Chapter 26 – Guardian Demons
By Lady Alchymia
Disclaimer: A few lines from Where The Bee Sucks, by William Shakespeare, appear in this chapter. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
Lunchtime came and went and still there was no sign of the Lupins. Two cupids hid behind the Divine Spinners of Destiny, twiddling their thumbs and arguing as to which of them should see if they were okay.
“You were all for spying on them before,” Harry in hissed complaint.
“That was before ...” Natalie hissed back. “Look, I hardly know Uncle Remus any more.”
“I hardly know Elizabeth!”
The knitting hags hushed the bickering teens. “Look,” one of them cackled.
Elizabeth and Remus emerged from Elizabeth’s room, blinking into the sunshine and smiling dreamily at each other. Dressed for swimming, they strolled off, arm in arm. Swaggering after them, his tufted tail high in the air, was a decidedly smug Kneazle. Natalie gleefully pummelled her fists into the grass. Harry found himself grinning rather stupidly, too. He’d never seen Remus looking so relaxed and happy. Natalie jumped up to follow them. Harry pulled her right back down.
“Not a good idea,” he said knowingly. “Come on, let’s go for a fly. Far side of the island!”
Over their Sunday evening roast, Natalie and Harry acted all innocent, letting the Lupins tie themselves in awkward knots trying to explain what was going on. For two savvy adults it took them a tragically long time to realise they were being had.
“Harry and I just knew we had to get you up dancing!” she crowed gaily and started proudly boasting of Operation Lupercalia.
“So, let me get this straight,” Remus checked, looking hard at Harry, who swallowed nervously, “all this week you two have been trying to stay out of our hair to give us a chance to talk. And you dreamed up that feast last night, but you didn’t really want to learn to dance — you just wanted to get us up in the hope something might happen?”
Harry nodded feebly. Then sweet relief washed over him when Remus’s eyes crinkled with amusement.
“Did you really have to call it ‘Operation Lupercalia’?” he complained. Natalie giggled happily. Remus shook his head wryly and turned to his wife, whose hand he kissed before observing, “That deserves some kind of punishment, don’t you think, my love?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Elizabeth agreed dutifully. “Something appropriately dire: ballroom dancing lessons, perhaps?”
Remus chuckled approvingly. Harry’s moodstone was suddenly blushing as pink as his cheeks. Seriously, he didn’t deserve that!
Their matchmaking duty done, Harry and Natalie were both looking forward to Ron’s escape from Auntie Muriel, though his arrival on Black Island was carefully staged to let Natalie believe he was travelling via International Portkey to Sicily, just as she had. The first order of business for the three teens was to tear around the island on their broomsticks, laughing and racing at speed through the jungle and waterfalls and beaches. Things went less smoothly when they changed to go swimming.
“What do you reckon?” Ron asked Harry nervously.
Standing in the second bedroom of their bungalow, Harry did his best to smile encouragingly. Under one arm, Ron held his Cleansweep racing broom and under the other he clutched a Donald Duck floatie. But it wasn’t the duck that had Harry stumped, it was what his best mate was wearing — something Harry had only ever seen fleetingly in old silent movies: a saggy, baggy, neck-to-knee bathing costume.
“It’s pants!” declared Ron.
“No, it’s good,” Harry lied bravely. “Um ... you don’t see them much anymore …”
“Mum got ’em from Uncle Bilius,” Ron said hopelessly.
“I thought he was dead,” said Harry.
“He is,” Ron said shortly. “Why does everything I own have to be such rubbish?”
“It’s a nice broom,” Harry offered fairly.
“Natalie’s gonna think I’m a complete idiot,” Ron moaned. Harry couldn’t really argue with that.
“Well, you probably don’t need the floatie,” he said, reaching for it. Horrified, Ron clutched Donald tightly to his chest. “Okay, okay,” Harry agreed, holding up his hands and backing away from the duck.
Ron had been a bit thingy about the water ever since he was used as a hostage in the slimy depths of Hogwarts Lake. Harry’s sympathy was limited: Ron had been asleep the whole time. His clothing problem was another matter entirely and something Harry had a great deal more empathy for.
“Maybe you could cut them off at the waist?” he suggested. “Then they’d be like shorts ...” He winced a little. “There’s nothing to hold them up, though ...”
“They weigh a ton when they’re wet,” fretted Ron.
“Maybe we could get some rope ...” Harry suggested dubiously. “Or braces, maybe ...”
“Where d’you get your gear?” asked Ron. Harry looked down his at his long green and blue surf shorts and brightened. Elizabeth bought bags of stuff for him from Selfridges.
