The next morning, Jane woke up to a tapping on her window. She rolled over and squinted into the light already streaming in through her window and saw a small brown owl peering into the room.
Jane was tempted to just leave it there. She’d been up late worrying about her mission, about Remus, about how long it had been since she’d heard from Lily...
But it could be important, and if that was the case, she didn’t want to miss it. The owl would probably keep tapping on the glass until she got up, anyway, and no one would believe that she’d slept through it.
No one slept well anymore.
She groaned, and after a moment, she dragged herself out of bed and stumbled toward the window. She glanced along the side of the building to make sure that there wasn’t anyone lurking on a broom waiting to ambush her before reaching out to snatch the owl inside.
As soon as she saw the handwriting on the front of the envelope, however, her irritation evaporated, and she eagerly ripped it open. The owl took flight as she unfolded the letter, and she closed and locked the window behind it before sitting down on the edge of her bed.
We’re doing well enough, considering the circumstances. This pregnancy stuff is just terrible. James’s mother seems to think that I’m made of glass, and she keeps trying to wait on me. It’s driving me crazy - the woman is about a hundred years old, I should be waiting on her! I’m trying to humour her, though, the poor dear - James’s father dying was a real blow to her. Imagine being married for more than eighty years!
It does make you think, though. Maybe the war will end, and James and I will live happily ever after. Imagine an old, white-haired James telling our great grandchildren about the bad old days and showing off his battle scars. (And you know that at least half would actually be from bludgers or one of his and Sirius’s idiotic jinx battles.)
He’s such an idiot. But he’s my idiot.
Speaking of James, I’m glad things with Remus are going... well, they’re going, which is something, right? I know he’s a bit difficult sometimes, but please try and understand, he really is going through a lot right now, and he has a hard time opening up.
I know that you’ve been busy, but when you have the chance, come visit and save me from the overwhelming boredom. I’m not actually sure that Mrs. Potter will let me leave the house without James as an escort. She thinks it’s too dangerous.
Please. If you love me at all, PLEASE.
Despite everything, Jane felt a slight smile spread across her face. Only Lily.
She folded the letter back up and left it on her dressing-table, making a note to herself to find the time to sit down and respond to it later that day.
Of all the things that Jane missed the most about Hogwarts, she probably missed Lily the most. Lily hadn’t been her first friend at Hogwarts, but she had ultimately become her closest.
It had always been Lily who was happy to put down her books to go down to the lake or to play a game of exploding snap, and it had been Lily who’d provided a shoulder to cry on when things with Remus had fallen apart again.
It wasn’t that they weren’t friends anymore, because they were. It was just that Jane was too tired and too busy to do much socialising, and Lily...
Well, Lily was a muggleborn, and she was very pregnant. She might be going crazy trapped in James’s house with his mother, but as far as Jane was concerned, it was better safe than sorry. She knew how many muggleborns who came into St. Mungo’s never left again.
She sighed and grabbed a piece of parchment and a quill on her way to the kitchen.
Jane spent the rest of the morning feeling on edge. She couldn’t really place why today was different than any other day, unless perhaps she’d just been on call for so many full moons at this point that the day preceding it was inevitably linked with heightened anxiety in her mind.
Her tension only mounted when the owl carrying the Daily Prophet arrived. There was never good news anymore; there was only bad news and worse news.
And the paper today had both.
When she put it down, Jane found herself hoping that Remus wouldn’t come tonight. She wasn’t sure that she was up to entertaining anyone at this point, and she was fairly certain that she wasn’t up to dealing with the confusion and hurt feelings he seemed to leave in his wake more often than not.
Knowing Remus, today would be the one time that he would show up when he’d given a vague, noncommittal answer.
She left the Daily Prophet with its doom-and-gloom headlines on the table and slumped back into her room. “Death Eaters Threaten Mass Werewolf Attack” and “St. Mungo’s to Lose Funding From Prominent Purebloods” had left her drained and anxious, and Jane’s remedy for anxiety these days was simply to go back to sleep.
It didn’t make the anxiety go away, but it let her escape it for a little while, and sometimes that was enough. It was all she had, these days.
And besides, any tension she was feeling was inevitably always made worse by lack of sleep.
When she got up for the second time that day, it was already mid-afternoon. On the bright side, she was feeling a little less tense.
On the downside, it really was just a little.
Just as she was about to force herself to get out of bed, there was a tap on the window. It was another owl.
She hoped it wasn’t from St. Mungo’s telling her to come in after all.
She snatched the owl inside and relieved it of its letter, and it immediately took off again. When she looked at the envelope, she recognised Remus’s handwriting.
She tore the envelope open and read the very short note inside.
I can’t come tonight after all. Sorry. Something’s come up.
I’ll see you soon.
Despite the fact that she’d been half-dreading having to deal with the stress Remus inevitably brought with him, she felt more than a little annoyed that he’d done exactly what she’d expected he would do.
Feeling unfairly annoyed with the entire situation - after all, it wasn’t Remus’s fault that the Order kept him busy - Jane grabbed the latest trashy romance novel her mother had sent her and curled up on her couch to try and forget about the war.
The sun had just begun to dip below the horizon when there was a knock at the door. Jane started violently, and the person knocked again.
