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Chapter Eighteen

Gossip and the Godhead

It was late when Minerva entered the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. Only Molly was up, unable to sleep. It had been the hardest of weeks and it showed on her face. She was spending the first Christmas Eve of her married life without her husband and although she had been assured that he would be fine, she just wouldn’t be able to relax until he was safe at home.

“Molly, dear,” said Minerva softly.

Molly was at the table, her head bent over a cup of steaming cocoa, staring into the fire. She looked up at the sound of her name. Molly was a plump and jolly woman on the whole, and Minerva thought her very pretty especially when she smiled. She was a little given to loud outbursts and certainly she was too emotional, but Minerva liked her. But now she realized Molly looked ill, worn and haggard from her ordeal. Her worry had caused her to lose weight and there were great circles under her eyes.

“Minerva,” said Molly smiling listlessly. “Would you like something to drink?” Molly Weasley was always willing to help, to feed, and to cater to anyone she cared for.

Minerva’s face softened. “I’m so sorry, dear Molly,” she said moving toward her. She gave Molly a sympathetic squeeze on the shoulder. “You look done in!

“It’s been difficult,” Molly admitted.

“Is there anything that I can do for you?” asked Minerva sitting in a chair close to her.

“I’m fine, just fine,” said Molly forcing herself to smile broader. She patted Minerva on the knee. “Arthur will be home soon and then I’ll be better.”

Minerva pursed her lips together. She shook her head worriedly. The war would take its toll on all of them yet again. It would be as before, unless this horror could be stopped. She felt powerless.

“Why are you here so late, Minerva?” asked Molly suddenly realizing how unusual it was for Minerva to be there. It was Christmas Eve. She must have family and friends to be with.

“I’ve a message for Remus Lupin from the Headmaster,” said Minerva gravely. “He wanted it delivered tonight while the children were asleep.”

Molly rose silently and nodded her head. She quietly went out the door to fetch Remus.

Five minutes later she reappeared with Remus in tow. His long hair was a tangled mop and he yawned as he walked through the door. He shuffled immediately to the kettle on the stove. “Minerva!” he said as he poured the steaming water over the tea. “What a pleasure to see you.”

Despite the seriousness of the message, Minerva couldn’t stifle a half smile at the sight of the man who had been her fellow professor not too terribly long ago. He wore his casual demeanor like a glove. If one didn’t know him well, you would think that nothing could ever worry him or make him angry. He was as Dumbledore in that way. She had seen Albus raving with anger and though he rarely indulged it, he was perfectly capable of the emotion. So to, this young man rarely indulged in the showing of fear, or temper. She liked him for that, as everyone did.

Remus set his mug down and folded himself into a chair opposite her. Molly hovered for a few seconds and then excused herself to try and get some sleep. She was shattered with fatigue. A full minute passed of silence as Minerva gathered her thoughts together. Remus waited patiently.

“I’ve a message from Professor Dumbledore, Remus,” she said finally.

Remus nodded silently. He knew it would be something bad. That was why he waited patiently. He’d learned many years ago never to hurry for words that would hurt. He knew by instinct that Minerva’s message was terrible news of some sort, as he also knew that it would be just for him.

“Felicity was able to transfer information to me that she’d gotten from Severus tonight and it concerned a place called Wolvin Village,” she said. She winced at the sudden look of intensity on his face. “She was able to gather the memories whole from him, straight from his visit with He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named.” Her voice cracked and she found that she could only whisper. “They were so horrible that I asked Albus to leave them in the Pensieve, Remus. So, Albus told me what to tell you. He said to tell you that the magic of the place, this Wolvin Village would be of interest to those who wish to hide. I can only assume that he means He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named.”

Remus sat for several seconds taking in the news. Wolvin would, of course, be the ideal hiding place for Voldemort. It would be why Malfoy had been interested in them, why he had visited and said that he would return. This was a dreadful turn of events. The Gray family, and all their clan were in graver danger than they or anyone had realized. If Voldemort set up his base there, it would be unseen by any in the ministry. It was a protected place, just as Hogwarts School was protected. He could wield killing and tortures without anyone realizing that the reign of terror had begun again.

“What of Felicity?” Remus asked. “Was she all right?”