Resolving Ron’s clothing crisis was just the start; Ron flatly refused to go anywhere near the snake pool, even though Harry promised they only called it that because of its serpentine shape. Well, that and the huge cobra’s head fountain down the far end. The fountain had great fangs and a forked tongue that snapped and jabbed at you if you swam too close. The lake was also out, so that left the beach, where Harry tried to interest Ron in Gillyweed. Ron declined, opting instead for the safety of his duck floatie.
Still hankering to get some blood pumping, Harry’s grand plans for island adventures with his best mate were dealt a fatal blow when Ron saw Natalie in her sky-blue bikini. Even worse, and for some reason Harry couldn’t begin to fathom, Natalie found Donald Duck wonderfully endearing. Ron bobbed around happily, his eyes glued to the blonde witch’s curves (with the result that very few words coming out of his mouth made any sense whatsoever). Natalie didn’t seem to mind. Harry was rather dirty about that. Only the night before in the pool she’d told him off in no uncertain terms for his innocently wandering eyes. Seriously, as if a bloke could help looking! Of course, Natalie’s testiness might have had something to do with finding a certain blinking green eye in her bedroom. Harry had smiled feebly and quickly retrieved his Snaparrazzi 630 camera (and made a concerted effort from then on to keep it out of range of Natalie’s Beater’s Bat).
Already impressed with the island, it was the feast the elves put on that evening that sealed Ron’s opinion that Black Island was paradise on earth.
“Guess what?” he said cheerfully after his third lobster. “Bill and Fleur — they got engaged!”
Hearty congratulations bubbled around the table.
“That’s wonderful news, Ron,” Remus said, raising his goblet. “We should have a toast ...”
At bedtime, Harry and Ron abandoned all thoughts of sleep and strolled down the starlit beach in their pyjamas, clambering over the rocks to get to the main beach. Frank was sleeping, leaving Cho2 free to waddle pigeon-toed after them in the dark.
“So, you doing okay?” Ron asked Harry as the three of them kicked at the water’s edge.
“Sure,” Harry said dismissively.
“Really?” countered Ron.
It had been two weeks since the accident and though Harry knew he wasn’t yet at full strength, he wasn’t about to admit it.
“Race you,” he said, and in a flash their bare feet were pounding across the sand to the far end of the beach. Ron won easily. Harry collapsed in a heap at his feet.
“Didn’t think so,” Ron said archly.
He flopped down beside Harry and played with the hermit crabs scuttling in and out of their tiny holes, letting Harry get his breath back before asking about Snape and the inquest. This suited Harry just fine; he’d been just itching to tell someone all about it.
“Remus punched him out? Brilliant!” Ron crowed.
“Elizabeth had a piece of him as well,” Harry said.
He brought Ron up to date with everything that had been going on, including one Severus Snape having to be on his best behaviour until Halloween, and Remus and Elizabeth being back together for good. Ron was an excellent audience, gasping and laughing in all the right places, and it was past three in the morning before either of them knew it.
“It’s going pretty good, then, with you and Remus?” prompted Ron.
Harry stared out into the calm black sea, at the little frills of white on the tiny waves. “Yeah. I mean, I miss Snuffles like anything, but with Remus ... I mean, it’s different, but it’s good. It’s almost like having my own dad back, you know?”
Ron just smiled; he knew how much dads meant.
After Ron’s arrival, and in the days following, Harry discovered what it felt like to play second fiddle to a girl. And he didn’t like it one bit. He had to think about it, but he did quietly warn Ron about the Chastity Beads in the Torture Palace. Ron was duly grateful and steered well-clear of the place, and so the three teens hung out in the boys’ bungalow with Hedwig, Pigwidgeon, Frank, Cho2, Mirabella, and Bruce. Harry didn’t think Ron had tried to kiss Natalie yet, but it was surely only a matter of time — the redhead was completely smitten. Still, Harry thought it’d be a tricky manoeuvre wearing a duck.
The day before the full moon, Harry encouraged Natalie and Ron to go swimming without him, preferring to stay close to his werewolf, who was happy enough right now to do little more than nap in the cushioned cane chairs on the terrace and take quiet strolls with Elizabeth down to Cupid’s fountain. Cupid himself had last been spotted down at the beach, his golden arrow pointing longingly at a certain inflatable duck.
Remus had the same grey and exhausted look about him he always got when the full moon was near, like something was sucking the life out of him; not unexpected, especially considering all the poison he was taking, but not pleasant to watch. Sitting on the terrace, Elizabeth kept up a steady stream of nervous chatter about nothing.
“Lizzie,” Remus said, “why don’t you go see what Natalie’s up to?” Elizabeth started to demur, but Remus just squeezed her hand and murmured, “I’m fine ... please.”
Elizabeth tenderly kissed his cheek and said she’d bring back some of his potion on her return.