She scrambled for the door, abandoning both her book and her wand on the table next to her chair. “Coming!” she called. Maybe Remus had been able to come after all. Maybe his mission had been cancelled. Maybe he had finished it early. She still wasn’t entirely sure that seeing him would be good for her just now, but she couldn’t help herself from feeling a sense of eagerness course through her.
She yanked open the door without glancing through the peephole or doing an identity check.
It was difficult not to let her disappointment show when she found that Remus was not on the other side of the door. Reagan McKinnon was.
“Hello, cuz,” Reagan said cheerfully. “Can I come in?”
Jane stepped back and allowed her cousin to enter the flat. Reagan stepped through the door, and Jane surveyed her critically. She hadn’t seen Reagan in well over a month, and she was definitely looking the worse for wear. A thick bandage covered one arm, and the dark bruise on her cheek and the faded black eye indicated that she’d recently been in a fight.
She appeared to be in her usual bright spirits, however. “You didn’t check me,” she told Jane, who sighed.
“What kind of cake did we have for my fifth birthday party?” she asked tiredly.
“Chocolate cinnamon,” Reagan said easily. “What about mine?”
“I don’t remember, I wasn’t even three at the time.”
“Good enough.” Reagan made her way over to the couch and collapsed onto it. “You look terrible,” she told Jane.
“Yeah, I know.” Jane curled up in her favourite (and only) chair. “I feel terrible.”
Jane hesitated, but after a moment, she decided to confide in her cousin. After all, if she couldn’t even open up to Reagan, who’d been almost like an older sister to her growing up, she would go mad. She knew that they were supposed to be careful about who they trusted, and that anyone could be a spy - and as a rule, she was. She hadn’t even told Remus much about the mission, and she didn’t really plan to.
She cared about him. She even thought that she might love him.
But she wasn’t sure she trusted him.
Reagan, though... Reagan was different. Reagan was one of the most diehard soldiers out there.
Reagan, she could trust.
“Dumbledore gave me a mission,” she said softly.
“To do what?”
Jane rubbed her forehead. “There have been a lot of suspicious deaths at St. Mungo’s,” she said after a moment. “Muggleborns, people affiliated with the Order...” Her voice trailed off. She looked up at Reagan, and was not surprised to find that her cousin looked troubled.
“I always thought that Marlene’s insistence on not bringing her mother to St. Mungo’s was just paranoia,” Reagan said, referring to one of her cousins on her father’s side whose mother was chronically ill. “I guess it wasn’t, then?”
“Probably not.” Jane closed her eyes. “I’m just so damned tired.”
Reagan leaned forward and patted her knee comfortingly. “Talk it out,” she suggested. She gave a small smile of encouragement.
It didn’t take more than that to get Jane to launch into the entire explanation - about the death of a muggleborn girl who’d been in Reagan’s year when she was supposedly in for a simple case of a bad sleeping potion, the conversation with Dumbledore when he’d arrived at her door late at night, his suspicions that a Healer at St. Mungo’s - or maybe even several Healers - were behind it, and his telling her to get to the bottom of it.
When she finished, her cousin looked absolutely appalled. “Why you?” she asked. “You’re barely a junior Healer.”
“I thought the same thing,” Jane said. It had been the first thing that had occurred to her, and she’d even tried to argue with Dumbledore about whether she was really at all well-suited for the job. He, however, had been insistent. “He said that he didn’t know any of the senior Healers well enough to trust them.”
Reagan sighed. “Merlin. Nothing to remind you of how depleted our numbers are that he has to use dregs like you for something this important. No offense,” she added belatedly.
“None taken.” Jane scrutinised Reagan. “How are you?” she asked, changing the subject. Talking about her mission hadn’t really made her feel any better; it had just caused the pit in her stomach to expand unpleasantly. “You look terrible.”
Reagan slumped back and winced when her bandaged arm banged against the back. “Dumbledore won’t let me do as much as I could. He sends Sirius on wild, exciting, covert missions, and he just leaves me to clean up the messes because he’s worried about my ability to ‘cope.’” She said the last word with a remarkable amount of disdain, and Jane made a noise that she hoped came out as encouraging. “Thanks,” Reagan said. “How are things with Remus?”
Reagan had never been very comfortable talking about herself.
Jane shrugged, and Reagan made a face. “What a surprise.” She and Remus had never quite gotten along, and Jane knew that her cousin wished she would just move on. “Just keep at it all, Jane. You’ll work it through in the end.”
Jane wrapped her arms around herself and said softly, “I don’t even know that I even have any control over it. Any of it.”
Her cousin shrugged again. “Yeah, well, you need to act like you do. If you don’t believe it, you’ll just be a lost cause.”
Jane wasn’t sure if that was comforting or not.
As soon as Reagan left a couple hours later, Jane headed for bed. As she curled up in her unseasonably cold double bed and hugged her stuffed bear close, she felt the pit in her stomach start to grow.
She’d said too much. She knew she had.
It took a long, long time for her to get to sleep; her heart was hammering, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d made a terrible mistake.
When she awoke the next morning, her sheets would be covered in sweat.
A/N: So I've finally gotten the next chapter up. I hope you enjoyed it as much (or more!) than the last one, and I'd really love to hear your thoughts if you wouldn't mind taking a moment to leave a review. :)