“Yes, of course, Remus,” said Minerva surprised at the question. “Why wouldn’t she be?”

“It’s just that you said the images were awful and if you got them from her…”

“I shouldn’t worry, Remus,” said Minerva. “She has Severus. He’ll protect her from any harm.” She looked off into the fire remembering their passionate kiss. That she did retain in memory. “They seem to have developed a rather intimate relationship. I’ve noticed that they are, shall we say, very close?” She smiled as she looked away from the fire until she saw the hardened look on Remus’ face. “What is it, Remus? What’s wrong?”

Remus shut down his feelings of shock and vulnerability immediately and smiled casually at her. If there was anything he was a master at, it was feigning a relaxed nonchalance when he needed to. “So old Severus has got himself a girlfriend has he?” he dared to force out.

Minerva remembered the letter that she delivered to Felicity from Remus. Had they, too, been intimate? “I’m sorry, Remus,” said Minerva carefully. “I didn’t mean to gossip. He was able to transfer information to her by touching her is all I saw.” She could just kick herself for being such a blind stupid old woman. “It wasn’t anything, really.” She’d done probably more harm than good and she knew it instantly. “Albus told me one more thing to be sure and tell you, Remus.”

“What was that?” he asked dejectedly. He barely bothered to hide the sadness that had overwhelmed him.

“He said to tell you must trust in Felicity, no matter what others may say.”

Remus looked at her stoically. “He said that?”

“Yes, Remus, just as I’ve said it,” she said gently. “You must listen to him, Remus. She is to be trusted.” The guilt of what she’d just done brought tears to her eyes. She, of all people had stooped to gossip like a common little old biddy. “No matter what fools may infer, you must trust her.”

“Of course, Minerva,” said Remus now smiling. His first instincts were to put others at ease and Minerva looked as upset as he felt. “I trust Felicity implicitly.” He smirked and let a little irony seep into his voice. “Though I can’t say that I trust Severus Snape much more than I might want to throw him.”

The next morning at Christmas, Remus did his best to be a part of the festivities for Harry and Sirius’ sakes. Everyone had put so much effort into making Christmas as festive as possible that he tried to just think of the other’s needs and to forget about the fact that he was upset about Felicity with Severus or that he’d still rather have been with her.

First thing in the morning he’d had to deal with poor Molly distraught over the fact that her ungrateful son, Percy had returned his Christmas gift from her. He’d never liked the boy but for Molly’s sake, he’d tried to console her. The woman was a wreak over Arthur’s being in hospital and all.

By the afternoon, he and Mad-Eye were escorting the whole entourage to visit Arthur. It had been entirely uneventful except that he’d had a conversation with a gentleman who’d just been infected by a werewolf. He’d meant to cheer the man up, give him some hope of a regular life, but he hadn’t been much good at it. He himself had been so miserable.

He wasn’t able to get away until late in the afternoon. He immediately made for Felicity’s house, hoping that she would be there. The elf, Wicca showed him into the parlor that was done up with a lovely tree and garlands throughout the room. Then Wicca informed him that the master of the house and his daughter weren’t due back until the evening and that they were at a celebratory function with the family.

“Will she return this evening?” asked Remus disappointed. He imagined all sorts of scenes, all of them containing Severus Snape.

“She will, sir,” said Wicca. “Miss is very excited about leaving tomorrow to go to Lake District with you, sir.” Wicca grinned proudly. “She says it is the best Christmas gift, sir.”

“Did she?” Remus couldn’t help himself. He’d become so frustrated and distraught over the possibility of losing Felicity to Snape that he’d worked his imagination into all sorts of contortions of feeling. His relief that Felicity was excited about going away with him was so palpable that it was noticed by the startled little elf. Again, he was amazed at the difference between Kreacher at Grimmauld Place and this sweet little elf that was so in tune with serving its family.

“Sir,” said Wicca. “Sir should leave some message for her.” He pointed Remus to a small receiving table that held quills and parchment. “Miss will pester Wicca for all the details of your coming. Miss…Miss…. my miss has so few happy friends.” The little elf smiled shyly up at Remus.