“I shall look forward to your return in spite of that,” Remus assured her solemnly.
Elizabeth laughed and rewarded him with a firm kiss on the lips. Remus smiled at her, but a pained expression took hold as he watched her disappearing down the garden path. Harry could see how much it tore him up for his wife to see him like this — not to mention the wretched anticipation about the prophecy building up inside him like a volcano ready to blow.
“Harry, there’s something I’d like to ask you ...” Remus started hesitantly. “I’ll understand if you’d rather not ...” Harry sat forward attentively. “I can’t stay here — today, I mean — the anticipation’s killing me, but Elizabeth will want me to. She worries, you see ... she ...” Remus shook his head fitfully, but Harry didn’t need him to say it.
“You want me to go back home with you,” he stated simply. “So she won’t worry you’re not eating and stuff. Sure. No problem.”
Remus opened his mouth to speak then shut it again.
“I’ll just get Frank and Hedwig,” Harry said, jumping to his feet. Remus caught his arm as he passed.
“Thank you, Harry,” he said hoarsely.
Elizabeth wasn’t wild about the idea but eventually agreed to Remus and Harry leaving together. She insisted on going with them, though, to make sure their various potions were transported safely and that the Black House kitchen was well-stocked with food for the next few days. When it was time to say goodbye, Elizabeth lingered in front of the grandfather clock, nervously and unnecessarily listing things Harry should and shouldn’t do if anything went wrong.
“We’ll be fine, Elizabeth,” pleaded Harry. “We have done this before, you know.” Harry elected not to mention that during the last full moon he scored a black eye from Snape, and Remus nearly sent him packing back to Privet Drive. Elizabeth nodded distractedly.
“Right — of course — but you should know the poison weakens him terribly before his demon consumes it.”
“Lizzie, enough ...” Remus said weakly, holding her close, “enough, sweetheart.”
Harry suddenly found the view of dingy Grimmauld Place intensely fascinating.
Staring into the weedy square, he frowned on seeing several familiar figures walking towards the house. It turned out the Order was meeting that day to exchange notes on the search for Voldemort’s lair. Given his unique involvement, Harry was permitted to attend the meeting. Unfortunately, no one had yet found a town that matched his description exactly. Wizarding Tourism pamphlets were spread all over the table. Harry looked through all of them, but saw nothing that jogged his memory. Meanwhile, Remus was fading fast.
“And you’re sure there was a church?” pressed Kingsley. “Harry?”
“What?” Harry said distractedly. “Sorry, yeah, there was definitely a church.” His scar stung just thinking about it. “Sorry,” he said, rubbing his head, “I don’t remember too much, but I think there could be a crypt underneath it.”
Kingsley nodded politely, but Harry got the distinct impression that he (and quite a few of the other members) considered the search a wild goose chase. Given what happened the last time he reported a vision, Harry couldn’t really blame them. Feeling all eyes on him, he went through all the pamphlets again, but a small part of him was secretly relieved they’d not found Voldemort; he knew he was nowhere near ready to fulfil his prophecy.
Remus was very quiet at dinner, staring at the kitchen door and jumping whenever Harry asked him a question.
“She’s not coming back, you know,” Harry offered quietly.
“I know,” admitted Remus. He hesitated a moment then added, “I’m as worried I’ll go back. It’s very strong, the need to be with your mate.”
Harry didn’t know what to say to that so he forced a laugh and said, “You’ll have to get through me first.” Remus choked on a carrot and Harry grinned. “I mean, seriously, look at you. Hermione could bowl you over right now.”
Remus chuckled throatily. “I imagine she could.”
After dinner, they retired to the library, far from the grandfather clock. For a little light reading, Harry flicked through a book on death: So Hard to Say Goodbye, by Ezeriah Puddifoot, which recounted people using Mr Puddifoot to channel those who had gone ‘beyond’ (Mr Puddifoot assured his readers he charged only the most modest of fees). The book was full of tragic love stories and gullible witches and wizards, such as the woeful tale of Mabel from Quorn, whose childhood sweetheart, Rupert, had died on a vampire hunt. Apparently, Rupert had managed to stake himself in a tragic misunderstanding over which was the business end of ‘Mr Pointy’.
“I told her,” Remus said hoarsely, and Harry looked up. “The rest of the prophecy. She had to know.” Harry nodded slightly, waiting, but Remus struggled to find the words he needed. “I want to tell you about it, Harry, it’s just ...”
Although burning with curiosity, Harry said, “It’s okay; it’s none of my business.”
“Yes, it is,” said Remus.
Harry did not like the sound of that. “What — is it about me?”
“No, nothing like that, but you’re part of my family now. Elizabeth and I want you to know what’s going on. It’s just hard to talk about, that’s all.”
