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A few basics to note:

Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which transports Oxygen throughout the body. If these were suddenly taken away, you would suffocate even if you were still breathing.

Platelets are responsible for the body's ability to form blood clots. Without platelets, you would bleed to death from a simple cut on the arm.

Sorry for the impromptu biology lesson, but in writing this chapter I did not feel like explaining these basic concepts since I assumed that the characters, due to one too many hospital wing visits, would already know what these are. I also took a few creative liberties, so bear with me on those.








"Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles."
~ Samuel Smiles ~





Chapter 27 ~ The Companion of Grief


Near dawn she found him there. He was still awake, as she had known he would be.

Dean was flat on his back, staring at the rich, blood red canopy of his bed. His eyes had not moved from the canopy in hours, for fear of seeing the empty bed besides him, and they did not move as his bed hangings stirred in the eerie light.

Ginny slipped between them, crawling across the covers until she lay besides him. Wordlessly he had wound his arms around her small frame, an icy pain twisting within him. It was a heavy guilt, for he had his friend's warm comfort while her boyfriend had naught to see save for the cold white sheet draped over his closed eyes.

Seamus was gone, and it felt like a dagger had been driven through him.

It dawned a dark, gray-red dawn, and the sinister rain outside continued, pooling upon the window sills. He could not close the windows, nor block out the chilled wind, for when he had first seen Seamus' empty bed that night he had thrown open each pane, tearing the wooden panels from their hinges.

Now the water dripped onto the floor, the irregular rhythm serving to drive him closer and closer to the breaking point. It was a sound Neville seemed oblivious to, for his dorm mate's steady snores filled the air, and with each passing sound Dean felt the urge to smash something violently.

His fingers twisted in Ginny's red hair, reminding him of her presence. Though Seamus was gone, she was still there.

He had a reason to remain strong.

Still he did not look at her. Gradually her quiet breaths became regular, but his dark eyes remained open, staring at the canopy.

It was all he could do.

* * * * *


Harry watched as Angelina ran from the room, unable to shake the icy sensation slithering within him. He knew he should not care, he could not...

Yet he did.

Seconds after port-keying to Lupin's manor, as he had regained his footing in the candlelit foyer, Kalliandra had lost consciousness. His shivering body had clutched her against his chest, and that was how Angelina had found them.

It was becoming clearer, the harshly exchanged words between Kaylens and the headmaster...the ones he had overheard in the hospital wing... It seemed ages ago, yet they echoed hauntingly fresh within his head.

"Considering that I'm the one you can't cure..."

"Kalliandra, looking at it as a death sentence will not help matters."

"You're right. Nothing will."


Angelina had claimed that the physical stresses of the night had just finally taken their toll, saying how magical travel was often too much for a weakened body to take. She had told him everything was going to be fine, to not worry...

Her eyes betrayed her words for the lies they were.

"Harry, set her there. Help me get her sleeves..."

Angelina was back, having returned with a hoard of supplies. He did as he was told, laying Kalliandra on the faded couch. She sunk into the torn up cushions, stuffing bulging out at the additional weight. It appeared to be the only real piece of furniture on the first floor, and he too squeezed onto it.

He couldn't leave her.

Reaching down he grasped the cuff of her wet sleeve, rolling it up. With every inch of exposed flesh another bruise was revealed, his insides twisting at the thick, deep purple marks lining her delicate skin. In the dark of the clearing he had not even noticed...

Angelina knelt besides them, her hands moving methodically, with the calculated movements born of her healer training. His former teammate was now cleaning the inside of Kalliandra's elbow, inserting a small needle into the bluish line of her vein. He could only watch from where he sat on Lupin's worn couch, holding Kaylens messy head of hair in his lap.

"Harry hold this...hold it high..."