Remus wanted to hug the elf in gratitude. Of course, he’d worked himself up for no reason at all. Felicity had warned him not to be jealous and she had only touched him according to Minerva. He proceeded to write her a note, urging her to contact him by owl when she returned and he would apparate to her immediately because he missed her so much.

He left the house feeling much relieved and returned to Grimmauld Place where Christmas festivities were still under way. Everyone was trying to cheer Molly up because Arthur was still in hospital. She’d cooked a glorious goose with a nut and fruit stuffing that he couldn’t get enough of and the gravy was just the added topping that inspired him to stuff himself to the limit.

After dinner, Harry and Ron played Wizard’s Chess in the corner of the kitchen while Hermione, Ginny and the twins chatted over a card game that he’d never seen before. He, Molly and Sirius sat by the fire and watched the flames and the children with a growing feeling of warmth. They were a family of sorts, in these times of woe.

“You take it where you can,” said Sirius staring into the fire.

“What’s that?” asked Molly.

“You take these moments where you can, Molly,” said Sirius looking not at her but at Remus. “Because we could go at any time. Any one of us.”

Remus looked hard at Sirius and thought of Lily and James, just as he knew Sirius was thinking of them. Their eyes said everything within that moment.

Sirius raised his glass of fire whiskey. “To our friends that we miss,” he toasted.

“To them,” said Remus wiping a tear from his eye.

Harry looked up from the game with Ron and looked sadly over at them.

Tonks walked through the kitchen door. “Hi all!” she said happily. “Merry Christmas!” Her very presence suddenly lit up the room. She stood near Ginny and Hermione waving. “Whoever wrapped Mrs. Black’s portrait in pine bows did a good trick.”

The twins raised their hands. “We may have tied her up a bit tight,” said George proudly.

“She’s snug as a bug,” said Fred.

“Well, she didn’t scream bloody murder when I entered,” said Tonks. “I think you should tie that curtain tight around her year round.”

Tonks looked her usual overstated self, though she was dressed in red and green and sported a Santa’s hat on her head instead of pinkish spiky hair. She sauntered around and kissed them all a happy Christmas. Fred and George tried to make it more than just a peck on the cheek but she cuffed them in the ear.

“To what do we owe the honor, cousin?” asked Sirius as she settled down with the adults by the fire with a butterbeer.

She leaned over and gave him an extra peck on the cheek. “I’m in between shifts of watching the bloody Malfoys,” she said. “They’re a frigging bore in every way.” She looked shyly at Remus and he returned her look with a questioning one.

A feeling of dread rose again in his stomach.

“They had their silly Christmas party last night and I was stuck in a tree watching them for hours.”

“You were there?” asked Remus. “Last night with Minerva?”

Tonks nodded. She suddenly had hope that Professor McGonagall had said something to him and she was washed with relief. “I watched the whole party. It was boring and nothing much happened.” She looked at Remus again and she knew that he knew. The look on his face could only mean that he suffered. She felt awful for him but also uplifted that she wouldn’t have to be the one to tell him about Snape and Felicity. She relaxed and spent the next hour telling them about the silliness that she’d witnessed and stuffing herself with leftovers from Molly’s goose dinner.

She got up to leave and go back and Remus walked her to the door. She was surprised when he walked her outside and with her to the end of the block.

“So what happened between Snape and Felicity?” said Remus finally. He could have stabbed himself for even asking but he knew that she’d seen them together and like a moth to a flame, he just had to know.

Tonks started to panic. She thought that she’d gotten out of it. “Didn’t Minerva McGonagall tell you?”

“She said that they’d exchanged information by touching.”

“Cor! Is that what she called it?” she said before she could stifle herself.

“Tonks, tell me,” said Remus sternly.

“He just kissed her Remus,” she said evasively.

“How kissed was she? McGonagall said that the information was passed by touch.”

Tonks thought. She put her hands on her hips. She thought some more. “It was just a kiss, Remus. If Minerva said that that was how they passed information then that’s what happened.” She watched his resigned face. “If it makes you feel any better, Snape and Narcissa Malfoy have become quite the lover’s liaison since that night and Felicity hasn’t been back there.”

“It does make me feel better, actually,” he said and he kissed her on the cheek and let her go. By the time he’d returned the owl from Felicity had come.