Harry’s heart thudded uneasily. Why couldn’t they just make prophecies that you were going to win the lottery?
“Anyway, you know the first part,” Remus continued painfully, “that I’ll turn her. The second part is worse: Lizzie and I will have a son, but — but they say she’ll kill him.”
Harry had wondered what could be worse than being bitten; now he knew: murdering your own child?
“I — I’m so sorry,” he said uselessly. “I’m sorry ... I ...” Harry shook his head dazedly. He had no words. Words! “What exactly did they say? The whole thing!”
“Can’t you remember it?” prompted Harry.
“I wish,” Remus replied with a strained little laugh. “I’ve just never spoken the whole thing aloud before ... not even to Lizzie ...” He drew a deep breath and recited his prophecy in full. “One life tormented becomes two ... his precautions matter not, the hooded monk will poison his beloved ... and two becomes three when comes a longed for son — born of love’s labour ... the flaxen-haired beauty brings death to the precious child ...”
His heart sinking, Harry made Remus repeat it, which he did.
“And you’re the hooded monk ...” he said dully, thinking of how Madam Pomfrey used to smuggle him out of school, and of his usual plain and worn out robes. “And Elizabeth, she’s the beauty.” Remus nodded sombrely and they sat silently for a time, Harry just turning the prophecy over and over in his mind. “But — but does that mean ... What does that mean for you now? Does it mean you can never ...” Harry felt his face growing warm, “you know ...”
The ghost of a smile flitted across Remus’s face.
“Even Muggles have found ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies, Harry,” he said kindly. “But I’m begging you, let’s save that talk for another day.” Harry nodded readily and Remus’s smile faded. “What it means is that Elizabeth and I can’t risk having children. I’ve known this for ten years, of course, but Lizzie ... it’s very hard for her; she always wanted a family.”
“But you’re working around it,” Harry said anxiously. “You’re going to stay together now, aren’t you?”
“We’ll certainly try,” Remus replied with a defeated air. “Who knows what the future might bring?”
“Well, they do, don’t they?” Harry countered bitterly, whoever they were.
“It’s going to be okay, son,” Remus said. “Lizzie and I — we’ll make it work, somehow. Truly.”
It wasn’t long before he called it a night. Harry shadowed him upstairs, trying to anticipate anything he might need: water, blankets, dog-biscuits …
“Thank you,” Remus said dryly, heading for Regulus’s old bedroom, “but Moony won’t be surfacing until tomorrow night. Stop fussing,” he said, shooing him off. “Bed. And don’t forget to clear your mind.”
Harry loitered in the hall awhile outside their bedrooms. Bitten so young, the years, the hundreds of moons, were taking an increasing toll on him, Elizabeth confided to Harry, and Harry went to sleep uneasy that night, trying hard not to think about werewolf life expectancies.
Harry ducked as Natalie bludgeoned a Puffskein straight at him. He dived into the lake, powering through the glassy surface, shattering the mirror into a thousand shards. The shards sped after him, swimming around his blistered body, smothering him, piercing him. This would never do! He couldn’t stay in the bath — his time was up! Didn’t they realise that? Cho would tell them. Harry could just see her paddling on the surface of the lake. If he could just reach her ...
Stretching, stretching, he grabbed for her feet. Cho took flight, dragging him through the water and into the air, but something was wrong: his fingers — they were falling off! His charred, fingerless, toeless body, plummeted, flailing through the air. He landed next to Cedric on the Quidditch pitch, mangled and broken. Cedric wasn’t looking too good, either.
Countless ravens screamed then attacked Harry, savaging his face with beak and talon. Cho, in full Quidditch kit, hurtled towards them, shrieking at them to stop. Peeves fired an inkwell at her, but it missed and hit Katie Bell in the nose. The ravens froze as one then looked hungrily skywards to where blood poured from Katie’s nose. They abandoned Harry in a great rush of flapping wings. Katie tried to dodge, tried to escape, but there were too many of them. They were everywhere, blackening the sky. Dying below, Harry watched helplessly as Katie’s blood rained on his face. She slipped from her broom and fell, dropping like a stone ... He couldn’t move! He couldn’t save her — he couldn’t —
Harry woke, cold with sweat. It was just a nightmare, he kept telling himself, just a nightmare. But he couldn’t even attempt to get back to sleep until he’d washed Katie’s blood from his perfectly clean face. Hunched over the sink, he tried to get a grip on himself, tried to eject from his mind Katie’s ghostly face as the life poured out of her, her blood blackening the grass, her eyes as lifeless and vacant as Cedric’s.
