~ Edvard Munch ~
"So let me get this straight? Every weekend I get to ditch my housemates and their pittlying prattle, prance up here and take..." Kally held up the chain for effect. "This to Remus' once I'm safely shielded from the wayward eyes of my peers in the confinement of your office, show this old moon a thing or too about what happens to grumpy old geezers who try to stun teenage girls with little wooden sticks, add a few more gray hairs to that excellent collection he's been accumulating, then sneak out of here after hours and make my way undetected back to Gryffindor Tower?"
Remus smirked, the morose thoughts of earlier gone as the corners of his mouth crept up at the edges.
"That's not quite how I would have worded, taking a port key to Remus' residence each weekend to continue your study of magic, but I must admit, yours was more amusing than anything my befuddled old mind could come up with." Dumbledore replied, reflecting his own amusement.
Kally nodded, curling her legs up onto the chair comfortably, reminding him of James' similiar habit whenever the Marauders were in the Headmasters office after a well placed prank.
Wait a second...
"Who are you calling an old moon?!" He asked abruptly, the insult finally registering.
Kally pursed her lips, as if deeply considering her answer under the Headmaster's bemused gaze.
"Someone whom I'll most decidedly be getting a howler from next week?" She queried.
His grin was becoming decidedly more pronounced. "Well at least this grumpy old geezer's enraged tones can still elicit fear in someone."
"Only when that little twig of yours is aimed at me."
"I'll have you know..." He retaliated, waving his wand threateningly at her. "That this little twig is exactly what I am trying to teach you to use! Yet somehow I find myself developing the urge to use it on you!"
"Tempting the fates am I? You do realized that not chiding you would not only take all the fun out of life, but then who would you get a chance to bicker with?"
"Ah, there is that Remus." Dumbledore concurred, just as he opened his mouth to inform her that she was skilled enough at bickering with people and didn't need his encouragement.
"Plus.." Dumbledore continued, ignoring the exasperated expression on his face. "With her chiding remarks up, the threat of several well placed jinxes should motivate her to learn shielding charms rather quickly."
"Shielding charms?" Kally asked, amazingly deciphering that garble. "You mean there are spells that can block other spells?"
Remus just nodded, and spying the expression across her features hastily added, "Not all spells though. So don't think about provoking Mr. Potter because I can assure you he knows a good many that will go right through even the best of shielding charms."
"Well doesn't that take the fun out of life." She muttered despondently.
"Look on the bright side. There's always that mission of yours to complete my head of gray hairs." He pointed out, brushing an offending lock from his eyes. "Not that there's much challenge in that...."
A devious grin crossed her features. "Well I could change my goal to something more challenging. Like making you bald, for instance."
"While I hate to interrupt this escalating mealy..." Dumbledore cut in, reminding Remus of their purpose that afternoon. "Perhaps I should point out how Kalliandra's portkey will work."
Remus shot a glance at his pupil, now rapt with attention as the headmaster explained how the ring portkey would work, a curious crease in her brow as she took it all in.
"So I just put it on, press the stone down, and a tiny needle comes out, pricks me, and it's my blood that activates the portkey?" Kally repeated, tossing the necklace that the ring would hang on between her hands.
"Precisely. The portkey is specific for you. No one else can use it. We made it that way in case any of your dorm mates accidentally picked it up..."
"It won't be leaving my neck Professor." She cut in, switching from playful to serious in the time it took him to blink.
Dumbledore nodded, humoring her. "Of course Kalliandra. However we have to plan for the possibility."
"One last question."
"It's not just concern for my dorm mates, is it?"
If Dumbledore was surprised by the abruptness of her question, it didn't show. He merely blinked under Kally's rather accusatory gaze before answering the issue she had refused to discuss until now.
"Yes and no." Dumbledore began. "We can't have anyone accidentally transporting themselves to the Lupin home."
Kally nodded curtly, making it clear she could care less about her dorm mates.
Dumbledore drew in a deep breath, softening into an almost pacifying tone. "Kalliandra... We know nothing more of the attacks than we did the night we found you."
"Have there been more?" Her voice considerably hardened.
The Headmaster sighed, removing his glasses and polishing them on the folds of his moon speckled robe, perhaps considering his phrasing.
"No. There have not." He finally replied, observing her without a trace of the apprehension Remus knew they both felt.
Kally merely blinked, repeating the outcome aloud for her own benefit. "Then it's safe to assume that it was me..."
"That they were looking for." Remus found himself supplying, hating the stoid look crossing her youthful features.
