Chapter Eighteen: Complications
The old wizard walked slowly through the halls of his school, not quite in a daze, but if one looked closely enough, a faraway look in his eyes would become evident. When addressing his students, his blue eyes still twinkled, but whenever he entered the infirmary that week, his eyes became oddly shadowed as he regarded the still figure lying on a bed in the corner. During her breaks, Minerva was often found beside the bed, upon which occasions Albus would sit beside her and offer his silent support. When she was not there or teaching she was with Harry, but even that was rare. As much as she wanted to avoid another "I hate you" episode, she couldn't bring herself to be away from Remus for long. Instead, she sought to compromise, allowing Harry into the infirmary to sit with her as long as he didn't speak too loudly.
'Harry,' he thought with a sigh. The boy was impossibly stubborn. If Albus didn't know better, he would have said the child inherited it from Minerva - of course it was more likely that the woman's stubbornness had rubbed off on him. Harry was starved for his mother's attention, that was plain to see, but Albus had no idea what to do about it. His inclusion in a visit to Remus had not ended well, with Minerva close to tears and Albus heaving Harry up out of his seat and bringing him out of the infirmary. The boy was too young to understand death, only knowing that if someone died, they never came back. Likewise, he was too young to understand the concept of dying and why this was such a scary thing. Even so, Albus was not going to give up without a fight.
As he entered the dungeon classroom, he eyes fell upon a small figure facing the wall in a corner from which timid sniffs could be heard at varying intervals. Severus sat at his desk, hunched over a blank piece of parchment that was steadily covered in his untidy scrawl as his quill scratched away. He looked up as the headmaster entered and shut the door behind him quietly. Quickly, but calmly, as if his actions would escape notice, he slid a stack of ungraded essays over the paper he had been working on and began to mark them as if that was what he had been doing the entire time. With his idle hand, he closed the notebook beside him and covered that with a stack of quizzes.
"Severus," the headmaster nodded in greeting. "How has he been?" he asked in a low voice.
"Quiet," was the soft reply, "What happened?"
Albus' reply was a slight shake of the head. "I'll be taking him now, it's nearly time for supper."
Severus nodded in reply and turned back to his papers. The headmaster walked over to the little boy and said, "Come along, Harry."
Still sniffing, the boy slid off his chair and followed the headmaster out the door with his head bowed. Taking pity on the youngster, Albus ducked into an empty classroom to have a serious chat with the boy.
"Harry," he began, sitting the boy down on a seat as he turned another to face him. Sitting down, he continued, "Do you understand why you were punished and sent out of the infirmary?"
"Because I was bad," he whispered.
"Why were you bad, Harry?" Albus asked gently. He wanted the boy to open up because he wanted to, not because he was scared not to.
The boy shrugged and remained silent.
"Harry, what's been bothering you?" the headmaster pressed in the same gentle tone. "Please, m'boy, I want you to talk to me."
Harry's nose twitched slightly in a silent show of nerves, a habit he had picked up from Minerva. Taking a different approach, Albus began again.
"Harry, you made your mother very, very sad when you said those things to her. Do you know which things I'm talking about?" Amanda had told Albus the entire story - she had been in the stands above them, keeping an eye on Harry as he tried to blow off some steam on the broomstick.
"Yes, sir," he answered in a whisper with a nod.
"Did you mean them? Do you wish Minerva wasn't your mother?"
Harry's head snapped up in alarm and he met the headmaster's sad blue eyes with his own panicked green pair. "No!" he cried, then asked in a frightened whisper, eyes never leaving Albus', "Uncle Albus, does Ma hate me now?"
"Of course not!" Albus exclaimed, "Harry, why would you think that?"
"Uncle Snape said that was her real son up there," the boy muttered.
A raised eyebrow was the headmaster's response. "Oh really?" he pressed, "And what else did he say? Did he say that your mother could only love one of you?"
"No," came the quiet reply, "He said she loved us both the same." He made a face, "But it's not true."
Pleased as he was to know that Severus had not manipulated the boy's young mind, Albus still did not completely understand exactly what Harry was feeling right now. "What do you mean?"
His face darkened. "Ma never wants to play with me anymore. She's always up with him," he spat out the last word and spoke with such dislike that Albus' eyes widened in surprise.
"Harry, your mother does love you both!" he assured the boy. Harry looked unconvinced, so he elaborated, "She never wanted to have to chose one of you boys over the other," then added sternly, "and she shouldn't have had to." As the small boy before him lowered his head, Albus softened his tone and raised a gnarled hand out to turn the boy's chin, "Harry, your mother has more than enough love in her heart for both you and Remus. You will always be her baby boy, Harry, even when you hurt her feelings."
