Chapter 27 : Chapter 27: Crumbling
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No one ever really liked the prospect of coming back to school after the holidays, not wanting that taste of freedom to end and return to the working and early mornings. But it always had to be done, no matter how horrible facing it looked. It couldn’t be put off indefinitely.
But this was different. The reasons for doubts and reluctance to return to Hogwarts on many behalves this time had nothing to do with the homework or classes. It was fear. The reaction varied between parents and students when the time came for the Hogwarts students to return to the school. There were still those who remained adamant that anywhere Albus Dumbledore was would be the safest place imaginable and sent their children back with full trust in their safety. But now, it seemed, there were growing number of concerns that maybe Hogwarts wasn’t quite so safe as was taken for granted in the past. Maybe nowhere was safe, who knew? But the point was that, after the devastating attacks of December 27th, fear was gripping the wizarding nation in it’s unyielding jaws.
Inevitably, when the date of return came, there was a significant drop in the over-all mass of the student-body.
Of course, there were those who hadn’t had the chance to make the decision of going back for themselves. It was made for them by the very force now slowly poisoning the wizarding community. More than one student had lost their life in the struggles over the Christmas.
Among those who did return, however, were the Marauders and the Queens. Although it was definitely a new version of them; much more subdued and fearful than the courageous full of life ones that had left the school mere weeks ago.
The war was finally taking a grip at Hogwarts, and it had cast a vast gloom across the castle. Especially now that the Marauders seemed so out of it there was nothing to over-come the depressed feeling suffocating everyone. But they all knew if the Marauders couldn’t make a joke about something it wasn’t a matter to be taken lightly.
After being back a week, the Marauders and their girlfriends were relaxing in the eerily quiet Gryffindor common room (and it wasn’t for a lack of students; every chair was packed. Just silently). This wasn’t a strange thing lately though, for the same thing had happened every day since coming back when either James or Gabriella were in the room. A respectful distance was kept from the pair, as was always the case with those who were victim to war loss.
Everyone knew what had happened to them…or more; their families. The funeral of the Potter’s had taken place three days before the now only remaining Potter’s recommence to school, joined with that of Mrs. Pauline Frost; their neighbour and mother of Gabriella Frost. It had been a sad occasion indeed to see these two teenagers bury their family members, and hundreds had come to pay their respects. Mr. and Mrs. Potter had been highly respected members of society, famous and able Aurors who had been the reason behind many victories for the wizarding people, their daughter Lauren loved by and friend to everyone in her year at Hogwarts and even those above her, and their only son known by everyone and greatly admired by all. Now only one remained of this once incredibly family of four.
Every member of staff from St. Mungo’s who could afford to take the day off had come to say their goodbyes to their former employee and colleague. Mrs. Frost had been one of their greatest assets, as her daughter was told frequently that day; the best Healer anyone had ever seen. Those patients whom she’d saved and treated throughout her career had arrived in Godric’s Hollow on that day for the devastating occasion when the news had been released.
It amazing how many people grief can bring together.
With that heartrending day behind them now, Gabriella and James came back to Hogwarts with their friends, looking for their usual routine to block out some of the more painful memories. But even here in the castle, where they felt more at home than any other place, it couldn’t be escaped because they were constantly reminded of it every time someone looked at them with sympathy, every time they entered the common room and didn’t see Lauren grinning happily over at them, every morning when they didn’t receive a letter from their parents asking how they were.
Everything was different now. It was the price of war.
“I’m bored,” Sirius suddenly piped up from the floor, shattering the still room with his two words and dragging everyone from their private thoughts. No one had spoken in at least half an hour and before that all that was said was along the lines of “Hello, are you doing ok?” and “Did you hear of the new attacks? It’s all so horrible”. Nobody had actually attempted real conversation in days. Trust Sirius to break the trend.
“I’m serious,” he went on when no one said anything. “If we don’t do something, this constant silence is going to kill me!”
