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Chapter 8
Guilty Feelings



So... He must really be pulling a face. “No─ Nothing’s wrong, why?”

“What’s troubling you?” Arthur asked in a low voice. The staircase was only dimly lit, so that his eyes were almost lost in the darkness.

“I’m fine,” Remus answered forcefully.

Arthur shook his head. “Come on, you know that’s not true.”

“True…” Remus replied. “The truth should always be handled with care.” There was a note of desperation in his voice now that he was trying, with no result, to find something to elude the talk.

Arthur blinked, looking more mystified than anything else. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

Remus leaned heavily against the railway. He and Arthur had known each other for a while now, and in a way they had become good friends. They lived very different lives─ one had a family and a job, the other no relatives and no job but the missions Dumbledore gave him─ but they understood each other perfectly. Both knew what friendship, death and war meant. Ever since Sirius had─ well, ever since the war had become more real, Remus and he had kept nothing from the other. It was as though they were from the same family; a family who fought against Death Eaters. When Arthur had met some trouble at the Ministry a few months before, he had shared his problems with Remus.

“What’s wrong? Job?” Arthur tried, speaking as though he was about to talk about what they were both doing for the Order. “Full moon?” Ron’s father continued when no reply came.

Remus tried to find something to say that could stir the conversation out of these dangerous waters, but nothing came, no bright ideas. Arthur chuckled, attempting to lighten the atmosphere. “Girlfriend?”

Remus gulped, thankfully not to the point of choking himself, but wishing for once that Arthur left him alone.

“Girlfriend… Who─?” Arthur asked, seeming half-serious, half-amused. Did he think it was a joke?

Remus said nothing, listening to the voices that reached his ears. Everyone else was still in the kitchen enjoying his or her breakfast. Remus tried to keep an impassive face as Harry spoke, but couldn’t help jumping when it was Hermione who answered Harry’s question.

A slight crease appeared between Arthur’s eyebrows. Remus hoped against all hope that Arthur would never put two and two together; but a sudden realization seemed to have reached his friend’s mind. “You mean…” It was a quiet denial─ but that he spoke at all was a miracle. It was as though Arthur had been hit hard in the stomach; he was thunderstruck. “Remus─”

It sounded like a warning, making Remus fear what would come next.

“She’s not my daughter,” Arthur declared quietly. “But if I have an advice─”

Remus didn’t say a word; in truth, he didn’t want to hear it.

“Just… be careful,” Arthur said. He patted him thoughtfully, leaving Remus standing alone and feeling as sick as one could feel.

“Arthur─” Remus called back. Arthur turned around, peering down at him from the top of the stairs. “You won’t tell anyone, will you?”

Arthur stared at him for a while. It was a good five seconds before he spoke. “No. I promise I won’t.” He waited then added, as if reading Remus’s thoughts, “not even Molly.”

***

Remus held his wand high, ready to strike. He had to cast a spell; it was part of what they did during their training sessions.

Hermione, her breath strangely caught in her throat, knew that in a real battle she would be about to die. Remus had disarmed her and now he had to mutter a spell, anything to see if she reacted. For example, he could mutter an Unforgivable Curse ─without truly casting it, needless to say─ to check that she had the reflexes to roll over and move out of harm’s way. So what was Remus waiting for? She was defenceless on the floor and still he was doing nothing.

Remus closed his eyes. They had not spoken to each other since the previous night, not even a single word. She hadn’t asked to talk to him but he hadn’t made any effort either. He knew that eventually he’d have to say something, but… he just couldn’t convince himself to do it. Maybe it was shyness, or cowardice─ it didn’t matter anyway. It was strange, that a man who had repeatedly fought Death Eaters was suddenly unable to summon enough courage to say two words to someone who lived in the same house…

As these last thoughts crossed his mind Remus opened his lids. Hermione was still on the floor. He was supposed to convince himself that she was an enemy here… he had to mutter a curse. It was what happened every time someone died.

Had Snape been on the floor vulnerable when he’d been hit by a spell? He wondered. Had he seen death coming, had he been waiting for what he knew was inevitable, unable to evade his destiny? Had the Death Eaters laughed before they condemned a human being to death?

