner tray towards him. Ron started spilling the dirt on the Lupins’ story, but he kept getting bits mixed up.
"Hang on," he said, "I’ll find it in the Doodle." He grabbed the WizChat and scrolled up and down the Doodle page until he got to the right spot. "Here you go," he said at last.
Hermione and Harry squeezed together on the bed, the journal across their knees, so they could read it together.
"Who’s â€˜Big Red’?" Hermione said with a laugh.
"It’s just a nickname," muttered Ron, blushing beetroot.
Big Red: How come they broke up?
Blonde Beater: I’d really have to start from the beginning.
Big Red: Sure.
Blonde Beater: And I only know what my Aunt Lizzie told me.
Big Red: Cool.
Blonde Beater: Well, they met at school. I’m not sure when they started going out, but they were maybe like 20 or so when they first tried to get engaged.
Big Red: Tried?
Blonde Beater: My grandparents weren’t real keen.
Big Red: How come? Because he’s â€” Sorry, forget that. Go on.
Blonde Beater: So you know he has certain monthly â€” issues?
Big Red: Starts howling at the Moon.
Blonde Beater: Goes a bit crazy.
Big Red: Yeah.
Blonde Beater: Yeah. Anyway, no. Not exactly. My grandparents weren’t too thrilled about that, but they were more worried he was only after her money.
Big Red: Her money?
Blonde Beater: I know! They were such idiots. What does money matter?! Apparently they didn’t think too much of his prospects. Uncle Remus had a lot of trouble holding down a job. As soon as a new boss found out about his problem, he’d get the sack. Grandfather offered him a job, but Uncle Remus refused. Said he didn’t want his charity.
Big Red: Too right!
Blonde Beater: Anyway, they planned to get married once Auntie Lizzie finished her Auror training, but Uncle Remus still didn’t have a job. Aunt Lizzie didn’t want to let that stop them and insisted on at least getting engaged. So that’s when Uncle Remus asked my grandparents for her hand in marriage, but they said no.
Big Red: Whoa. No offence, but that is seriously out of order.
Blonde Beater: I know! Aunt Lizzie was furious with them and wanted to get married anyway, but Uncle Remus refused to get married without her parents’ blessing. He said he didn’t want her estranged from her family. He wouldn’t even consider trying to get engaged again until he got a proper job. Aunt Lizzie kept saying it didn’t matter and he kept saying well it mattered to him and they had this huge row over it. It nearly broke them up for good.
Big Red: But they did get married.
Blonde Beater: Yeah, but that was a lot later.
Big Red: Sorry â€” go on.
Blonde Beater: Okay, so it’s a week later and they’re still not talking to each other and then there’s this big Death Eater attack. You know about Death Eaters?
Big Red: I’ve fought against them.
Blonde Beater: Yeah, right.
Big Red: I have!
Blonde Beater: Whatever you say.
Big Red: You know that night in June when You-Know-Who attacked the Ministry of Magic and there were schoolkids there â€” and one of them was Harry Potter â€” well me and my sister and my friends were there, too. I landed in the hospital wing and everything.
Blonde Beater: Oops, sorry. I thought you were being, you know. My apologies. So what happened in the Ministry?
"Hang on," complained Harry as Hermione scrolled downwards.
"Read it later," she muttered. "We need to get through this before the pizza’s cooked."
She was scrolling for a very long time. Harry didn’t know how she could read that fast; even with his glasses, it was just a blur to him.
"Got it," she said finally.
Blonde Beater: So anyway, they’re still not talking to each other â€” but before they even had a chance to make up, there was this Death Eater attack that my aunt was caught up in. It was really, really terrible; she was tortured half to death. Uncle Remus was the one who found her and got her to hospital. She was completely out of it for the first six months. Even worse, it happened only a couple of weeks before You-Know-Who was defeated.
Big Red: That’s terrible!
Blonde Beater: Yeah, it is. Anyway, Uncle Remus visited her every day, even though the Healers said there was no hope of her ever getting better. She proved them wrong, though.
Big Red: So then they got married?
Blonde Beater: Not quite. She was still really weak and it took another six months in and out of hospital for her to really get back on her feet. Uncle Remus was there for her every step of the way. So anyway, by now it’s a year after the war and Uncle Remus finally managed to get a job, something with flowers, I think. So he went back to my grandparents and asked for her hand in marriage again. Aunt Lizzie told them she would never have survived without Uncle Remus, and this time they said yes. They finally understood how much they loved each other. They got married three months later, at Christmastime in Venice. It was so romantic. It snowed and everything.
Blonde Beater: Ron?
Blonde Beater: You there?
Big Red: Yeah â€” I just had to get something out of my eye.
Blonde Beater: Aw.