For the next few days, Harry came with Albus to sit with Minerva in the infirmary. The headmaster quickly realized that sitting there quietly was very boring for the young boy, so he softly entertained him with stories about the young werewolf before them. Minerva listened in to those stories with a sad smile, remembering all too well the trouble her favorite one fourth of the infamous marauders had gotten himself into. He had been so full of life, so energetic and passionate.
". . . and then he and Mr. Black popped out of nowhere and turned his robes bright pink with green polka dots!" Harry giggled at the mental picture.
Minerva didn't even want to know how Albus knew so many stories about their escapades.
And so it went on, Harry's visits became more and more frequent, though he still avoided Minerva as much as possible.
It was after one of these story time visits, as Minerva was helping Harry get ready for bed, that Harry addressed her directly for the first time in a few days.
"Ma?" he questioned quietly.
"What is it, love?" she answered.
"I'm sorry I said those things to you," he whispered.
Minerva looked at him levelly and pressed, "Which things?"
"All the things," he replied, "but 'specially the 'I hate you' part." He paused briefly, and then continued seriously, "I didn't mean it."
She nodded and smiled at him, "I know, dearest, but my heart hurts so much less to hear you say that."
Harry looked up in alarm. "I made your heart hurt?" he asked in a panicky kind of voice, clearly remembering what happened the last time his mother's heart hurt.
"Yes, but it's all right now."
"I'm sorry, Ma," he said again in a very soft voice.
"You're forgiven, love."
As she tucked him into bed, he had a request.
"Ma, can you read me a story?" he asked tentatively.
"What shall it be?" she asked, settling down on the bed beside him and summoning the book title he requested. She smiled to herself as she kissed his forehead an hour later. A part of her life was back to the way it should be.
"Albus, why isn't he recovering yet?" Minerva whispered frantically as Poppy fought to keep his rising fever down.
"Minerva," he began gently, leading her a few steps away from the bed, "Poppy, Severus and I discussed his condition earlier today. By the time he got here, the poison was well into his vital systems. The potion Severus has been making has not been working properly. Every time it dispels the poison in one place, it moves to another. The potion is only slowing the poison, and minimally at that." he finished quietly.
"What do you mean?" she asked, dreading the answer before she even heard it.
"Minerva, there is a very possible chance that he will not recover."
She turned and tried to walk back to the bed, but her knees gave way almost immediately. She would have slumped straight to the ground had Albus not caught her. She pushed him away and regained her footing immediately, staring blankly at his face, searching for another explanation.
As his words finally hit her, she sank to her knees slowly and hunched over, smothering her mouth with both hands, muffling the wails wracking her slim frame. Albus knelt beside her and drew her to him, one arm hugging her shoulders tightly, the other smoothing her hair in a comforting gesture. Minerva broke down - completely. Her hoarse, nearly silent screams of pain were more disturbing than any show of sorrow Albus had ever witnessed. She clutched at his shirt and buried her face in the folds of his robes, shaking violently, her slim body heaving with quiet sobs. Wrapping his arms around her protectively, he rocked her, whispering soothingly into her hair as she continued to cry.
Poppy left them alone, stunned as Albus - even she had never seen Minerva completely break down like that. It frightened her as well as comforted her - Minerva was no longer the one who kept everything in, who dealt with her own problems and never needed anyone. There she was, clinging to a dear friend as if he were her only lifeline. Bringing herself out of her reverie, she resumed her concentration on Remus.
"Albus, what am I going to do?" Minerva whispered into his robes a while later, when she was able to form a sentence. They had remained in the same position, Minerva cradled in Albus' arms, for nearly an hour.
"We'll pull through this, Minerva," he said gently, "We have to."
"What if I can't?"
"I will help you. You know I will."
"But it's so much."
"A mother should never have to watch her son die," she whispered bitterly.
"No," Albus sighed, "No, she shouldn't."
They sat in silence for a few moments.
"Come," he said, rising to his feet and bringing her up with him, "It's been a long day. You should get some rest."
"I'm not tired," she stated firmly, taking her hand out of Albus' grip. Shaking his head at her stubbornness, he walked into Poppy's office and emerged with a small vial filled with a purple potion.
"Here," he said upon his return to her side at the foot of Remus' bed, "Drink this, it'll help with your nerves."