Fresh hatred rose in the pit of Remus’s stomach. They had to pay for that, and for everything else.

Even if he didn’t raise his wand Remus opened his mouth. Just to speak the words. Even if it did nothing; through it, he’d convince himself to go back looking for those Death Eaters and never rest until he had found them. “Ava─”

He swallowed. The problem was that it was not a Death Eater who was in front of him. Just Hermione. And he couldn’t say it, he couldn’t hurt her. He was now left in front of his own feelings, fighting against himself, against this wall of bare emotions paralyzing him.

The room blurred. He hadn’t felt this drained in days. Though he had no idea why, Remus found himself staring at the bottle of water that had been hit by a spell and that no one had bothered to repair. Water was spreading on the floor, drop after drop after drop, maddeningly, as though no one on earth would ever be able to stop it.

His face was as pale as the wall behind him when he turned around. Get a man a wand, he thought, and let him look his opponent in the eyes─ then you’ll know who he truly is.

When the door banged Harry and Ron stopped fighting, and only when silence filled her ears did Hermione realize that they had still been casting spells at one another. They were staring at her questioningly now. “Training’s over for today,” she muttered before opening the door. She reached the kitchen and poured herself a glass of cold, almost freezing lemonade.

***

Music was the only thing he could think of that could help him relax. Remus went to sit on the couch in the living room and tried to concentrate only on the melody he was hearing─ but it was hard to calm down.

“I love this song,” Hermione walked in with her glass, looking anywhere but at him. She had finally forced herself to enter the room, knowing that they’d have to face each other sooner or later. At least they’d be over with it.

Startled that she had spoken Remus looked up. Would she pretend nothing whatsoever had happened between them the previous evening? Or would she want to talk about it? He believed he’d rather go with the first solution─ even if it hurt to turn away from what they could have had. “You’ve heard it before?” he chose to ask cautiously.

She hesitated on the threshold then walked forward, set down her glass on the table and said, “My grandfather used to listen to it when I was younger.”

“Oh.” He remembered she was from a Muggle origin. She was so good at magic that he tended to forget it. He realized he didn’t know anything about her family─ why hadn’t he ever asked?

“I remember how he just sat there in front of the fire listening to music…” Hermione went on. She was half lost in her memories, half conscious of the fact that Remus was still there in the same room.

“You no longer visit him?” Remus regretted asking as soon as the words were out.

An odd shadow passed in front of her eyes before she muttered, “he died five years ago.”

He remained mute, with the impression of having gone under a cold, even freezing shower. “I’m sorry,” he said numbly. He really was sorry. For that. For everything.

For the previous night.

“I never saw him much, he lived far away,” she said quickly.

“I never knew my grandparents,” Remus said before he added bitterly, “I barely knew my parents either.”

During the silence that followed Hermione fixed her gaze on her watch. It was half past five. Though she didn’t know why, she suddenly remembered her dream of the previous night. Remus was staring at the cover of a book that had been left on the table, so, thinking he couldn’t hear she spoke to herself, “Time flows…”

“But heroes are never forgotten.”

Hermione’s mouth dropped. It was Remus who had spoken, and Remus stared at her for a long time, a crease of surprise─ even of fear─ between his eyebrows.

The door burst open. Ron and Harry looked thoroughly confused. “Remus? We thought you had left for some kind of Order mission─”

“I needed a break,” Remus said rather coolly.

“Oh. Okay. Well we’ll erm─ continue later, then,” Harry and Ron walked out. Remus seized the opportunity to get up too and climbed the stairs hurriedly. When he reached the bathroom he bent over the washbowl and buried his face under some cold water. It was impossible that they both knew that sentence, because it had been a dream, only a dream… nothing more than a dream.

Hermione had taken a mouthful of air as soon as the door had closed, desperately trying to bring oxygen to her brain. How could Remus know the end of that stupid quote from her dream? It had been a dream, right? She remembered seeing Dumbledore in his office… there had been that portrait on the wall… then that sentence, repeated over and over again…

“Hermione?”