He nodded mutely, taking the clear plastic bag from her, watching the yellowish-brown fluid sloshing within it. Following Angelina's instructions he held it shoulder high, unable to remove his eyes from Kaylens' serene face. Her deep hazel eyes were now hidden behind pale eyelids, her face in desperate need of washing. A streak of mud still highlighted her cheekbone, a gray coat of ashes lending her a ghostly, freckled appearance.

Reaching down Harry brushed her hair aside, revealing a dried smear of blood hiding near her hairline.

A deep bruise was forming there as well.

In fluid motions his former housemate attached a long, clear tube to the IV in her arm with a quiet click, retrieving the fluid filled bag from him. With both of his hands finally free he found himself smoothing the hair away from her face, wiping the mud away with his thumbs.

He could feel Angelina's eyes on him. "She needs to rest Harry."

He did not answer right away, contenting himself to watch as Angelina wove her wand, the IV bag rising to remain suspended in mid-air. Slowly the liquid began dripping from the bag into a small, tube-like chamber.

Swallowing hard, his gaze rose pointedly to Angelina's.

"What are you giving her?"

Angelina never ceased working, and she was already shooing Harry's hands out of the way as she carefully grasped Kalliandra's other limp arm, tapping just above the elbow with her wand.

Kaylens' blue vein bulged just long enough for another syringe needle to be inserted, only this time Angelina was drawing blood samples, rather than starting a drip infusion.

"Angelina?" He prompted gruffly.

The young healer sighed wearily, "It's a mixture of red blood cells and platelets Harry." She pulled back on the syringe, and it began filling with a viscous, dark red blood.

Harry hastily looked away.

"Why does she need that?" He ground out, his voice hoarse with exhaustion.

Leaving the needle in her arm Angelina unscrewed the full syringe barrel, setting the blood sample upon a floating tray she had conjured. She made quick work of attaching a new, empty one to the needle as she repeated the process.

"How about you Harry?" Angelina asked dismissively. "Knowing you, you've probably managed to bang yourself up good."

"Don't change the subject."

Angelina's dark eyes darted up, "I'm not. But I'm a healer, that's why Dumbledore left me to wait for you two. I just had to check."

His tired eyes turned to his own hands. He flipped them over, observing his healed, calloused palms. The deep slashes the broken glass had left were gone. Fawkes' tears had healed them, dripping into his wounds when he had reached through the thick rain to take the port key.

Before he even had a chance to wonder why Fawkes had bothered healing such minor injuries, the phoenix had flown away.

"I'm fine," He replied staidly, realizing he meant it. No longer could he feel the stinging scratches, torn by the werewolf's claws, down his back. Even the bone deep chill the icy rain had left was gone.

All that was left was the sick sensation churning within his stomach, his only relief the girl in his lap, who was incapable of responding enough to ease his fears.

"What's wrong with her?"

In the empty, windowless room, Angelina removed the needle from her arm.

"Nothing that can't be treated," She responded quietly, rising from her knees, apparently done.

"That's not what I asked."

He did not miss the way her eyes avoided his.

"Nothing that I can tell you. For what it's worth...I'm sorry about that Harry."

He swallowed, the sound seeming much louder in the still air. He bowed his head, spying a spot of gray ash near the corner of Kalliandra's mouth. Without thought his thumb wiped it away, his stiff demeanor relaxing as a sleepy murmur emerged from her cold lips.

Angelina watched it all, silently placing each of the blood samples into a cool carrying case. For a moment her clinical nature vanished, a sad look overcoming her ebony features.

It was then that it all came together for Harry. Every little detail that she had let slip, every sign of fatigue, every word the Death Eaters had said...

"It has to do with what she is, doesn't it?"

Though he had asked, there was no question in his tone.

Angelina rose a skeptical eyebrow, "Then you do know?"

His eyes rose to hers, "Yes. That's why you couldn't tell me. Dumbledore isn't aware I know."

She sighed tiredly, but he was already continuing. "Ron and the others, you said they're fine and that they were taken to Hogwarts."

She just nodded, earning a hard look from him.

"Then why were we brought here?"