She took the vial without question and downed the potion. As her eyelids began to droop, she glared at him and gasped, "Liar!" before falling into a deep sleep. Albus caught her easily that time, and carried her over to an empty bed beside Remus. He brushed a strand of hair out of her face as he laid her down, his fingertips lingering on her skin for a few moments longer than necessary.
"Glad to see that batch of Dreamless Sleep Potion hasn't lost its potency," Poppy commented from behind, making him start slightly and quickly retract his hand from Minerva's cheek, "It's been in that closet for over a month now."
"It should keep for another three," he replied absently, his eyes still on Minerva's face. "Do you have a blanket for her? It gets chilly in here at night, from what I've heard."
"Yes, there's one in my office," she replied, trying not to raise her eyebrows at this latest development, "Wait here, I'll go get it."
"Poppy, what's going on?" Amanda demanded in a harsh whisper. The two witches were again seated on the terrace outside her office, this time looking into a shallow bowl filled with water. Through it, they watched a wizard and a witch, both of them in a deep slumber.
"Will you just keep quiet and watch?!"
"Sorry," Amanda said as she rolled her eyes.
Just as the impatient gray-haired witch was about to question the purpose of watching them yet again, the door to the infirmary opened to admit another wizard. Amanda's eyebrow raised a bit as he glanced around the room to make sure no one else was there and made his way to a chair between the two occupied beds. As he leaned over and gently brushed a stray strand of hair off of the witch's forehead and tucked it behind her ear, Amanda's eyes widened in disbelief.
"Look," Poppy commanded quietly, tapping on the image gently with her wand. The water rippled and changed views, zooming in on the headmaster and Minerva. As he sat down beside her bed, he took up one of her limp hands in both of his, covering it completely. He watched her sleep for a time, absently stroking the back of her hand as he did so. After a while, he turned to look out to window, still holding her hand.
"Ah, it seems as though young Mr. Fawcett and Miss Holden are out and about again this evening," he remarked quietly as a pair of figures made their way across the snow covered lawn hand in hand. He sighed and shook his head smiling slightly, "I suppose I should go bring them in now, shouldn't I?"
Rising, he gently placed her hand back down on the bed side her and touched her cheek again, whispering, "Please get through this, Minerva."
Back on the balcony, Amanda's eyes nearly popped out of her head and her jaw was hanging slackly as she watched him turn to leave. With a soundless shriek, she turned and made for the door to confront the man. Seeing the crazed look in her friend's eye, Poppy tackled her before she got two steps and covered her mouth with a firm hand as they watched his shadow leave the infirmary through the crack at the bottom of the closed door. The smaller witch squirmed and sought to dislodge the taller witch, but she was practically in a headlock. Poppy didn't release her until she was sure the headmaster was gone, and quickly cast a silencing charm on the room just before Amanda began her rant.
"I DON'T BELIEVE THIS!" she burst out, her shocked silence quickly giving way for her temper. "Her son is lying in a hospital wing waiting for death and he has the gall to come onto her while she's SLEEPING! What?" she yelled, "What do you find so amusing about this?!"
"He's falling for her," she remarked calmly, with a wistful sort of grin one would find on a love-sick teenager.
"WHAT?! That's impossible!"
"It's not impossible," Poppy snapped, her dreamy look replaced by her old calculating eyes. "It's happening. I can't believe I never saw it before."
"What are you talking about 'before' they used to be friends, just friends, just plain old platonic friends!"
"A strictly platonic relationship between a man and a woman is impossible."
"That's ridiculous, Poppy, look at me and Marcus."
Poppy shot her a look that said, 'And your point is?'
Amanda rolled her eyes again, "Poppy, we're just - no, never mind, that's not even the point, the point is - the headmaster CANNOT fall in love with Minerva."
"And why not?" Poppy asked in a tone of voice that was clearly skeptical about that last statement.
"Well, because - it's - gross!" Amanda said haltingly as she groped for the right words.
It was Poppy's turn to roll her eyes, "What are you talking about?"
"He's almost fifty years older than her!" she yelled, "He's old enough to be her grandfather!"
"It's forty and that's insane."
"No it's not!"
"Yes it is!"
"Amanda, you're impossible."
"But I won and I'm right."
"Amanda, listen to me, he's falling in love with her and I'll bet anything she's falling in love with him."
"And how did you come up with that brilliant hypothesis?"
"Remember when she got so upset at the beginning of the year?"
"Yes," Amanda said, not quite following, then she gasped, "Oh! You don't suppose-."