She came back to herself in a jolt. Harry was back inside the living room, making her wonder where Ron had gone.

“I just─” Harry hesitated. “Could I have a word with you?”

“Yes, of course,” Hermione looked around at the empty room, suddenly afraid that Harry knew her secret.

“Look, it’s just…” Harry took a breath and said, “Remus.”

Hermione’s heart missed a beat. Oh, god. What if Harry had guessed everything? No. She was suffering from paranoia, that was all. “What about him?” she asked slowly.

“Do you have any idea why he’s so…er… off lately?”

Her heart sank horribly. “They’ve probably got a problem with the Order.”

“Yeah, probably.” Harry nodded. “I hope you’re right. But there are some strange things happening nowadays. More than usual, I mean. Ever since that night when Remus left nobody seems to be themselves anymore, it’s unusual.” Harry shrugged and then asked innocently, “have you seen Ginny?”

Had she not heard his conversation with Remus, Hermione wouldn’t even have guessed Harry cared about Ginny more than he was showing. “In her room, probably,” she answered.

“Thanks,” Harry walked out too, leaving Hermione alone once again. She ran a hand feverishly over her sweaty forehead. What on earth was wrong with her? She was eighteen; she was supposed to find herself a boyfriend who was her age, one who was young and handsome and─

Remus was handsome.

Why did she like him so much? Because of who he was. For everything and for nothing. Just because of what he represented, being here with them and understanding how they felt confined in Grimmauld Place, when nobody ever seemed to care that they existed. Just for the way he had spoken her name quietly the previous evening, and for the way he had told her things about how he felt toward Ron and Harry’s behaviours…

Maybe he wasn’t perfect─ but who was? If asked she wouldn’t have changed anything about him; not one thing. Even him being a werewolf was part of why he fascinated her. God, she loved him so much because he was himself.

Would she die from it? It consumed her inside, and she was scared because it wasn’t right, it didn’t feel right… or rather, it felt right, and that was what was wrong … She had always considered love as a beautiful feeling. In books, in stories, it seemed so amazing she had wished for it to happen to her.

In truth, it was terrifying.

***

“Molly?”

“Yes?” She raised her head from the piles of clothes she had been stacking in the laundry.

Remus checked over his shoulder that they were alone. “I’ll go to Diagon Alley tomorrow morning. I need─ er─ some Wolfsbane Potion.”

Molly nodded. “All right. Hadn’t Severus made some extra last time?”

“Not much... and I thought I’d better try to find someone to make some more, I don’t know how long he’ll be… well, anyway, it takes six months to brew. So don’t expect to see me tomorrow morning, I’ll be gone early, I’ll take the Floo Network.”

Molly pursed her lips as though she wanted to protest. Then she sighed. “Just be careful.”

“Always,” Remus replied with a tired smile.

***

“No. Like I said, I have none in store,” the witch eyed Remus suspiciously, waving a hand covered with rings in front of him. Ever since he’d opened his mouth to ask about Wolfsbane, she had taken a step back and become rather discourteous.

“Are you going to get some soon?” Remus insisted.

“I might,” she replied shortly, still eying him as though he was a very contagious plague. “Excuse me, I have other customers… may I help you?” she said in the direction of an old wizard peering around at bottles of potions.

Remus sighed. He hated it when people looked at him like that─ and yet, sadly, he was rather accustomed to that sudden change of attitude. It didn’t matter if people weren’t sure that he was the wolf; even knowing one was considered dangerous.

“Remus, is that yeh?” Someone spoke loudly as soon as he was in the street again.

“Hello, Hagrid,” Remus greeted the Hogwarts Gamekeeper. “Still looking for Dragon skin?” Remus had heard Hagrid complaining several times in the past weeks that nobody sold anything anymore. After his quick conversation with the witch with the enormous rings, Remus was growing convinced that Hagrid was right.

“Arg, yer can’t imagine how rare tha’s becoming,” the shaggy gamekeeper replied. “And what are yer doein’ here?”

