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Here it is! The real chapter! Remus woke up the next morning feeling as though someone had poured acid down his throat while he had been sleeping. Coughing, he tried to sit up, fell back, and then decided to roll over the side of the bed and try to get to his feet that way. He failed miserably. Slumping to the floor, he took a few deep breaths, waited until his head stopped swimming, and, with a supreme effort, staggered upright. Harry, who was groggily waking up, blinked at him through those enormous squirrel-eyes. "Good morning, Harry," Remus yawned. Harry sat up, flicking his bushy tail around and making a chattering noise. Smiling, Remus held out his arm so Harry-the-Squirrel could clamber onto it and perch himself on his shoulder. Then, sighing, Remus stared at the door on the other side of the room. It seemed to be an eternity away. "Right," he breathed. Moving his foot forward, he said, 'one step at a time, one step at a time' repeatedly in his head as exhaustion swamped him. The full moon was the next day and the weakness, thanks to his other injuries, was threatening to overcome him. He was still limping as well from his lovely escapade with Ron's Cruciatus Curse. Trying not to moan, Remus walked unsteadily across the room, still silently chanting 'one step at a time'. His hand grasped the doorknob and he resisted the urge to cheer. He had gotten to the door, he had not succumbed to the pain within him. Opening the door, he then realized, with a start, he had to get back up to the hospital wing. That meant stairs. A lot of stairs. Groaning, Remus kept one hand on the wall to stay upright. Harry was sitting quite still on his shoulder so as not to distract him; Remus tottered down the hall and painfully climbed the stairs. It took much longer than he had anticipated, but after a while he managed to get to the hospital wing and collapse through the door. Madam Pomfrey, who was sitting at her desk and writing some notes, sighed in exasperation. "Do come over here, Remus, I can give you something to take the edge off your pain." "Not Wolfsbane Potion?" he pleaded, watching the older woman search through a cabinet that was full of bottles. She shook her head. "No," she said firmly. "Professor Dumbledore said not to administer that." "But why not?!" Remus exclaimed, trying to not grow panicky. "He knows perfectly well what I'm normally like at full moon! What's he playing at?!" "He said for you to go to his office once you were properly cared for," Pomfrey said, turning to face him. "Which you shall." "I can barely walk, though," Remus groaned, running a hand through his graying hair. "Well," Pomfrey said briskly, holding up a large, blue bottle, "we can easily remedy that." Harry-the-Squirrel jumped onto Pomfrey's desk and began chattering inquisitively. The healer jumped and stared down at him, her face breaking into a smile. "Your body has been restored to almost full health, Mr. Potter," she said kindly. The squirrel gave what Remus could have sworn was a sigh of relief. Pomfrey laughed. "Even so, the headmaster wants you to wait before we restore you to your body." "What?" Remus asked sharply. "Why? He's in danger the longer he stays in that squirrel!" "The headmaster has his reasons," Pomfrey snapped, almost making Remus choke as she forced some potion down his throat. While he was spluttering, she said, "Why don't you go see him now? Then he can explain everything to you." "Can I see Sirius?" Remus suddenly asked. Pomfrey's expression became guarded and alarm bells went off in Remus's head. "How is he?" "Not good," Pomfrey said shortly. "He hasn't woken up since Cassie worked on him." "What does that mean?" Remus asked, fear thudding through him. The healer sighed. "Well, it means he's not dead," she said. "Here, leave Mr. Potter with me and you can go see him." 