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Chapter 1 : Refuge
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Beneath the table she found a man.
Luna Lovegood heard a soft crack of Apparation beneath the dusty table where she sat, and then a quiet groan. She almost lost it amidst the noise; the Shrieking Shack’s loose boards creaked and the howling wind rattled the broken windows. But she still heard another soft groan.
She slid her chair back and ducked beneath the rotting, tarnished table. It was situated in a corner against the wall on which leaned a thin, tall man in tattered robes.
Luna stared at him through the noise of the shack. She didn’t know that Bartleby ever had visitors aside from herself, especially now that he was missing an entire outer wall. The Second War had not been kind to him, since he became a place for half-bloods to hide. Luna had unceremoniously moved their bodies to an upstairs room like they were nothing more than a pile of dirty laundry. War has a way of numbing your senses.
Snowflakes blew into Luna’s tangled hair and pale lashes as she crawled from her chair. Her knees touched the cold, dusty floor and she watched the willowy man. For a moment Luna forgot that the scent of death was still on her. That the War was still raging and that she was forced to leave Harry in the final battle. The fate of the wizarding world rested in the sullied palm of the Boy Who Lived, and Luna could do nothing to help.
For a moment Luna forgot that she still bled beneath her bandages. Forgot the deep cut over her brow and how it would scar. She would carry its memory forever, lest she used a charm against it. She could have, but she thought that she wanted it as a reminder.
Like Harry has, she had thought with a twitch of her lip, because smiles were things of the past.
When she and Neville had been forced to leave Harry, the first place that came to mind was her safe haven—the Shrieking Shack. She had opened her eyes and had already Apparated. Luna was not sure where Neville had wound up, but knew that he had been bleeding badly. She had bandaged her own wounds with pieces torn from her clothing. Then she just sat in the corner and stared at the dusty walls while snowflakes relentlessly frosted her body.
She crawled closer to the man on her bloodied knees. His face was unrecognizable in the dim, snowy light. But she saw cuts across his somehow handsome features. His bee-stung lips were slightly parted. Matted hair hung over knit brows and fluttering eyelids.
Luna thought he was beautiful.
There was a groan and she waited. For a minute nothing more happened, and then the man stirred. She drew in a breath, penetrating eyes fixated. He shifted again and slowly raised his head. A drop of blood fell quickly from his temple like a tear. Its crimson tail left another mark to tarnish his visage.
The man raised his eyelids enough to see her and muttered, “Your eyes are silver.”
“Professor Lupin,” said Luna in calm realization. She had not seen him at the battle.
Lupin moved his long, trembling hands to his head. There was blood beneath his nails. He tried sit up straighter, but let out a quiet cry and pressed a hand to his side. He had nearly forgotten that a blade had managed to dig into his flesh.
The cold, metallic knife couldn’t have been as long as his littlest thumb. It shouldn’t have drained him so, but Remus guessed that it was poisoned. A Muggle had attacked him—a Muggle whose life had been spared, if he vowed allegiance to Voldemort.
When Remus glanced down, a tiny pale hand was pressed to his own.
“You’re bleeding,” said Luna, her voice a whisper.
“I often do.” Remus did not mind her hand. He did not tell her stories of the battlefield he had just Apparated from. He didn’t explain that Voldemort had set charms to cause anyone other than Harry to disappear upon arrival—so he would be alone with Voldemort and his followers. Lupin didn’t say that the last he saw of Harry, he was left alone and as far as Lupin knew, without a wand.
Though Remus had returned to the refuge of his childhood, the Shrieking Shack offered no protection against the fear that Harry was completely and utterly alone.
“I thought that I was Bartleby’s only visitor,” said Luna, and he didn’t know if she was talking to him or to herself.
Remus could already feel the poison growing like ivy in his veins. He shifted and winced. “Who is Bartleby?” he managed to grunt. Keep her calm.
Let this be.
“This house.” She looked around. “I don’t think he likes the name everybody else calls him. I think it upsets him.”
The back of Remus’s hand felt cold when she took hers away. There were deep cuts across her palm. “Why would you think that?” he asked, breath coming short. He tried not to slur his words, not to frighten her. “Why would that upset him?”
“Because I know what it’s like to be called names.”
Remus forced a glance at his hand. His blood was trickling from between his fingertips. He could taste its metallic warmth in his dry mouth. He was beginning to think that he would die there.
Luna was looking at the blood too. Lupin saw her draw a shaky breath to suffocate her oncoming sobs. “Harry will beat Voldemort,” she said resolutely, but could not tear her eyes away from his blood.
“Yes,” muttered Remus through his teeth, forgetting pain long enough to pray that Harry had somehow survived.
“His eyes are very green,” remarked Luna through her cries, and she settled down against his chest.
He felt her trembling sobs and said, “They are.”
Green like the color of decay; like death. The color of the Dark Mark.
Or the color of peace, reminded a voice he hadn’t heard in a long time—the optimistic conscience that was had been eroding away since the war began. Since Dumbledore had been murdered two years ago, since Harry had first left Hogwarts and taken on his imminent fate.
Everybody in the Order knew that the Boy Who Lived would have to die. They could only pray that Voldemort would not defeat him first.
They were silent while snowflakes dusted over their bodies; while they tried not to think of the void and anxiety that swelled deep in their chests.
There was a sudden sharp pain in Remus’s side and he clenched a fist full of the ends of Luna’s hair. She didn’t seem to notice as she rose and fell with his sharp breathing. At last Remus felt the pain slowly ebb away. The metallic taste in his mouth grew dull. With a tiny thud of his otherwise troubled heart, he thought, had he stopped bleeding?
He felt Luna get up, heard the quiet gasp; she was starting to cry again. Remus could not quite understand why. The pain was going away.
“No, it’s stopped,” he began in hushed awe, but the words never came out.
Luna watched him for a long time. Only when a cold tear ran down her dirtied face was she shaken back into reality. When she leaned over the frozen floorboards to press her lips against his, his mouth was cold and tasted like a coin. She didn’t know why she did it. The kiss was as dead as he.
“Bartleby, I hope you don’t mind let him being here, just for a while,” she said quietly as if talking to an old friend. And she was. She was speaking to the only thing that had given her some sort of refuge in this war, aside from Remus Lupin.
A/N: Amazing banner by ANSWR42. Written in response to LisaMacKay’s challenge.
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