Long moments drug on, the jovial mood thickening with tension. Her calm countenance betrayed the living contradiction she embodied, as a fire of emotion stirred behind her honeyed eyes.
His previous amusement vanished, bringing back the gloomy mood of before, when he had reflected upon her most likely fate.
But somehow, as he observed her taking it all in with quiet reserve, he couldn't convince himself that the young woman beside him was dying. Because while she was in very real danger, she also had a chance.
A chance of life free from the restrictive measures of an overbearing Ministry.
A chance to live in a world free from the evils that had claimed her joy.
And a chance to reclaim the love that had once been so predominant in her young life.
A chance he would monopolize on. Because somehow he knew, they would make it work.
She might be abrasive, obstinate, and harsh, but she was also astute, resolute, and loving.
She was a fighter. That had been blatant upon their first meeting. Just after she had called Hagrid an insane lump of a man for trying to get her near a blast ended skrewt he had found roaming free in the forest.
"Remus?" Her quiet, firm voice broke through the silence. "Do you think we could leave now?"
He glanced towards Dumbledore, who was already answering.
"I think that would be wise considering the day is growing late, and young Mr. Potter will be here shortly."
Kally made a sour face, which did not last long as Dumbledore reached into his desk drawer, removing a small object that glinted in the brilliant glare of the sun still streaming through the windows.
"This..." Dumbledore commented, extending his hand. "Is your portkey."
His wrinkled fingers released it into her outstretched hand. Yet her expression remained the same, save for a fleeting flicker of recognition as her fingers clasped around it, concealing it's engravings from view.
From her own view... For Remus knew she could not bear it's presence.
"I thought it time for you to have this back." Dumbledore said, surveying her searchingly.
She roughly nodded, her closed fist falling to rest in her lap, her lower lip being bit down upon, her only sign of emotion as she unclasped the necklace, looping the ring through it.
Never once did she succumb to the undeniable urge she must have had to gaze upon it.
Instead, her eyes fixated in seeming boredom on Phineus, as if daring him to speak aloud once more.
Already once that afternoon, during a lull in Crusantheus' constant complaints, Phineus had outspokenly claimed her to be incurably insane.
And his adamant proclamation had been promptly met by a startled screech at the sudden greeting. Apparently she had grown accustomed to paintings moving, but had been loath to hear one talk.
Too bad, he thought. She had very nearly fallen backwards out of her chair at that, and if the already visible bruise on her forearm was any indication, she was going to be rather sore the next day.
But for now all was forgotten as he carefully did his best to avoid getting caught watching her.
Dumbledore knew best. He knew this. He knew it was unhealthy for her to block everything out of her life.
If she did that she would never heal. And as dog headed as she was, that meant it was up to him and Dumbledore to force it upon her delicately, piece by piece.
But that didn't mean he had to like it.
Kally's broke her gaze from where Phineus feigned sleep, her eyes falling slowly to rest upon the object she clutched so tightly, her thumb slipping habitually into the oversized adornment before the rest of her fingers wrapped around the black stone, pressing it down determinedly before vanishing from sight.
Now, perhaps.." Dumbledore said resolutely. "She can begin."
He merely nodded, somber tears in his gaze because no amount of prodding from him could heal her.
Her fingertips trailed across the smooth metal surface as she slid the adornment from her thumb, clasping it tightly within the confines of her palm. The familiar etchings worn from years of a child's tracing, their meaning lost in light of where Kally now lay, sprawled out, face down in a foreign foyer.
"Infinity..." She whispered, her face buried into the unfeeling floorboards, the lingering feel of the engraving fresh upon her fingertips. "Riley you promised me...."
Locks of her shimmering hair lay strewn messily about her head, blocking out the light of the dying candelabra, and for just a moment, as her shoulder seared with the pain of her unceremonious landing, the world was blocked out. She could see nothing, and in this she took comfort. There were no mirrors here, no reflections refuting the lies her life had become...
"Gods I'm sorry..." She murmured muted by her tangled mane of hair. Silence was her soul companion, for while it reigned she was truly alone, free and unheard from untrustworthy ears for however short a time she was afforded her precious solitude.
For the moment there was no one to bear witness to her private misery. Not here. Not now at least. Not like in the school dormitories where someone was always watching, waiting, as if expecting her sudden confession to fall as freely as the tears threatening the cringing corners of her eyes.
She squeezed her eyes and willed them to not fall.
She couldn't stay there, sprawled on the floor forever, however much she wanted to. She had long since ceased wishing for it to open and swallow her, shielding her from the world, and no amount of prayer would prevent Remus from following her there. She knew this, and yet she lay there, her body shaking with the sobs she struggled to suppress.