'Not dead'. . . shivering, Remus got up, handed the squirrel to the healer, and painfully walked over to the other side of the hospital wing, where he found Cassie dozing in a chair. Her hair was coming down out of its bun now, with limp tendrils strewn across her face. Brushing them back, Remus then turned to Sirius. His friend was asleep on his cot, his face ashen, his eyes closed. Remus was relieved to see his chest rising and falling, however fitfully. "Hello, Sirius," Remus whispered. He smiled. "I really hope you realize how much of an idiot you are, getting me all worried like that--" "He wasn't being an idiot," Cassie suddenly mumbled, sitting up straight and stretching. She looked thoroughly exhausted. "He was actually being a bit more gracious than he should have." She stared at her boyfriend, who had not moved at all. "I seriously thought he was going to die last night." Remus whipped around to face her, ignoring his painful limbs. "What?!" "Luckily," Cassie continued, ignoring Remus's outburst, "Sirius is notorious for proving all of us wrong when we think there's no hope left for him." Still breathing rather hard, Remus turned back to the cot. "I suppose you're right," he said faintly. Cassie, noticing his pain, offered him her chair. He took it thankfully. "So what happens now?" he asked. Cassie took her time answering. Finally, she said, "Now I watch Sirius to make sure he doesn't relapse. . . which should not happen, if I have any sort of healing skills at all. Harry will eventually be restored to his body--" "Why is everyone saying 'eventually'?" Remus cut in, glancing at her. "It seems as though all of you know something that I don't." An uncomfortable look flashed across Cassie's face. "Um. . . maybe you ought to talk to Dumbledore about that one." "I think I will," Remus said shortly, staggering to his feet. He hobbled out of the hospital wing, up more stairs, down more halls, until he came to a stop outside of the headmaster's office. "Sherbert lemon," he gasped, feeling almost overwhelmed by the pain. The potion Pomfrey had given him did not seem to be kicking in yet. Naturally, the door refused to budge. Cursing his luck, Remus racked his mind for every sweet that he, Sirius, James and Peter had ever stolen from Honeyduke's. "Cockroach Cluster. . . no, I guess that's not it. Sugar Quill? Choco-Balls? Maggot Marzipan? Lemon Drops?" He groaned, and then decided to try a new line of candies. Perhaps Dumbledore thought that his previous choices were getting old-fashioned. "Skiving Snackboxes? Nosebleed Nougats? Fainting Fancies? Canary Creams?" The door suddenly opened. Silently thanking Fred and George, Remus climbed up the stairs and knocked on the door to the headmaster's office. "Professor?" he called. "Are you in?" "Yes, Remus," Dumbledore replied. Stepping into the office, Remus paid no attention to the magnificent, whirring silver contraptions and instead marched right up to the desk, where the professor was writing something on a curling piece of parchment. The old man looked up at him, arching his silver eyebrows. "What is going on?" Remus bluntly asked. "Everyone seems to know something I don't. I kept asking, but all I’m receiving are cryptic answers. And why can’t I take the Wolfsbane Potion? Why can’t Harry return to his body? It seems like you’re juggling with fire, Albus. What—is—happening?” Dumbledore took his time before giving an answer. He set down his quill, folded his long fingers together to form a steeple, as he so often did, and stared directly at them. Not looking at Remus, he said, “I have been devising a plan.” “Evidently!” Remus snarled. He was not one to get riled easily, but having everyone else toying with his very existence, his very being, was not something he took kindly to. “Please explain, Albus! I do not like being in the dark.” The headmaster appeared as though he were about to drop something incredibly heavy to handle on Remus’s shoulders. Dumbledore slowly sat up straight and rested his hands on the arms of his chair. “Remus,” he said finally, “you know what you agreed to when you joined the Order of the Phoenix.” It was a statement, not a question. “Yes, of course I do,” Remus said incredulously. “What are you getting at?” Dumbledore was still not looking at him. “You swore to do whatever was humanly possible to divert the threat of Voldemort. You promised to give everything, even your life, to save wizardkind.” There was a pause. “I did,” Remus said, his voice softer now. The headmaster finally looked up, the twinkling in his light blue eyes absent. “What if I were to say,” he said, “that I knew how to defeat Voldemort, but it may certainly be the cost of your life?” Remus found that he could not speak. He stared at the old man before him, suddenly confused. “Me?” he finally said. “Yes, Remus,” Dumbledore said slowly. “You.” “What. . .” he swallowed, his mouth