Big Red: What? It’s really dusty in here.
Blonde Beater: In a hospital.
Big Red: Shut up.
Blonde Beater: Shutting up, you old softie.
Big Red: So why’d they break up after all that?
Blonde Beater: Well, they were married for about three-and-a-half years then one day he just left. He left a note saying God knows what and just left. Just like that.
Big Red: Just like that!?!
Blonde Beater: Just like that. Dad’s still filthy about it.
Big Red: What did your aunt do?
Blonde Beater: What do you think she did? She’s an Auror! She hunted him down and made him explain himself!
Big Red: And!
Blonde Beater: Ah, well, all I know is she found him in the Black Forest. And that’s where the well runs dry, I’m afraid.
Big Red: NO! She must have told you more than that!
Blonde Beater: Don’t think I haven’t tried. She always says it’s between her and her husband and then she tries to distract me by going shopping. You wouldn’t believe how many pairs of shoes I’ve scored thanks to Uncle Remus. I don’t actually remember much of the wedding (I was only 3), but I’ve got this really clear memory of everyone being really busy and racing around and I’m just sitting there on the church steps, bawling my eyes out because Grandmother got rid of the snow because she didn’t want to ruin her shoes. And my mother is cross because I’m getting my dress all dirty and Uncle Remus comes over, calm as can be, and sits on the steps with me (and this is probably like two minutes before he’s supposed to be inside getting married!) and he pulls me up onto his lap and dries my tears and he makes it snow, just for me. So we’re sitting there inside this fluffy white snowstorm, just the two of us, and the snow is covering us and getting in our hair and on our eyelashes and I’m just sooo happy.
Big Red: Aw!
Blonde Beater: I know! But then it went all pear-shaped, of course. And I’m like 6 years old, and he’s my favourite uncle one day and just gone the next. No goodbye or anything. Just gone. And I never saw him again. I think that’s what hurt the most. That he never even said goodbye.
Harry sneaked a look at Hermione. A fat tear was trembling on the end of her lashes.
"People shouldn’t do that," she snuffled heavily.
"No," Harry agreed soberly.
He reached his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. This, apparently, was entirely the wrong thing to do, for Hermione immediately dissolved into tears, clinging to Harry and sobbing her heart out over his shoulder. Harry awkwardly patted her on the back and looked helplessly at Ron, who just nodded knowingly.
"She get to the bit where the parents finally said yes?"
"Nah," whispered Harry through Hermione’s wild hair, "the bit where Remus never said goodbye to Natalie."
Nodding wisely, Ron crept over and stole back the WizChat.
"You don’t want to read about what happened to her Puffskein then," he advised.
"Remus never â€” hic â€” never said goodbye â€” hic â€” to â€” to â€” me either," Hermione hiccupped in a quivering voice. "After everything â€” hic â€” in the Shrieking Shack â€” he just left â€” hic â€” not a word. And Sirius â€” I never â€” hic â€” got to say â€” hic â€”"
Harry didn’t know what to say. It never really occurred to him that Hermione felt so very deeply about his dad’s old friends. It was nice, in a way, to know how much she cared. Ron found a box of tissues and he and Harry took turns offering them to their best girl as she blubbered, largely incoherently, about many, many things, but most of all, about Harry’s accident. Hermione went full throttle for a good fifteen minutes (and half the tissue box), but when the pizza arrived, she found the strength to eat four large slices.
"Stop looking at me like that."
Evil flicked his tufted tail high in the air and continued prowling disdainfully between Elizabeth’s simmering cauldrons. When she and Remus returned to Grimmauld Place from the hospital, Elizabeth had headed straight for the potions lab, ostensibly to brew some more of the Strengthening Solution Penelope had prescribed for her, but really, to avoid another scene like the one they’d had in the pizza restaurant. She and Remus did not agree at all about the trust the Order could place in Severus Snape. And yet she knew that she, too, had failed Harry miserably. It was all such a horrible mess and there was plenty of blame to go around.
A knock sounded at the open lab door.
"Lizzie?" prompted Remus. "Ah, listen, are you done here, there’s something I’d like to discuss with you."
Elizabeth nodded stiffly. She ladled herself a beaker of turquoise Strengthening Solution and followed Remus into the dining room. While he was carefully relocking the doors, Elizabeth looked around in amazement. The faded dining room of her youth had been turned into some kind of war room. High-level stealth and concealment incantations littered the walls â€” Elizabeth recognised Alastor Moody’s handwriting. There were blueprints, maps, and pin-boards showing the whereabouts of both friendly and opposition forces.
"I shouldn’t be seeing any of this, Remus," said Elizabeth tightly. "I’m not a member any more. I can’t be expected to â€”"
"No one’s asking you to go into battle again, Lizzie," Remus cut in, "but Professor Dumbledore is keen to involve as many overseas wizards as possible."