“Harry?” prompted a hoarse voice, making him jump. Remus stood behind him in the bathroom mirror, steadying him. “Are you all right? Is it Voldemort?”
“No!” Harry rasped. “Sorry ... no — no ... just a nightmare ... I’m fine — fine — I —”
Remus hushed him and led him back to bed, where he sat with him and poured him some water. He didn’t press for details, but Harry blurted everything anyway. As the nightmare spilled breathlessly from him, he felt like something horrible and ugly was draining away, leaving him lighter somehow, though his guardian was looking correspondingly queasy.
“You didn’t do your Occlumency meditations tonight, did you?” Remus challenged Harry.
“What do you think it means?” Harry said anxiously. “Why Katie? Do you think it’s a vision?”
Remus didn’t think so, but he gave the notion serious consideration, analysing each point in turn.
“It’s unlikely to be a vision of the future if Cedric was there,” he suggested reasonably. “And you say the twins accidentally drained Katie’s blood at training last year?”
Harry nodded; the image of her limp, blood-soaked body being flown away by George and Fred had stuck horribly in the back of his mind.
“And in the dream you felt powerless, trapped,” Remus continued perceptively, “like in the bath — like with Cedric — like not being able to save Sirius?” Harry nodded miserably. Remus’s lined face furrowed. “And Cho was there but she wasn’t able to help you this time,” he observed thoughtfully, “and no Megaera, either.”
“No, no — honest,” Harry said. He was suddenly uncomfortably aware of the demon self-portraits hidden beneath his mattress, right beneath where Remus was sitting. Remus was nodding sagely, now, as if something was just clicking into place.
“So, in your dream you felt utterly defenceless,” he suggested musingly, “no guardian angels or demons to save you.”
Harry said nothing; Remus’s assessment was a little too close to the mark.
“Harry, I think your subconscious is using these terrible memories to make you face what’s really worrying you ... and I think you know what that is.”
Harry threw his head back into his pillows. “I froze,” he groaned. “When Voldemort turned up in the Ministry, I just stood there with my eyes shut against the pain. I couldn’t move. How can I ever hope to fight him if I can’t even move?” he said hopelessly.
“Your eyes were closed?” Remus prompted in an odd voice.
“I’d just cursed Bellatrix Lestrange. We were yelling at each other about the prophecy, and then he arrived and my scar went nuts. I heard him say I was telling the truth about it being smashed. When I opened my eyes, he had his wand on me. I couldn’t even move a muscle. He was just about to kill me then Dumbledore arrived. He looked away, and I was able to move again ...” Harry’s eyes widened. “Hang on, you don’t think ...?”
“He cast a Legilimens Charm on you as soon as he arrived,” Remus said, nodding grimly. “Makes perfect sense. Your eyes were closed — he had his wand on you — he kept control of your body with his eye contact afterwards.”
Harry’s mind reeled. If only he’d just looked away! How many times had Snape warned him about the power of eye contact?!
“You okay?” murmured Remus, feeling Harry’s forehead.
“What?” said Harry. “Oh — um, yeah. No, I’m good. I never understood why I just froze like that — I thought ... well ...” Harry’s voice trailed off.
“You thought it meant you had no hope against him ...” Remus suggested and Harry nodded with relief. He felt so much better. Not happy, exactly, but greatly relieved. Remus glanced at the alarm clock and said, “It’s past midnight. Do you think you can get back to sleep?” Harry nodded and Remus regarded him sternly. “I want at least twenty minutes meditation. Right?”
“Yes, Moony,” Harry agreed, reaching for his sea-snail mandala disc.
Shutting his eyes, he wriggled deeper under the covers and let his fingers find the familiar spiralling ridges of the disc. Focusing on thoughts of a serenely spinning galaxy, he methodically worked through the names of the constellations and stars as they slowly danced around each other in his mind. By the time he got to the Dog Star, he was deeply sleepy. Sirius transformed into a big black dog chasing its tail ...
Harry drowsily watched Snuffles spinning on the spot ... spinning ... always spinning ...
“So, they’ll be back on Saturday?” Natalie checked as she and Ron walked down the hill to the bungalow after dinner.
“That’s what Harry said,” agreed Ron.
“So, you’ve got the place all to yourself then,” she prompted as they meandered along the edge of the bungalow’s snake swimming pool.
Ron made a sound that might have been a yes (or a mouse squeaking — it was hard to tell). Natalie smiled into the torch-lit darkness. The night was deliciously warm and scented with sea salt and tropical flowers, but Ron Weasley was so shy it was almost painful. She’d given him ample opportunity but he hadn’t so much as tried to hold her hand. It wasn’t as if she was looking for some raging love affair, but she wouldn’t say no to a little canoodling. He was just so cute and so adorably clueless.