"That he was part of the reason? Yes I do."
"But Poppy, that's crazy!"
"I am not doing this again, just trust me on this one all right?"
The flying instructor sat down on Poppy's desk and drew her legs up beneath her, mulling over the situation and its implications.
"Fine," she said finally, "But now what do we do?"
"I'm not sure, we can't do anything, really, until. . ." she trailed off.
Amanda nodded knowingly and commented, "Well he could have at least had the decency to wait for the right time to fall in love."
"You can't choose when you do, you know."
"I know, I know." She paused. "How long do you think this has been going on?"
"How do you mean?"
"Has he been in love with her this entire time and we just never noticed, or is this a new development?"
Poppy's brow creased as she contemplated the question. "I have no idea."
"Well, now what do we do?"
"Keep it to yourself. Don't say anything to anyone. And I mean that Amanda Juveniline Hooch."
Amanda cringed at her middle name and shot back, "Yes Poppy Bougainvillea Pomfrey."
They both cringed at that.
"Our parents were on crack when they gave us our middle names."
"That was a bit before their times-."
"Oh just go with it for once, Bouggie."
"That's not funny."
"Is this going to work?" Poppy asked quietly from her place at the man's elbow.
"If I knew the answer to that, it wouldn't be called a test, now would it?" came the biting reply. Two pairs of eyes, one black, one brown, glared at each other with ill-concealed malice.
"Enough," Albus told them firmly, "Whenever you're ready, Severus."
The potions master nodded and tipped the bright cobalt potion down the still unconscious Remus' mouth. This was the fruit of his labor - his masterpiece - the ultimate healing potion. He had been working tirelessly on this potion for the last two weeks, but would never admit to having spent any extra time on something for the werewolf. Piles and stacks of conspicuous notes strewn all over his chambers, however, had given him away. Luckily, the headmaster had twinkled at him knowingly and kept that piece of information to himself, allowing everyone else to believe that the potion had mysteriously popped up.
Nothing had been working - the potion he had come up with in the beginning had proven to have only temporary healing abilities. So, as the days came closer and closer to the end of the winter term, Severus scrambled to perfect the potion and cure the insufferable man completely and for good. Two days before term ended and the students were sent home for the holidays, he had it. Even now, he couldn't remember how long he had sat there in his private study two days before, staring at a piece of parchment in disbelief, reading and rereading the results and observations of the potion that so clearly trumpeted his success.
This was his defining moment, he thought dramatically. Severus Snape had never been one for dramatics, but this occasion warranted it. He waited with bated breath as Poppy began her examination of the man's vital signs and such. He started as the man's eyebrow fluttered open slowly, and started again as Albus' hand clapped him on the shoulder.
Trying to desperately keep a giddy, satisfied smile off of his face, the potions master met the headmaster's gaze triumphantly. Albus grinned back at him and turned his attention back to the patient.
"Welcome back, Mr. Lupin," the headmaster greeted, his blue eyes twinkling happily. Poppy was beaming insanely, barely restraining herself from bouncing all over the infirmary with joy.
Remus stared at them with a puzzled look on his eyes. Pale blue eyes darted around the room, as if trying to find something familiar about the place.
"Do you know who I am, Mr. Lupin?" Poppy asked mechanically as she checked his pulse, finally calm enough to perform the necessary tests. When she received no verbal response, her head snapped up and her light brown eyes met his confused ones. "Oh, no."
She rounded on Severus, prodding him in the chest accusingly and demanding, "What did you do to him?! What happened?"
The potions master had paled slightly at Remus' reaction, or rather lack of reaction, to Poppy's initial question. Catching the livid woman's hand mid-poke, he met Remus' eyes and asked, "Do you remember anything?"
"A little," came the hoarse reply before he was overcome by a fit of dry coughs. Albus conjured a glass of water and helped him sit up to drink it.
"Can you sit up?" the headmaster asked quietly.
"I think so, sir," Remus replied weakly.
Albus arranged pillows behind him and helped him lean back as Severus began the inquiry again.
"What do you remember?" the seemingly irate potions master demanded, though he was more annoyed than anything else that his potion didn't work.
"Nothing that makes any sense," he replied in a strained voice, "What happened to me? Where am I? Who are you?"
"Severus, go find Minerva immediately," Albus commanded, "Bring her up here. I don't care if she has a class, get her up here now." Turning his attention back to the patient lying completely confused and a bit scared on the hospital bed, he told the young man, "Don't be afraid, you are with friends now. You are at a wizardring school called Hogwarts. Do you remember it at all?"