"I wish I knew. All I know is that the Order is finally utilizing the safe houses it's been setting up."

His brow crinkled, his hands unconsciously caressing Kalliandra's damp hair, which was strewn across his lap, leaving wet marks upon his trousers. "There are other places asides from headquarters?"

"Of course. Don't ask where, because I don't know."

His smile was strained, "Clever really...not letting any one person know too much about anything in case they're caught."

"Exactly."

His lapse from the dark topic plaguing him could continue no longer, for the feeling of carefully controlled panic was rising.

Indicating the IV bag, he shot out a question. "Why does she need that?"

"Perhaps I'm not the best person to explain that."

"You're a healer," He said in a carefully controlled tone. "Who better?"

Angelina opened her mouth, as if to respond, but she never got the chance.

"Perhaps I can. If you would only allow me."

Harry's head spun, as did Angelina's. Neither had heard the person's arrival, and his heart was thundering at the fatalistic possibilities that could have resulted from such a lapse on their parts.

His eyes narrowed, anger mixing with relief as he saw another loved one intact and standing in the hall's doorframe. A bitter laugh broke his throat, and he gestured into the room.

"By all means Professor, it is your house after all."

Professor Lupin stepped wearily into the room, looking worse for the wear. But then again, Harry reflected, didn't they all? The thought nearly sent Harry laughing. Instead he bit it back, another bitter sound growling deep in his throat.

From the look on Lupin's face, Harry knew he had noticed. The deep lines on the man's face betrayed an inner pain, one Harry felt all too acutely.

It was the pain of loss. Only Harry knew Lupin had lost far more than he ever had. Of course, he was still young. There was time to catch up in that category.

As if sensing his dark thoughts, Kalliandra stirred. His attention was suddenly riveted to her, his hand on her cheek. Half of him hoped desperately for her to awaken, while another part feared that his one chance of discovering what ailed her would then slip away.

She was far too stubborn to burden anyone else with her pain. He knew that now.

It was startling how much could change in less than twenty four hours.

Harry's half angry, half questioning gaze finally rose. He was startled to discover Angelina's absence. Somehow she had slipped away unnoticed, leaving he and Lupin alone.

After having been ignored by him for over two weeks, he wasn't sure if he was happy about that or not.

"It's good to see you Harry."

"Is it?" He couldn't help it, but his voice was cold.

Lupin looked stung. "Of course it is."

"Well forgive me for being skeptical," Harry replied sarcastically. "It's not like you haven't spoken to me in awhile."

"I had my reasons."

He inclined an eyebrow, "You had reasons for believing Sirius all-but-killed my mum and dad too."

"That's below the belt Harry."

"Good."

Remus ran a weary hand through his graying hair, leaning back against the wall. For the longest time neither spoke, the entire meeting arousing conflicting emotions within Harry.

He wanted to slug him. For what he had done to him, to Tonks, to Kaylens...by ignoring them simply to shelter them from his canine side. For having left him to deal with the pain of Sirius' death alone. For having had the audacity to walk in, saying hello, as if nothing were amiss between the two. For having sent not one owl that summer.

All of Harry's pent up frustrations with Lupin were finally bubbling over, conveyed in the single icy look he shot him.

Outside the cold, first of November wind rattled the sidings. The weather matched his black mood perfectly.

"I'm sorry Harry."

He nearly laughed. "Are you?"

"For everything," Lupin whispered chokingly.

Harry looked up, meeting the pleading stare of his father's last living friend. Suddenly he did not see the man who had inspired such a feeling of abandonment.

Instead...he saw his family.

He swallowed hard, remembering the rifts he and Ron had been through, and the one they were in now. All those years ago, when he and Ron had fought during the Tri-Wizard tournament, Hermione had called them stupid.

She had been right.

Life was too short to hold grudges.

The reminder of Hermione's plight, and the thought that Remus could be taken just as easily, sent him stumbling for words. "Just..." He started, forcing a strained smile. "Don't let it happen again."