The moment he saw her in the vestibule as she ran to him and threw her arms around his neck, he knew that he’d been a green-eyed fool. She loved him and it was ridiculous to think otherwise.

The house was dark and quiet and she led him up to her rooms where she undressed him and chattered happily at him about how excited she was to be going on their trip to the lake country the next morning.

He was beside himself with happiness at her giving of herself with such joy that he was feeling completely and utterly the lovesick idiot for being jealous of anyone as aggravating as Severus Snape. It had just been a kiss, after all. Both Minerva and Tonks had said as much.

Later, that night, he awakened and she wasn’t lying next to him. He looked over to see her standing in the moonlight. Any other man might think it a beautiful sight but the near full moon was a thing to fear for Remus. He wanted to draw her away from its evil light and rose to bring her back to bed.

Felicity stood at the window in her room wrapped in a sheet. She looked off onto the lights of the street and the contrasting darkness of a park beyond.

“What are you thinking about, my love?” said Remus coming up behind her. He put strong arms around her and kissed her neck.

“I was thinking of Severus,” she whispered.

Lupin’s lips paused. “Is that something to tell me now?” he said quietly. He waited not knowing what to think, his breath held.

“He’s happy at the moment in the arms of Narcissa Malfoy,” she breathed. “It’s good to feel his joy from afar, is all. He so seldom has any.” She turned around to face Remus with a sly smile. “It frees me of my responsibilities to the bond.” She put her arms around his neck.

“I won’t pretend to understand,” whispered Remus with confused sadness in his voice. “Please tell me. They told me things. You kissed him. Minerva said that she thought you transferred images of what had happened with Voldemort that way.”

She smirked. “No, that was Severus being greedy. He knew that those of the Order were watching and he wanted you to hear about us from others. He’s manipulative and sneaky.” She sighed, thinking about him. “He has no idea about love. He has never been loved nor loved anyone. He desires with an overwhelming need to possess and control.” She looked up at Remus’ now pained face. “Don’t fret, my love. I am his healing dragon. It has nothing to do with you.”

She stroked his face with her soothing hands and he felt the subtle warmth, realizing that she was using magic in her touch. “Tell me what it means to be a dragon, Felicity. I need to understand.” He bit his lip. Remus wanted so much to believe in her, but the others had inferred things that he found unbearable, he doubted her and felt threatened. He would just die if they were lovers.

She stepped away from him slowly. “Watch me, my love,” she whispered. “I am so much more than merely human. You must always remember that.”

Felicity dropped her sheet and stood uncovered. She raised her hands above her in the dragon pose, breathing and humming rhythmically. He watched as she seemed to grow in size and a sparkling enchantment swirled about her. His jaw dropped in awe as she changed back and forth from Felicity to her dragon form more and more quickly until she was a blur of dragon and human awash in the glittering magic light. The bright being that she’d become opened her eyes then. Not human, but other, she spread out her arms that were not arms and yet beckoned somehow. He could hear her voice, not her voice calling him and he was powerless. He had to respond and walked into her aura.

She, the dragon, his dear Felicity, hugged him and he was transported to another world. At first all he saw was sky. Clouds were quickly moving, the lightness of flight, the feeling of euphoria in his stomach and the mountains, and all around him the feeling of stone below. He could actually feel the sensations of her body, her dragon’s body in flight. The euphoria and joy of being alive was intoxicating and he realized suddenly that he was feeling inside her soul and yet was still himself, apart. He felt the sensations of her breath and even her heart beating but he was set aside within. He was watching within her creature self.

Then he was circling a walled city perched on a mountain in the clouds. Beneath him were streets with people, children, and markets with every type of goods for sale. There were so many people! A temple loomed, a dome with an eye atop it like the eye of a dragon peaking and thousands upon thousands of tiny lights surrounding it. Our prayers for the Godhead, he heard her whisper in a voice not her voice.

He saw men and women, so very old in purple robes and bare feet. One smiled reassuringly into his face and he felt Felicity’s voice more than just heard it. Master Tong, tell me what it is to be a dragon?