“I’m done, actually,” Remus muttered. “I was on my way,” he lied, hoping Hagrid would go.

“Oh. Okay, I’ll see yeh later then.”

Remus aimed for the Floo Network Centre; but when he arrived within thirty feet of the first chimney he stopped and took another path. There was another thing he needed to do. He didn’t want anyone to know about that. Not Hagrid, not the kids, not even Arthur or Molly. No one.

***

“Nothing has ever been proved,” the man eyed Remus carefully. “But there is an ancient saying on dream sharers; you want to hear it?” The wizard drew Remus apart in a corner of his dusty Astrology shop.

Remus hesitated, squeezed between crystal balls and protective gauntlets, then nodded.

“I presume you’re the one who shared a dream?” the man went on. He had a long beard, not unlike Dumbledore’s, and his small, square glasses conferred him a wise air.

“You presume correctly,” Remus answered flatly.

“Very well. If the other person was a man, the saying tells us you are in a quarrelling situation with that person. Often this other person will turn out to be an enemy.”

Remus waited. When the man gave a half-smile he asked with annoyance, “and if it’s not a man?”

“Ha! Lady, unh?” the man snorted, betraying his apparent wisdom, before catching the look on Remus’s face. “Usually”, he said hastily, “dream sharers, as they’re called, are two people meant for each other.” He blinked knowingly. Remus thanked him numbly and left with the distinct impression that his brain had jammed.

He felt torn apart; in a way, where was the problem? Hermione and he were both adults; whether by wizarding or Muggle law they were legally responsible and had every right in the world to be together, even get married, have children─

As guilt rose in the pit of his stomach Remus chased the thought away. In a way, there was a problem. Was there a way out of it? Probably not. It was just impossible, because of the war, because of Harry, Ron, Ginny, Dumbledore and everyone else. Because it would be so wrong, he a former teacher and she his former student, he a werewolf old enough to be her father and she a brilliant young witch whose future he couldn’t bear jeopardizing.

He had to let it go, he had to let this love fade, become a shadow, a memory, nothing more than a ghost in a falling darkness.

It lasted for two endless days. There they were with so many things left unspoken, only pretending, with the others around, to be normal people having perfectly normal conversations but during all that time: meals, mornings, afternoons, evenings, they were just forcing themselves to adopt an everyday behaviour.

But the fact was there. The days passed, countless, endless; every second became a fight, every minute was harder to live than the one before. A simple chuckle or the flicker of a smile, a sigh or a glimpse of the other, and the flame in their hearts was alive again, ten times brighter than before, burning painfully in their chests. It hurt even more to turn away after that, but still they did it as though they were both locking the gates to their own freedom, letting this unspoken passion eat them from the inside, quietly but surely.

It would have lasted longer and forever if something had not happened. It was early, very early in the morning judging by the faint light that was visible behind the curtains of his room. Something was unusual and simply… not right. It was just a feeling in the pit of his stomach, but one that became more distressing when he found out that the noise that had stirred him away from sleep was someone tapping on the window─ an owl, probably.

Remus got up in a rush before the sound woke up anyone else.

“Fawkes?” He leapt in shock. Dumbledore had sent Fawkes to deliver a message? What on earth was going on? What could have happened that had led to Dumbledore using his most urgent and safest messenger?

Remus opened the window. The phoenix refused to enter but dropped a note in Remus’s stretched-out hand. The parchment was tightly sealed with three glowing red letters on it: RJL. So this was what Dumbledore had prepared them for. He had each given them a special, top-secret password that, he had warned, was only to be used to open critical messages. Should anyone else other than him try to read the message and the parchment would burst into flames. There was no way to get around Dumbledore’s magic.

Remus’s sense of foreboding only increased until, at last, he had taken out his wand, spoken the password and unrolled the parchment.


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A/N: I know what you're all going to say: I should have updated sooner! My apologies for the delay. I've had a lot of work lately but I'll try not to keep you waiting for too long until chapter 9.
I hope you're still enjoying this. Thanks to all of you wonderful reviewers and also to Rosie my beta-reader!

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