"I won't."

Remus' light brown eyes were nothing but honest. Suddenly, despite his lingering fears for Hermione...for Ron...for Ginny...for Dean...for Tonks...for Dumbledore...for Remus....for Neville....for Luna...for Kalliandra...

It was all too much to take, but suddenly he felt that he may not be quite so desperately alone in facing all of it.

"Thank you," He said quietly, truly meaning it.

Remus simply smiled sadly, inclining his head towards the slumbering girl in his lap.

"How is she?"

Harry felt his brow instinctively furrow, his brain once again compartmentalizing what he could worry about, and impact, in the here and now.

"I'm not sure," He replied honestly. "But Profes....Remus, what's happening to her?"

The startled look upon Remus's face faded, his kind eyes regarding him carefully.

"I assume you already know then."

"Yes," He heard himself whispering, his voice filled with naked concern.

Remus studied him for a long moment, his eyes falling on the movement of Harry's hands as he stroked Kalliandra's long hair.

For some reason Harry did not care if Remus noticed.

The former professor's brow crinkled with both curiosity and pity at the connotations Harry's gestures conveyed. "Are you sure you really want to know Harry? Sometimes not knowing is best, for when you know..." Remus' gaze was suddenly far off, as if peering into the distant past.

"Sometimes Harry, the truth will simply haunt you."

Harry's throat constricted, the tears glistening within Remus' eyes far too clear.

"What if it already does?"

The elder man smiled sadly, "Then I'd say things between the two of you have changed. After all, she's out cold and you have yet to try and throttle her."

A sad laugh bubbled out of him, his gaze falling to rest on her pale forehead.

"Please...I...don't say anything...."

"Wouldn't dream of it."

Harry found himself nodding with no particular reason. "Good...I...I've no idea..."

"What's going on?" Remus finished.

Harry spotted the man's knowing smile, and was finally able to let out the breath he had been unconsciously holding.

"Something like that."

In the still air of the windowless room, both men remained silent. Harry's eyes fell closed, his ears seeking out the soft sound of Kaylens' regular breathing.

Somehow, even with the growing uneasiness within, this calmed him.

With a decisiveness he did not feel, he finally spoke.

"I need to know Remus."

A loud sigh filled the room. "I was afraid of that."

And Remus explained. He explained how magical beings had come into creation, for somewhere in human history, human blood cells had begun mutating.

Most of the mutations had resulted in cancerous blood streams, killing those in possession of those variations. Muggles and Wizards alike still struggled against those diseases, leukemia the most prominent, but there were some individuals where the mutations became beneficial.

He explained how everything, both living and inert, contained a form of energy. Not all of it was measurable in the Muggle fashion, and it was this form of energy, the kind that would fail to register on electrical scales, that allowed magical beings to flourish.

It was magical energy, and over time some individuals developed the ability to manipulate it, without adverse affects.

Others were not so lucky.

There were people like Kalliandra, people like Reaches, who could delve into the magical realm. But doing so was dangerous.

In the case of witches and wizards, they developed completely new cells in their blood streams, and magical energy was conducted through their physical bodies via these. Thus their bodies were able to act like electrical circuits, and energy was able to pass through their magical cells without ever touching their other cells.

It was a perfect system.

There were occasions when witches and wizards would become fatigued, and such occurrences usually happened when the person was performing wandless magic, or a particularly complicated spell. And the reason for their exhaustion was quite simple really:

When one's body functions like a circuit, if excess magical energy is taken in and not released in the form of a properly cast spell, then that energy remains stuck in the body and has to go somewhere. And since magic runs quite literally through one's veins, that witch or wizard's magical cells would be the first to be essentially, electrocuted by their magical overload.

Fortunately magical cells are quite robust, and their plasma membranes are more than capable of absorbing such overloads.

Red blood cells, however, are not.

On occasion so much energy is not released from a wizard's body that it bursts through their magical cells, frying blood cells essential in the sustentation of life.