Everyone chose to ignore the irony his words offered.
“What do you want to do?” James asked from his armchair he shared with Lily, idly twisted and untwisting a strand of her hair around his finger as she lay against him. She glanced up at him curiously, hoping that the fact of hearing his voice for really the first time in days meant something. But James didn’t return her look, but continued to play with her hair and stare into the fire.
“I don’t know,” Sirius shrugged, sitting up from the floor to lean his arm on the table. “Anything but this; it’s so boring!”
“You never were able to sit still for more than ten minutes, Sirius,” Remus commented lightly from the sofa he sat on with Gabriella and Amberle, his arm wrapped affectionately around his girlfriend. He was inwardly shuddering at the impact and disgusted with himself for allowing it, but he was determined not to look weak in front of Gabriella again. She deserved better he knew…but she needed someone now. Better him than no one he reasoned with himself.
“I’m not made to sit around and do nothing!” the grey eyed Marauder complained.
“Why not read a book?” Lily suggested, turning the page of her own. Sirius gave her a look that quite plainly said “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Just a suggestion,” Lily shrugged and continued to read, cuddling close to her boyfriend while also trying to avoid putting too much pressure on his chest. He still hadn’t recovered from the spell he’d been hit with and was continuing to suffer with the pain it caused. The Healers from St. Mungo’s who looked at him hadn’t been able to tell straight away what he’d been hit with, and James refused point blank to be “treated like some guinea pig experiment”, as he put it, after the funeral. So it remained a mystery for now.
“Thanks, Evans. But I was thinking more along the lines of something…Oh, I don’t know…fun?” His voice had a hint of playful sarcasm in it and Lily gave a small smile. This was such a change to the last week, it was refreshing. Chancing a quick glance up at James’ face, she was greatly surprised and happy to see the corners of his lips twitching upwards into a tiny smile.
This was progress.
“Do you have something in mind, Padfoot?” James asked.
“Eh…I was hoping someone else would have an idea. I was just voicing that an idea was necessary,” Sirius explained. More smiles began to form on the faces of those gathered around the fire. The constant tension was having a momentary interlude at long last.
“You’re usually the great master planner, Sirius. Surely you can come up with something to amuse yourself for a little while?” Amberle asked sweetly, choosing to join the conversation. Sirius flashed a grin.
“Of course I can. I just thought maybe someone else would like the opportunity to come up with something. Thought I‘d share the spotlight with someone for a change,” he explained calmly.
“Of course you did, darling,” Amberle replied, smiling a little as she continued to move a quill over a piece of parchment. Was she drawing?
Silence fell again, but one without the usual ferocious intensity behind it. It was almost…settled. It seemed they needed this piece of almost normal behaviour to break the ice on what had happened.
It was far from over, far from healing. But maybe it was a start?
This silence didn’t last nearly as long as the previous ones before Sirius spoke up again.
“I have it!” he exclaimed, making Gabriella jump at the sudden outburst…She’d fallen back into her thoughts and was staring deeply into the fire when he’d knocked her out again.
“Really? That’s wonderful. Care to share?” Remus asked, trying to inject some enthusiasm for the sake of his friend, while rubbing his hand up and down Gabriella’s arm in comfort. She’d barely spoken since the attack…even less than James had. She wasn’t taking it at all well and that just made Remus’ insides squirm with guilt even more. How was he going to tell her now?
“We can play Quidditch!”
There was a split second when it looked like everyone was going to jump up and run down to the pitch, laughing and joking like everything was alright again, but it vanished almost instantly.
“Absolutely no way.” This came from Lily who had closed her book as soon as the suggestion had come. She’d felt James make a small move as though he was considering getting up and that’d put an end to it. Even if he wasn’t injured as bad as he was there was no way James could fly in his condition. He could barely focus on anything for more than five minutes before drifting away from everyone. How was he meant to stay in control of a broom? He’d kill himself!
“Why not?!” Sirius moaned indignantly.