“Warm night,” she observed, kicking off her sandals. “Fancy a swim?” Not waiting for an answer she peeled off her clothes, under which was a pink bikini, and dived into the pool. When she surfaced, she squeezed the water from her eyes and found Ron frozen to the spot, right where she’d left him. “Well, come on. What are you waiting for?”
Natalie waited. And waited. She was just starting to agree with Mirabella that Ron wasn’t coming back when he suddenly reappeared. He stood nervously at the edge of the pool wearing a swimsuit and his rather limp, Spello-taped floatie (Cupid had been duck-hunting all afternoon). Natalie giggled under the surface of the water and waded closer.
“Okay,” she said wickedly, “you’re going to have to choose: me or the duck.”
“Harry ...” whispered a boy’s voice.
Harry, busily raising snakes and werewolf cubs with Susan Bones, reluctantly regained consciousness. His dream slithered away and he found himself blinking into Ron’s, freckled face.
“What ... Huh?” Harry’s brain slowly kicked to life and he shook himself awake. It was dark outside; he couldn’t have been asleep more than an hour. “What’s wrong? Is it Moony?”
“What?” said Ron. “No, no, it’s nothing. I mean something, something good.”
“Better be good,” Harry grumbled darkly, rubbing at his eyes.
“I kissed her,” whispered Ron.
Harry had to smile. “About ruddy time. What was it like?”
Ron sighed dreamily. “Wet.”
“Go away, Ron.”
After insisting Remus sleep in, Harry spent the morning of the full moon hunched over his desk, writing to Hermione. Hedwig hovered over his shoulder, monitoring his progress and just itching to be given something important to do. At last, she flew away with a fat letter full of information about the Wolfsbane Potion. Harry knew Hermione would like that much better than hearing about Quidditch matches or Gillyweed or flying around Black Island. Shaking out his ink-stained fingers, his gaze drifted to a drawing he’d done of his and Susan’s hands. She’d been trying to teach him chords on his knuckles. Pulling out his guitar, he copied her fingers from the moving charcoal picture and smiled a rather silly smile on producing a tuneful chord progression. To date, he’d mastered four of her Fretful Favourites. He felt a particular affinity for Where The Bee Sucks, There Suck I, and cheerily played and sang, “… On a bat’s back do I fly, do I fly; On a bat's back do I fly …”
“Please, not before breakfast,” whimpered Frank.
When Remus surfaced, Harry installed him in comfort in the drawing room for the day and kept him well-pumped with coffee, food, and water. In return, Remus tried hard to at least give the appearance of not constantly watching the grandfather clock. Listening to Harry practice on his guitar, he started to genuinely relax and joked it must be ‘soothing the savage beast’. Harry started to laugh then stopped when Remus broke into a coughing fit.
“Do you want some more of your Wolfsbane?” Harry asked, hovering attentively.
Slumped on the couch, his brow shining, Remus waved him away. “I should retire soon.”
“You don’t really need to go up yet, do you?”
“I don’t have to, but it helps if I can settle somewhere safe and relax and calm my mind.”
Harry nodded understandingly. “And you keep your human mind when you transform?”
“I can, but these days I prefer to let the wolf surface; it’s not as if I have my friends with me.” A wistful look grew on his face. “I had Padfoot’s company all last year ... it makes such a difference.”
“What does Moony think about?” asked Harry curiously.
“Oh, nothing too specific. Basic thoughts — emotions, really. Moony feels all the normal things wolves feel: hunger, pain, lust, loneliness. Wolves are pack animals of course; they don’t like to be alone. There are wolf colonies in the Black Forest with fascinating social hierarchies, they —”
“Yes, Professor,” teased Harry, and Remus chuckled self-deprecatingly.
“So, what are your plans for the evening?” he asked.
“I dunno. Read a bit ... muck around on the guitar. I’ll be fine.”
“I wish I could listen,” Remus said wistfully. Harry had a sudden, brilliant thought; he amazed even himself sometimes.
“I’ll be right back!” he said and returned with two Extendible Ears. Remus smiled softly and nodded. Soon, they were settled two floors apart, chatting quietly about nothing in particular, connected by lengths of flesh-coloured string running through the hallways. Harry had been doing most of the talking, but he knew Remus was appreciating the company. Around dinnertime, Harry thought he might have fallen asleep.
“Moony?” he whispered.