Long moments passed before she collected herself enough to risk opening her eyes, and her gaze followed the glittering path the necklace's chain took, traversing its way across the dark cherry wood floorboards. Somehow the long dead wood had retained it's scent, and the lingering musk of the forest was fresh in her nostrils as she breathed in deeply, her throat burning with the heat of her sobs, barely held in check.
Gods I'm stronger than this, she scolded, shame rippling through her. How Riley would cringe to see her like this. So broken... All from the reminder of a promise made to a little girl, which she now clutched so tightly in the palm of her hand, and his scent...
Years had passed, yet the memory of him was so strong, aroused by the familiar scent he so oft carried after spending the afternoon bathing in the light of the sun in the highest branches their backyard afforded.
She gingerly lifted herself from the ground, the only sign of her inner turmoil the constriction of her face as she shakily found her footing, glancing around the dim front foyer, taking in Remus' home for the first time.
Remus... How many times had he, Hagrid, and Dumbledore told her she needed to grieve? She was beginning to lose count...
Someone like her did not deserve such luxury.
She sighed, running her fingers through her damp, tear stained hair, as she watched shadows playing across the windowless, pictureless walls. How she longed to be like that again, carefree and unnoticed, free to do whatever she pleased. The flickering flame, eating away the last dregs of the candle's wick, danced in an unseen breeze, and she followed the orange hues cast about her down the hall.
She unclasped the necklace, draping it around her neck before letting it fall to rest, Riley's ring hidden just below her shirt.
It was odd, how her mind had worked the night she had awoken. Despite all the horrors she had discovered that night, her heart had lurched the most when she had found her neck bare...
Shows what a caring soul I am, she thought morosely.
Instead of shaking the feeling off, she reveled in it, acknowledging that it was better to have painful memories, than none at all. It could be worse... She could have become this monster while still too young to recall their faces, like the way Riley had looked when he had given Sean and her his tokens...
"You know...' Remus' voice broke in, startling her out of her reverie. "If I didn't know better I'd say you looked thoughtful."
How the hell... Hastily she wiped the lingering wetness from her eyes, startled by his sudden appearance. "Remus...I didn't hear you arrive." She whispered softly, fearful of her voice failing her.
"Well not all of us crash land." He replied, devoid of any humor as he came to lean against the wall across from her, silence falling as thick as the darkness encompassing them.
Her eyes fell to the floor, the seriousness of his face not lost upon her. He was the only one to treat her like an equal, to not hide what he was feeling from her. Dumbledore, Hagrid, Sprout... Everyone else was different, with their excessively hopeful glances and plastered on grins. They treated her as if she were about to break at any moment. As if she were a carefully sculpted crystal carnation, chipped to the core...
Her eyes flickered to Remus, observing him. Remus... So kind and caring, yet astute enough to know when she needed space. He was the only one who had told her not what she wanted to hear, but what she needed to hear.
The only problem was she no longer knew the difference.
"Not much of a decorator are you?" She finally whispered, shattering the unearthly silence of the hall.
His own light brown eyes, like a young saplings bark met her gaze, the dim light reflecting from them. "Well I don't exactly entertain much now do I?"
Despite herself she smiled ever so softly at the thought. "It's no wonder you don't have a girl."
"Oh so your on about that again are you?" He teased.
She breathed in deeply, grateful for the light banter and the time it gave her to collect her thoughts. "You know I don't believe I ever let up Remus..." She said lightly, her delicate hands traversing their way to her necklace nervously.
"Are you glad to have it back?" He asked abruptly, cutting to the painful point they had been dancing around awkwardly.
"You know...I don't know whether to be angry or thank you." She said truthfully, caught somewhere in between.
"How about a little of both."
She scoffed lightly, her body language conveying indifference, only the slight twitch of her mouth betraying how dangerously close to tears she truly was.
"I'm not going to say I know how you must be feeling." Remus began hesitantly. "But your unnaturally calm Kally. It's okay to..."
"Grieve." She snapped. "Yes I know... I've only heard it half a dozen times this week alone from every professor I have. And speaking of which..." She gestured angrily to her 'portkey.' "If Dumbledores had this all along, why did he wait until now to return it? It wasn't his to take in the first place Remus! He had no right..."
"I think you know the answer to that." He interjected calmly, effectively silencing her.
She wanted to scream, to cry, to do anything other than stand there, forever cursed to appear fine with the fact that Dumbledore had kept her from seeing any of her family's heirlooms. Not one photograph... Not one tournament trophy... Not even their tombstones...