very dry. “What do you mean?” “I believe that everything is tied together,” the headmaster said, leaning back in his chair. “As I also believe that everything has a meaning. Harry’s scar. . . his ability to possess other beings. . . Sirius’s ability to return from the gates of death. . .” he looked up. “Your lycanthropy.” Remus quickly crossed over to a chair and suddenly sat down. “I do not believe your being a werewolf is an accident,” Dumbledore continued. “Nor the fact that you have always done whatever you can for the Order.” “What would you have me do?” Remus whispered. “You know that Voldemort has regained form, but he is still quite weak,” Dumbledore said. “My idea was most unconventional, but I feel it may have substance. . . Harry, nor anyone else, has been able to defeat Voldemort with a wand. Even in his weakened state, he could do unimaginable damage.” His eyes took on a strange gleam. “But brute force. . . Remus, if we could deprive the Dark Lord of his wand and render him helpless. . .” Remus stared at Dumbledore. “Do you realize how many things could go wrong with that plan, Albus? It’s a fool’s errand.” “No,” Dumbledore told him. “Not with the information I have received. With Severus’s contacts, we learned that Voldemort is currently taking refuge in the Malfoy Mansion. As it is currently uninhabited, there is little to no chance of anyone knowing he is there.” “So what did you have in mind?” Remus snapped. “Just the Order marching up and knocking on the door?” “Remus,” Dumbledore said, “do not think I have not given this much consideration. It is something he would not expect.” “That’s a bit of an understatement,” Remus muttered. “I would duel with Tom,” the headmaster said firmly. “I would disarm him and leave the way clear for you and Harry.” “What?” Remus asked, distracted. “Harry?” “You know what the Prophecy entails,” the old man said wearily. “Either Harry must die—“ “—Or the Dark Lord,” Remus finished. “What do you aim to do?” “Preferably the latter,” Dumbledore replied, “but on these terms: once Tom is disarmed, we could unleash you.” “But if you don’t give me my Wolfsbane Potion, then I’m a—a monster,” Remus faltered. “I’d have no control.” Dumbledore shook his head. “Not with Harry possessing you.” There was a very long pause. “What on earth do you mean?” Remus asked faintly. “Your mind would not be out of control, just out of YOUR control. Harry would be possessing you so that he, in you, could physically destroy Voldemort. Then, once you’ve destroyed his vessel, Harry could—ah—finish the job.” “And I would most likely die,” Remus said softly. Dumbledore nodded. “Either between the shock of Harry possessing you when you are so physically weak, Voldemort’s Death Eaters, or Voldemort himself. . . I see it as a distinct possibility.” He paused. “This is why I am not having Harry return to his body. It would be physically taxing for him, and if we are to go through with this, then it really has no point until. . . afterward.” He did not say, ‘if we fail’. Remus was very quiet for a few moments. "That is my plan, Remus." Dumbledore's ancient face was shadowed, wreathing his eyes in darkness as thick as kohl. His fingers were laced together to form a steeple and his light blue eyes, normally merry and twinkling, were grave. Remus found that he could no longer sit; fighting against the pain in his ever-weakening body, he struggled to his feet and limped over to the windowsill. Grasping the sill hard in his shaking hands, he stared at the grounds. The full moon was so close. . . he could feel it in his very bones, as he had every month of every year of his life. "Would you really have me do that, Albus?" Remus asked, his voice trembling. "I do not believe we can triumph any other way," the headmaster said softly, staring at his fingertips. "There must be another way," Remus exclaimed, turning around and slumping against the window as his strength failed him. Breathing hard, he tried to straighten up. "You can't ask Harry to do that!" And you can't ask ME to do that, Remus added silently, a cold dread closing around his soul. You can't ask me to do the unthinkable. . . you can't possibly warp my soul by making me do that! I’ve never killed anyone! The old man mildly looked up, and Remus could see the years of pain and regret in his eyes. "Harry knows what his destiny is," Dumbledore murmured. "And I believe