"No, sir," he replied softly.
"Do you know who you are?"
"I'm a werewolf."
"Is that all? Do you remember your name?"
Albus could see him struggling for a name, any name that was currently under lock and key in his mind.
"Moony," he replied finally.
Poppy frowned as Albus' mouth twitched into an amused grin.
"That's a good start," the headmaster said.
"Albus, what are you talking about? He's-."
"Poppy," he replied in a low voice, "it's better if he is able to remember it on his own rather than have us tell him."
"Don't be ridiculous," she snapped quietly, "His memory's shot - he needs all the help he can get."
"I don't suppose my name is Moony Lupin, is it?"
"How did you come up with Lupin?" Poppy asked, her face lighting up in hope.
"You kept calling me Mr. Lupin, mum," he replied.
"Oh," she said as her face fell.
"Sorry," he said quietly.
"Don't be sorry, this isn't your fault," she said. "Your name is Remus Lupin, you used to go to this school." She looked at him hopefully again.
"Remus Lupin," he repeated vaguely, then inwardly shrugged - the headmaster could see his frustration written all over his face.
"Remus, you said you remembered 'a little' before," the headmaster cut in, "would you mind elaborating?"
"Yes, sir, but like I said, it doesn't make any sense," he said, his voice becoming a bit stronger and his eyes loosing some of the glazed look that had been present when he awoke. He met Albus' eyes. Seeing the determination there, he sighed, "I remember a full moon, that I'm a werewolf, and-." He stopped, unsure of how to explain the other thing he remembered.
"And?" Poppy pressed. Remus got the impression that she wasn't a very patient woman, but from the back of his mind came a whisper that he should know that already.
"And I remember someone," he said, struggling for the memory just out of his reach, "but I don't remember what she looks like or what she sounds like or how I know her or anything."
He stopped and thought again, then nodded, "Yes, she."
Albus sighed and Poppy came to stand beside him.
"Well, Mr. Lupin," he said, "I am Professor Dumbledore and this is Madame Pomfrey-."
"Albus, he's a grown man," the woman cut in testily, her nerves already at the breaking point, "he's already graduated. There's no need for him to keep calling us 'Professor' and 'Madame'. Remus, I am Poppy, and this senile old man is Albus."
"I also happen to be the headmaster and in charge here," he commented dryly. Poppy's retort was cut short as the door to the infirmary burst open and Minerva careened into the room with uncharacteristic gracelessness.
"You're alive," she panted as she swept over to the bed. Ignoring the worried look shared between Poppy and Albus, she leaned down and embraced the man gently. "Remus," she whispered into his unruly tuft of hair, "Oh dear heart, I thought I'd lost you."
As she pulled away, she saw a brief trace of recognition flit across his face. "I know you," he said in awe, not really processing the fact that he remembered something this clearly.
She nodded and smiled through happy tears and brushed his hair out of his eyes.
"Yes you do," she said in reply. Severus had burst into her classroom with a look of the utmost annoyance on his face, which could only mean one thing: Remus was awake. The peeved potions master had filled her in on the details as they practically sprinted up to the infirmary.
"What's your name?" he asked softly, remembering and knowing her touch.
"Minerva," she replied, "Professor Minerva McGonagall."
Severus lurched into the infirmary, a hand pressed to a stitch in his side as he took deep breaths to settle his racing heart rate. "Bloody cat traits," he muttered. He ran with her halfway to the hospital wing, only to eat her dust after he told her the details.
"Come along, you two," Poppy said as she ushered the men out of the wing, "I think our patient has had enough excitement for now."
"Go," she commanded, and shut the door before either of them could utter another sound. As she bustled around the infirmary, collecting various potions and medicines, she grinned happily despite the situation - he was alive.
"Are you feeling tired at all?" Minerva asked, eyeing Remus for any signs of weariness.
"No, just a bit confused. . . and hungry," he admitted.
Laughing, Minerva commented, "Yes, you always used to be. One of you most famous traits was the ability to devour the entire Gryffindor table of food at Christmas."
"Minerva?" called Amanda from the doorway. "There's someone here to check up on you," she said as she nudged Harry over the threshold. Hearing Poppy storm through the room to the door, she threw a quick grin Minerva's way and ducked back out the door.
"Come over here, Harry, I want you to meet someone."
As Minerva cast about for a chair, Remus and Harry's eyes locked. Bright angry green eyes met placid, surprised blue.
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