Not that she felt she deserved such pleasantries. No... Not her.
She had been forcibly held at bay from their funerals. One would expect fury for that. She had been denied the ability to cry over them, yet now they all expected her to. One would expect anger at such contradiction.
On the contrary.
She understood all of that.
What she didn't understand was why he had to spring this one relic of Riley so unexpectedly on her... The very one she had treasured since her childhood. One such as her didn't deserve to have something so pure hanging around her disgraced neck...
But now, as if it were not enough that she heard their cries in her dreams, now she had to bear the symbolic weight of her sins about her neck. And she was going to be forced to never take it off for as long as she remained at Hogwarts.
Damn him. Damn him and his stupid, painstakingly, logically thought out reasons, she thought with growing anger.
But instead of screaming like she so longed to do, she drew in a deep, calming breath. The very lives she had taken had taught her to calm herself thus.
"He wants me to break down." She stated hauntingly, barely recognizing her own voice. "But he wants me to do it on his own terms, where he can keep an eye on me."
Remus didn't bat an eye. "Are you okay?"
"Does it matter?"
"You of all people should know that I don't deserve redemption Remus." She muttered, barely holding her growing anger in check as she turned with the intent of storming down the hall. To where she was not sure, but suddenly stomping around seemed like an excellent idea.
"That's where your wrong." He called after her. "I of all people know you deserve it more than most."
"Murderers don't get second chances Remus!" She whorled, all pretense of pleasantries gone. "Just a chance for revenge. If were lucky."
"Kally your many things. But you are not a murderer. You have to remember that you didn't ask for any of this."'
"That doesn't change the fact..."
"That you are perhaps even more a victim than they were. Do you really think they would have wanted you to be blaming yourself like this? You didn't choose to do this. It just happened. You were as much a victim as the rest." He stated calmly. "You almost died that day too."
"I should have." She choked out, turning to stare down the empty hall, no longer able to face him and his cajoling. But his next words were far from gentle reassurances. Instead they were spoken so dangerously that she suddenly had a very good idea of just how far his werewolf blood penetrated.
"I don't ever want to hear you say that again." He said in halting tones, anger and hurt dripping from each word, falling to the ground like a dagger in her heart. She hadn't meant to anger or hurt him. But she couldn't respond. She simply couldn't... He didn't know what it was like....
"Kally... Answer me. I don't ever want to hear that again..." His voice was closely approximating a wolf-like growl. "To survive you have to first forgive yourself. This is serious..."
She cut him off, her back pointedly to him as she remained blissfully ignorant of how his footsteps grew closer, closing the remaining feet between them.
"Do you think I care!" She hissed to the empty hall, half whispering, half yelling. "You have no idea how I feel Remus! You said it yourself! You don't know what it's like to lose everyone you...."
"Oh I don't? Have you forgotten what I told you about James? Sirius? Lily?!"
"By your own hand!" She finished, whirling to face her mentor defiantly, glaring up into his conflicted eyes. "I lived Remus! They died! If it wasn't for me..."
"Kally... They may have died regardless. You helped them along. You spared them the pain of suffering longer than they had to..."
"Malarkey Remus!" She shot out, her eyes flashing as tears welled up. She choked them back. She wasn't about to let that damn Dumbledore have his way and win. No... She wouldn't give him, Remus, or any of them the satisfaction of knowing they had made her cry.
She spun on her heel and stormed down the hall, leaving Remus in her turbulent wake as she stepped into what appeared to be a windowless family room, devoid of any personalization that would show that the house indeed, belonged to Remus. The only sign that someone actually did live there were two worn navy couches and a Muggle television.
"And what's with the no windows!" She yelled loudly, looking for an exit. "I thought you were a werewolf not a vampire!"
"You won't find one." Came a strangled voice from behind.
"The hell I won't..." She grumbled, stalking up the split levels stairs to what looked like a windowless kitchen, Remus on her heels.
"Kally there are no windows as a precaution." He said, no longer bearing any trace of anger from their row. "This is where I used to transform every month, before the Wolfsbane potion was discovered. There were no windows in case I escaped the room I had to lock myself in when I changed. I didn't want the chance of escaping and hurting...." His voice cracked, becoming even more distant. "Another..."
She stopped dead in her tracks despite her hot anger, and turned slowly in the ethereal silence that followed to find him staring dejectedly down at the blue and white speckled tile, leaning on the kitchen table with a forlorn look she never again wanted to see upon his normally smiling features.
"That’s what I've been trying to tell you Kalliandra." He choked out. "Your not the only one to have hurt someone you loved..."
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