that your destiny is tied to his as well." "But to do what you're suggesting?!" Remus shouted, feeling the pain thudding through his battered, weak body. "That's just. . ." "You know what you agreed to fight for when joining the Order, Remus," Dumbledore said gently. "I know that it is beyond the call of duty, but surely you wish to see Voldemort defeated?" "Of course I do," Remus muttered, emotions roiling within him. He could barely stand the fact that the headmaster was sitting there, so calmly telling him to perform the most horrendous of acts-- and Harry as well. "But to do it that way--" "It is the only way," Dumbledore said, cutting him off. "I. . . I truly am sorry, Remus. I have entertained other options, but I do not feel that we can defeat Voldemort without first physically killing him. And we cannot physically kill him with a wand." “Since he’s so weak, couldn’t we disarm him and THEN kill him with a wand?” Remus exclaimed. Dumbledore shook his head. “Do not think I have not thought about that. . . we also have to wonder what might happen if we cannot disarm him. A werewolf is known to be impervious to many spells that he would use—“ “Not Avada Kedavra,” Remus muttered. “I could shield you against that,” Dumbledore said. “That is, if I brought Fawkes, which I shall. But we must be quick with this, Remus. Quick and efficient. We have to prepare for the worst. If we cannot disarm him, we must rely on you. If we can disarm him, then Harry can. . .” he paused. “Then Harry can fulfill his destiny.” “So if we can successfully disarm him, I may not die?” Remus asked. “I would hope,” Dumbledore replied. “Theoretically,” Remus said, still not turning to look at the headmaster, “couldn’t we disarm him, and then Harry could use Avada Kedavra on him instead of me biting his head off?” “Every time we have tried that, Voldemort’s spirit has escaped,” Dumbledore said firmly. “He has taken too many precautions against death. No, I feel we must first physically kill him with normal brutality if we want to vanquish the threat of him ever returning. Then, and only then, will he be weak enough for Avada Kedavra to take full effect. It has not worked before now because the spell only affected his physical vessel. If we return him to his spirit form first, then it would most likely work.” “If we need to kill him normally, can’t we just hit him in the head with an axe or something, like they do in those Muggle movies?” Remus was rambling now, hoping against hope that he would find something Dumbledore had overlooked, something he had failed to see— “Remus,” Dumbledore said softly, “you know as well as I do that an Order member cannot just charge up to Voldemort with an axe. They must have power. . . skill. . . and a shield against such spells that the Dark Lord would use. Voldemort could possess the Order member and turn him against us.” “Then why use me?” Remus exclaimed. Dumbledore sighed. “Because he cannot possess you if Harry already is.” Remus could feel it in his soul; there truly was no other way. He suddenly thought of Sirius, his best friend in the world. He had fought so hard to help bring him back from the Veil, and now he was the one abandoning him. As he thought about it, though, he realized that there truly was no other Order member who could do what Dumbledore was asking. Ironically enough, Remus seemed perfect, and not just because of his lycanthropy. He was the odd one, the one with no family (save Sirius and Harry, who could eventually get on fine without him), no ties, no one to leave behind. He was the maverick, the homeless one, the quiet one. Surely Dumbledore had thought of this. Surely he must have recognized that. Tilting his head up, he looked at Dumbledore through pain-filled eyes. ‘Everything that I have ever done,’ Remus thought, ‘everything I have ever been, has lead up to this.’ “Well,” he said softly, trying not to let the tears in his eyes fall, “I suppose I should prepare myself, then.” *A/N- Good Lord, everlasting apologies for taking so long to update! Life’s been crazy- you know, finals and whatnot. But many thanks to all of my reviewers- I love you all!- and I hope that this update is satisfactory. Sorry if it’s bizarre. And Merry Christmas!!! (And Happy Hannukah, seeing as I’m half-Jewish… and Happy New Year… and whatever other holidays!)

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