There was no answer, but Harry was fine with that — he could hear that Remus’s breathing was regular. Quietly disentangling himself from the ear string, Harry went to get his dinner. Afterwards, he pushed the heaviest couch up against the grandfather clock and set himself up for the night with a pillow and a blanket and his wand. If Moony wanted to go roaming for his mate, he was going to have to get past one Harry James Potter — forget the underage magic rule! Harry curled up on the couch with his earpiece back in and read for a while. Communing With the Dead: They’re Not as Gone as You Think wasn’t too bad, but Harry could barely keep his eyes open wading through Great Astral Explorers of the 12th Century, by Roland the Rambler. He’d just read the same paragraph three times and still couldn’t work out whether ‘Baldric’ was some kind of spirit guide or a particularly impressive turnip Roland found in the bottom of his vegetable garden.
“Harry ...?” Remus rasped in Harry’s ear.
Harry set Baldric aside. “I’m here. How are you feeling?”
“Crap,” said Remus, but he laughed a little. “Are you in bed yet?”
“Yes, Moony,” Harry replied patiently — mostly truthfully. “She’s not here, you know.”
Remus was silent a moment. “Have you done your Occlumency?”
“Will you transform already!”
A telltale silence fell. Harry was confident Remus had stuffed his ear deep under the mattress again. He tried to read awhile longer, but the combination of Roland’s ramblings and the rhythmic tick-tocking and soft musical chimes of the grandfather clock defeated him. He woke abruptly several hours later to find someone chewing his ear.
“Moony?” yawned Harry.
Pitiful whimpers filtered through Harry’s earpiece.
“S’okay, Moony,” murmured Harry sleepily, though he doubted whether Moony could hear him; the wolf would hardly be wearing an earpiece.
The whimpering stopped. Harry suspected his ear had just been eaten. He fell back to sleep, but his mind stayed awake inside his body. Since leaving hospital, he’d been doing his best to stay in his own head, but he was sorely tempted to check on his demon guardian. Deciding it couldn’t hurt to just take a look, he conjured his eagle owl and flew upstairs. They perched indecisively on the balustrade outside Moony’s windowless room beneath the attic stairs. As Harry climbed off, the owl faded away and Harry, as if poured from the end of a wand, swelled to normal size. His glowing body lit the hallway and he felt pleasantly warm — like he was standing in sunshine. Gathering his nerve, he slipped through the door to find Moony moping over a pile of ear string (minus the actual ear).
Moony’s ears picked up, and he was on his feet, barking a warning. Harry jumped onto the bed. Finding no one, Moony padded around in the dark, sniffing everything and barking half-heartedly at nothing. He gave a few more barks — just to be sure — before returning to his spot on the floor. Pawing at the ear string, he dragged it protectively under his chest.
The word just popped into Harry’s head.
“It’s okay, Moony,” Harry assured him, though he doubted Moony would hear him. “It’s okay; I don’t want it.”
Moony’s ears picked up again, but he seemed more curious than alarmed. The longer Harry just sat there on the bed, the more relaxed Moony became.
Harry smiled at the wolf even though he knew he was invisible to him. “Friend,” he agreed.
Moony visibly relaxed, he even wagged his tail a little, thumping it against the floor — just like Snuffles. Harry slid off the bed and edged closer, tentatively touching the wolf’s fur with his luminous fingers. Moony stirred at his touch; he liked it; he wanted more. Harry tried again. Moony growled softly and kept shifting his long snout to wherever Harry’s golden touch fell. Emotions Harry didn’t care to analyse too much surged through him. He would not lose Moony, too. Holding a hand to Moony’s chest, he felt the reassuring rise and fall of the wolf’s lungs, felt the wonder of touching another living, breathing creature. Unbidden, rarely admitted hopes and dreams for love and family filled his mind; some were Moony’s, most were his. With no body to feel the fatigue of sore knees or pins and needles, time passed very differently, very quickly for Harry. Too quickly. A painful growl startled him from his reverie, and he watched with morbid fascination as Moony transformed back into Remus, slowly and painfully, not quick like Snuffles or Professor McGonagall.
Remus looked around, weak and confused, and rasped, “Lily ...?”
Startled, Harry suddenly realised he shouldn’t be there. Remus crawled up onto his saggy old bed and collapsed. Retreating to the drawing room, Harry stared with considerable annoyance at his slumbering body. He didn’t seem to have any intention of waking up just yet, and Harry’s soul was left to sit glowing on the coffee table, wondering why Remus had thought Lily was in his room. Could Remus sense his mother inside him somehow? It would certainly be tricky asking Remus without revealing what he’d been up to. From what he’d learned at Saint Mungo’s, every bit of him was invisibly connected, that even when his soul was out of his body, a little piece of it stayed there, tethering him like the anchor on a ship. In theory it was the same with his mind — his memories and intellect — but in the reverse. Those things stayed in his brains, but a ‘piece of his mind’ magically travelled with him wherever his soul went. Whoever designed Wizarding humans was dead clever, in Harry’s humble opinion.