The old man came into sharp focus. He was wrinkled and looked so old that his skin was tough and brown as leather. He smiled and the joyfulness of him made Remus recognize a true happiness. We dragons must heal a soul’s fire. It is our dragon’s calling, we lead those souls we love to the Godhead and peace, always for their peace within. It is what we are. We serve those humans who have the greatest need of us. We are truly magic beings.

He saw a room awash with candlelight and a young man, a wizard in his twenties and a reflection of Felicity, clothed in a purple robe in a mirror. The room was filled with mirrors. Everywhere reflecting them, they were now a couple within. Remus watched in awe and wonder as Felicity worked her magic on the unknown man. He felt what Felicity felt, and was apart from his own emotions. The bliss of watching without judgment was in itself a wonder to him. He felt the fire within the other man. He experienced his emotions but was somehow not feeling them at the same time and this seemed natural to him. He then felt her soothe and smooth the flame, felt her ease the man’s pain. Tell me what it is to be a dragon, Felicity. I need to understand.

The image of Felicity in the mirror turned and the young man disappeared. Felicity stood before him within the Shrieking Shack. He gasped for she allowed him to feel the awful raw emotions from his youth with such glaring clarity that he felt strangled. He was suddenly lost. A sense of defeat, the scathing judgments of others, the shame and the loneliness overwhelmed him. It was so horrible that the remembered emotions seemed to drown him. She reached for him then and hugged him. The warmth of her and her soothing magic brought him peace, such a peace that he had only pretended to feel but had never actually felt. A deep sigh from his spirit released from within him. The sadness lifted and he was again without his own emotion and inside her soul, her beautiful soul. Tell me what it is to be a dragon, Felicity. I need to understand.

Snape stood seething with anger within the same room. All he could see was his face and an inferno of fire and all of it the pains from all of the wrongs done to him. The Marauders, his father who had been a violent, frightening man and Voldemort, and all his horror were there within Snape’s psyche. Remus watched, detached and yet vividly aware, as Felicity fled further into Snape, she showed him the inside of the man’s soul, his pain, so much agony of spirit it was astonishing and yet Remus only watched detached, feeling nothing but the wonder of feeling nothing. Snape was incredibly strong willed and had experienced tortures of the mind that were unfathomable to Remus and yet, through Felicity he understood and felt empathy, understanding and nothing more. He was merely a watcher and she showed him everything. He saw entire night of healing Severus. He experienced it all with her, always apart from himself. Tell me what it is to be a dragon, Felicity. I need to understand.

She released him finally from within herself and stepped back from him. Remus couldn’t move at first. He was stunned. He had seen things that should have inspired emotions of pain, jealousy and hatred but in fact, what he felt was love, even he realized for Severus Snape. The feeling of love was so strong that he didn’t want to let it go. He wanted to hold onto it.

She stood before him waiting for him to recover his senses. She was naked and so very agonizingly human and alone. Her soul that she had shared was now separate and encased in flesh watching him and waiting for his reaction. Her eyes, now human were filled with tears. “That is what it is like to be a dragon, my love,” she whispered. “My greatest hope is that you amongst these humans will understand me as no other.”

Never before in his life, a wizard’s life filled with wonders beyond any muggle’s experience, had he experienced such pure magic. He was overwhelmed with love for this magic being. “Felicity,” he said hoarsely. “You’re magnificent.” He rushed to her wanting only to hold and feel the smoothness of her skin. He ached for her, as he never had before for another. “I love you,” he whispered into her hair, her neck. The tears flowed from her eyes. He kissed the salty wetness on her cheeks and lifted her in his arms.

“I love you, Remus Lupin,” she whispered, kissing him tenderly as she draped her arms around his neck and he carried her back to the bed away from the light of the moon.

Magic, she was surely that. She was the greatest of magic above and beyond any that he had ever hoped to know.

A/N: I thought that I might just mention that Remus’ vision is known by various names: The Godhead, The Witness, The Third Eye, sometimes astral projection or my personal fav from the Beatles, The Fool on the Hill. There are other names for this state of mind often attained through long practice of meditation. It is that part of self that watches from within all our human frailties in all their glaring detail. This self has compassion, even empathy but no judgment. Considering all the guilt and self-flagellation that we inflict upon ourselves on a day-to-day basis, this self within self seems like it would be mighty handy to have around, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading and reviewing! Pru Prior

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