A sigh could be heard coming from Amberle. “Sirius, in case it’s escaped your noticed you recently had a punctured lung and your scars are barely closed. When Madam Pomfrey said no strenuous activity for a few weeks, did you think she meant go play Quidditch all you want straight away?”
Sirius slumped back against the table he was leaning against. So it was a punctured lung…what was the big deal? He didn’t think it would impact his ability to play Quidditch. But he also didn’t think Amberle was going to relent, there was no way Lily would let James go even if he did want to and Remus would rather throw himself off a broom than leave Gabriella right now. So much for that plan…He’d have to find a different way to clear his mind, something Quidditch had always been successful at doing.
“Spoil sports,” he muttered darkly to Amberle and Lily who just shrugged. It was for their own good. “So what can we do then? Since my idea was so harshly rejected.”
“Play chess?” Lily suggested, re-opening her book. She was expecting Sirius to tell her she needed some educating on the definition of “fun activities” but, surprisingly, he looked interested.
“Cool! Who wants to play me?”
Everyone suddenly looked very busy doing their various things…which weren’t really anything. But the idea of playing a game of chess with Sirius now suddenly made playing with hair or inspecting nails a much more interesting activity. Sirius was hopelessly competitive, and once he won he’d never let you live it down for the rest of the week (despite the current events of the holidays no one doubted this might change. He already had a gleam of determination in his stone grey eyes). Usually it was James who would play, he being just as bad if not worse than his friend, but James looked like playing chess was the furthest from his top hundred things to do just now.
The last thing he’d done with his sister was play a game…he wasn’t quite ready to revisit those memories.
“No one? Oh come on, you’re all wusses!” Sirius jeered. “How about it, Moony?”
“Eh…I don’t think so, Padfoot,” he said and Sirius rolled his eyes. “You’d only beat me anyway.”
Sirius didn’t look at all fazed by this. “Too true,” he admitted, nodding his head with a small trace of his usual grin. “How about you, Evans? Or Prongs?”
The Head Girl and Boy looked at each other, both nodding once, before standing up. “Actually, I think it’s time we headed back to our rooms. It’s been a long day and we have a…a few things to get done,” Lily said, smiling apologetically at Sirius who was grumbling about her lack of fun-genes again. “Night, everyone.”
There was a chorus of goodnight wishes from the others before Lily, followed closely by James, left the common room.
“And then there were four,” Sirius groused, thoroughly disappointed.
“I think you should play with him, Amberle,” Remus suddenly said in a bright tone. “You’re the girlfriend after all. It’s one of your duties.”
“You’re his best friend,” Amberle argued.
“Not quite as high-ranking in this matter. It’s one of the sacrifices necessary.”
“That wasn’t mentioned in the contract!” she objected but stood never the less.
Sirius looked cheered, though his eyes still didn’t light up the whole way as they would have before Christmas. “We’re gonna play?”
Amberle, who’d never had much time for this game of beating a load of stone figures into rumble, shook her head and offered her hand out instead. “No, I think we’ll go for a walk.”
“What? That’s not very fun,” Sirius grumbled, not taking her outstretched hand. Amberle sighed again.
“Depends on how you look at it. But it’s this or nothing. Take it or leave it.”
Still mumbling to himself about injustice, Sirius took her hand and pulled himself to his feet. “Guess we’ll see you later, Moony. Bye, Gab.”
Gabriella looked up and gave him the saddest smile he’d ever seen and he very nearly broke down himself there and then. But no, he wouldn’t. He wasn’t going to let all this get the better of him. Sirius Black did not weep like a child every day, he coped and moved on.
Amberle rushed over and gave her friend a tight hug, whispering into her ear that everything would be ok and she’d be back soon as she squeezed her. Amberle looked at Remus, giving a pleading stare to look after her and he nodded.
“Have fun. See you both later,” he said by way of reassurance. With a nod from the couple, Sirius and Amberle left the common room through the portrait hole just as James and Lily had done minutes before.