Looking around, it occurred to him they seemed to have lost a few armchairs — he was sure there used to be more of them. Harry blew out his luminous cheeks, thoroughly bored with watching himself snore. Wandering into the hall, he saw his stiff and sore guardian coming down the stairs, freshly showered and shaved but with a shock of werewolf hair that would have done James Potter proud. Remus checked the kitchen then headed for the drawing room. Harry felt a little guilty when Remus found himself locked out (the Boy-Who-Lived-With-a-Werewolf had found a new use for Tonks’s charmed door-bolt).
Remus drew his wand then hesitated and knocked instead. No one home. Harry could’ve told him that. Opening the door with magic, Remus stopped then chuckled affectionately on seeing his very own guardian angel curled up on the couch in front of the grandfather clock. Harry cringed when he took in the scene from the man’s perspective. He’d fallen asleep the night before while reading. His glasses were half-dangling off his face, a book was open in his left hand and in his right was his wand, but just at the moment, it posed a decent chance of blowing off his left nostril. And to top it off, he hadn’t taken the time to look too closely at which blanket he’d grabbed. He could have sworn it hadn’t looked that pink and fluffy last night.
Remus carefully removed Harry’s glasses, book, and wand then moved to the piano, where he wrote a quick note. Harry read it over his shoulder.
Gone to see Lizzie, back shortly.
Remus’s brow creased and he added:
It’s okay — I’m back in human form.
“Right,” Remus muttered to himself, “because werewolf penmanship is so good ...”
Harry laughed out loud. Remus’s eyes shot up. He looked around, intrigued. Harry held what passed for his breath as Remus looked straight through his glowing astral body. Remus’s hand inched out and Harry jumped back; he did not want be caught snooping. Grasping at nothing, Remus shook his head as if he was imagining things then turned back to his note, erasing it and starting again. Back at the grandfather clock, he frowned down at Harry and felt his scarred forehead, then his cheek, then his forehead again, as if checking his temperature. He conjured two extra blankets for him then sent the couch sliding back to the coffee table, dialled the grandfather clock forward to eleven o’clock, and was gone. Left alone to wander the drawing room, Harry idly cast an eye over Remus’s second note.
Full moon over now, cub.
Gone to see Lizzie, back shortly.
Thank you — for everything,
Harry smiled at Remus’s nickname for him. It fit, in a way, because werewolf cubs weren’t real — and of course Remus wasn’t really his dad. But Harry knew that Remus had been feeling rather fatherly towards him for a while now, ever since the party, really. It hadn’t escaped Harry’s notice how lonely he’d been before they started living together. Remus had his wife back now, of course, though it was going to be rough for them with their prophecy. It was just really sad they couldn’t ever risk having children of their own. If they did have a son, then —
Merlin! Harry’s glowing body trembled. What if ...
He tried to remember the exact working of the prophecy. They’d have a son — no — no — ‘A’ son would be born! It could be anyone’s son! It could be him! And the ‘beauty’ would bring death — well, he did die, didn’t he! She did bring it, even if it was an accident! How did the prophecy go again? Harry grabbed for his quill to write it down, but his hand went straight through it. He tried again, but although he could feel the quill, he couldn’t make it move at all. Bugger! At least under an Invisibility Cloak you could do stuff. Harry’s mind worked feverishly, struggling to remember exactly what the prophecy said. Finally, he thought he had it right:
One life tormented becomes two ...
His precautions matter not, the hooded monk will poison his beloved ...
And two becomes three when comes a longed for son — born of love’s labour ...
The flaxen-haired beauty brings death to the precious child ...
Excited now, Harry systematically ran one scenario after another through his mind. There wasn’t too much he could do with the first bit, but the second half was another matter. He was the son; he had to be! Only one thing ruined his brilliant logic: how could the second half already have happened if the first half hadn’t? And he, Harry, was obviously born sixteen years ago, six whole years before the prophecy was even made. There must be something he was missing.
The grandfather clock clicked open. Harry looked up guiltily as Remus and Elizabeth came through, both of them looking tired but happy. Elizabeth tiptoed to Harry’s body on the couch. His eyes were moving beneath his lids, as if he was dreaming. Harry hoped it was a good one.
“Oh, the precious darling!” Elizabeth whispered tenderly. “And you say he stood guard all night?”
Remus faltered and said, “Well ...”
Harry rolled his luminous eyes.
Lovingly, Elizabeth bent low to kiss his scarred forehead, and Harry felt a painful jolt — or his body did. In a flash, his soul was yanked back into his head, and in that moment — in that split instant — he glimpsed blood and writhing serpents, but whatever the dream — or nightmare — was, it vanished, and he woke to see his godmother smiling down at him.
“We’ve got waffles.”