And when one's red blood cells are dying it is hard to circulate enough oxygen.

It was how Luna Lovegood's mother had died. She had suffocated, while still breathing.

Such deaths were a rare occurrence, because human blood contains far more cells than necessary for the sustentation of life. So when some blood cells are killed there are generally enough survivors to allow that individual to continue functioning in a normal, albeit fatigued, manner.

The first time Harry had tried the Patronus Charm he had overdrawn as well. He had been left winded, gasping for breath, just like he was after every Quidditch practice.

Yet he had partaken in no physical activity.

It was because he had lost red-blood cells, the very cells responsible for carrying Oxygen throughout the body, and his body was responding as it would in an Oxygen-deprived manner.

Reaches had never evolved that far. They had never developed additional cells in their blood stream, and the mutation allowing them to conduct electrical current lay directly upon their red blood cells.

If they overdrew, their first cells to be damaged would be the one's necessary in the transportation of Oxygen.

Their mutation was one that worked, but it functioned poorly. Wizards had evolved much more gracefully, for their additional cells provided a barrier to protect them against overdrawing. Ultimately it was this defense mechanism that had allowed the wizarding species to not only flourish, but to survive.

Unlike in him, the first cells to die in a Reach when they overdrew were their red blood cells.

For a Reach, the likelihood of suffering Luna's mother's fate was an almost certainty.

A cold feeling overtook Harry as all of this sunk in, for Kalliandra could easily die from overdrawing. She was only still alive due to the fact that her blood stream contained more red blood cells than it actually needed. Thus, she was capable of tolerating a certain degree of overdrawing, but the margin was slim.

For her, unlike a witch or wizard, there was no real learning curve. For her there was little room for mistake, for there were no cells to absorb the shock...

For her the only reward of overdrawing too much was death.

She would suffocate while still breathing.

It was why her red blood cells were being replaced even as Remus spoke. For every time she drew energy into herself she was slowly killing her cells.

Dumbledore was determined to replace as many as he could, as often as he could.

It was the only way to sustain her, to ensure her a longer life.

Suddenly he understood the intermittent bruising he had seen upon her throughout the year.

After Remus had turned...in the hospital wing...

Her platelets had been killed when she had overdrawn, to protect him from Remus...

She had passed out in Grimmauld place, from the effort...her body forcing her into unconsciousness in a last ditch effort to prevent her from doing further damage to herself..

The image of her lying unconscious on the floor of the Three Broomsticks flew through his mind.

He had known that she had risked exposure for what she was, but gods....She had risked death there, to protect people who hated her.

And he had once accused her of being a Death Eater.

Death Eaters knew no such selflessness.

A sickening sensation flooded over him, his hand rising to rifle through his still wet hair.

He scarcely heard Remus as he tried to lie, telling him it was not a death sentence for her.

Harry knew better, for what else could it be?

His grip on her tightened, as if holding onto her could prevent the inevitable. Remus was talking about treatment, about how if they maintained her blood count at proper levels that she would be able to live a normal, full life.

All it took was a single look into Remus' cheerless eyes to know that his friend did not truly believe what he was saying.

"Will she die?"

His own voice, his own question, sounded so far off.

"Harry nothing is certain...If she doesn't overdraw then we'll never have to worry about that possibility."

"Remus, will she die?" Harry felt his voice breaking, the familiar pang of loss welling within him.

As he met Remus' kind, glistening eyes, he knew the answer.

"Eventually..."

He wanted to croak out something, a form of protest that would quench the dryness of his throat, but nothing came.

"From what we know Harry, the others like her...eventually, they all overdrew."

Eventually...

The foolish recesses of his mind clung to that word, the ridiculous companion of grief stirring within him.

Hope.

It wasn't until sometime after dawn when he finally fell asleep. The IV was long since removed from her arm, her sleeping form pulled into his arms.

At the moment Harry didn't give a damn about who could see.




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