Elizabeth stared fixedly at the walls. She was not about to throw her life away again by rejoining Dumbledore’s crusade. Rejoining an Order that followed their leader so blindly that they’d been content to let Sirius rot in Azkaban for thirteen long years; an Order that chose to conceal crucial information from Harry resulting in him falling victim to Voldemort’s traps.
"You needn’t live in Britain to be valuable to the Order," Remus ventured uneasily. "Will you at least think about it?"
Dumbledore always did know how to hit under the belt, thought Elizabeth bitterly. He knew she’d never say no to Remus.
Not looking at him, she said, "You know I’ll always be an ally to the Order. I don’t know about anything more, but, yes, I will think about it."
"Thank you," Remus said hoarsely.
Prowling the long room, her eye was caught by a deeply unhappy charcoal portrait of Harry. Her chest tightened the longer she stared into his tormented face. How the boy had ever become the gracious soul she’d met in the hospital Elizabeth would never know. For all her anti-magic mania, Petunia Dursley must have been doing something right. Elizabeth sipped from her potion beaker, savouring the enervating tingle coursing through her body. It suddenly occurred to her that Petunia might not even know her nephew had been injured.
"Does Petunia know about the accident?" she asked Remus.
"No idea," said Remus shortly.
Elizabeth tensed at the sudden, ugly look on Remus’s face. It was a look that took her back some fifteen years.
"Remus," she started reasonably, "surely Petunia deserves to know what’s going on."
"What she deserves," Remus growled, the wolf surfacing again, "is to â€”"
Remus never finished the sentence; the glass beaker in Elizabeth’s hand had just exploded spectacularly.
"Merlin, Lizzie, I’m sorry! Don’t move!"
He vanished the shards of glass embedded in her arm, and conjured thick dressings to stem the blood spurting from her wrist.
"It’s â€” it’s â€”" she hiccupped, "â€” it’s okay."
"It’s anything but okay," said Remus tensely, trying to hold pressure against her wounds. "D’you think you can Apparate with me?"
Elizabeth nodded dizzily and he gathered her tightly in his arms. Nothing happened. He swore furiously and issued a complex counter-spell to lift the Disapparition Jinx. A moment later, they were inside the empty day clinic at Saint Mungo’s. The last thing Elizabeth saw was a curly haired, lime-green apple.
"Easy ... just lie there for a bit," said a female voice.
Elizabeth’s eyelids flickered open. Above her stood Remus, deathly pale, his face splattered with blood. And his robes â€” Remus was covered in blood. The smell, it was overwhelming.
"What ..." she murmured dazedly, "… Penelope?"
The Trainee Healer nodded to Remus, and together they helped Elizabeth to sit up.
"I just need you to drink some of this for me," Penelope said calmly, holding a glass of thick red fluid to her lips. "That’s the way. Blood-Replenishing Potion. You lost quite a bit." She had Elizabeth drink down three more glasses. "Your colour’s looking much better," she said approvingly. "How do you feel?"
Elizabeth looked down at her robes, sodden with blood and turquoise potion. "Wet," she said ruefully.
Penelope had already healed her wounds and released her to go home.
"But take it easy, okay?" she urged her. "Harry needs you in one piece."
Elizabeth tried to smile; Remus still looked distraught.
"Remy, I’m fine, truly," she said, letting him help her to her feet. "Just blood loss â€” I’m all filled up again. Take me home so we can get cleaned up, okay?"
Remus folded her in his arms. When they landed in the potions lab, he didn’t let go. He just stood there, his breath uneven, holding her tightly. Elizabeth let him.
"I’m okay, darling," she whispered, "I’m okay."
The ground disappeared as he pulled her up into him and buried his face in her neck. Elizabeth grabbed fistfuls of his hair and yanked him to her. His lips crushed hers and Elizabeth was finally home, locked in a feverish embrace with the man she adored. She didn’t want to think â€” only to feel, touch, taste ...
Elizabeth gasped. Blood â€” her blood! Werewolves heightened sense of smell! She broke away, tripping over Evil, who hissed angrily in complaint.
Blinking, Remus staggered back, breathing heavily. "I’m sorry â€” I didn’t â€” I’m sorry ..."
Elizabeth fell against the limp wall of her tent, suddenly dizzy. No â€” use your brain, Lizzie! She knew full-well that he was capable of controlling his reactions to human pheromones in non-lunar times. But he was with Hestia now, wasn’t he?
"Lizzie, I’m so sorry, I ..."
The look of mortification on Remus’s face turned Elizabeth’s insides to molten lead. What was this then? Just a bit of spur of the moment lust?
"Go …" she said faintly, "please. Just go."
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