It was getting late now and the Gryffindors were starting to make their way up to bed in dribs and drabs but Remus and Gabriella didn’t move. There was no point; neither of them were going to get any sleep anyway and Gabriella was far more relaxed in someone else’s company. She settled closer to him when her friends were gone and neither of them spoke for a few minutes. But before long the growing quiet woke Remus to the fact Gabriella was crying, her soft sobs sounding almost thunderous in his ears.
“Are you alright, Gab?” he asked, squeezing her tight. He hated to see her upset, but it was almost constant these days no matter how much she tried to pretend otherwise. He remembered seeing her something like this back in third year when her father had died but, maybe it was the fact he wasn’t involved back then, but it seemed to be worse this time. He supposed it couldn’t be easy to lose her mother only four years after her dad…and in such a brutal way as well.
He felt her head move up and down in a small nod. “Yeah. I’m fine.” Her voice was low and raw from lack of use in the ten days or more since the initial attack.
Remus gave a quiet sigh. “You don’t have to lie to me, you know. I’m here for you if you want me for anything.”
There was more silence before Gabriella raised her head enough for him to look into her tear filled gorgeous blue eyes. They melted his heart just by looking at them…and then turned that melted liquid to stone that shattered when he saw how sad they were. She tried to look confident as she stared into his face, the first time she’d made any eye contact with him in days, but she dissolved again at his overwhelming sympathetic expression.
A strange expression crossed Gabriella’s face…almost like she was fighting against her devastation with a glimmer of happiness. “You’ll always protect me,” she said very quietly so even Remus had to strain to hear her. “‘I’ll always protect you’, that’s what your present said.”
Remus felt an odd sensation of warmth quickly smothered by icy cold inside him. The gift he’d given her for Christmas; the werewolf statue. She’d still didn’t know the true reason behind it. He considered what he could do but Gabriella spoke again and all thought and argument in his head vanished.
“Did you mean it?” Her voice sounded like snow falling in winter; light and weak.
“Mean you’d always protect me? Because I want you to.”
Remus had to struggle to fight off tears himself though they had stopped coming from Gabriella’s eyes. She needed him to be with her, she trusted him, wanted him to look after her. But how could he do that when he was always lying to her? He loved her, he knew he loved her more than anyone in his entire life. There was no one in the world who meant more to him right now than Gabriella Frost, but there were many who knew the truth she didn’t. She had a right to know.
He had to tell her he could protect her from himself before he stopped the rest of the world hurting her. And he’d do it. No more worrying, no more hiding away. He loved her, he wanted to be with her, and he wasn’t going to let his secret stand between them anymore.
“I meant it, Gab. I’ve never meant anything as much in my whole life,” he said honestly, his voice constricting slightly. He was never one to express emotions very well…but, then again, he’d never had someone as special to him as Gabriella to express them to. “But there’s something I need to tell you first. It’s very important. Will you listen?”
Gabriella sat up to face him, clutching both of his hands in her own as she nodded, looking confused and slightly lost. “Of course.”
Remus took a deep breath. “There’s something you don’t know about me, something hardly anyone knows. I didn’t tell you before because…well, I thought you’d hate me or run away or something. I was scared you’d leave,” he admitted in a quiet tone.
Gabriella looked up at him, her blue eyes wide and teary. “I’d never run, Remus. I could never just leave you. I love you.”
Taking strength from this, Remus went on. “I know you always wondered where I go when I disappear every month. I never wanted to worry you, that was never my intention you have to believe that, I just couldn’t tell you before now. But there is a reason, there always has been every since I was five…when it happened.”
“What happened? Tell me, Remus.” Gabriella’s wide eyes were now glowing in fear and he squeezed her hand in his own, savouring the feeling of her warm skin against his own.
“I’m a werewolf, Gabby.”
There was nothing. Not a sound. Not a movement. Someone could have been screaming in his ear and Remus wouldn’t have noticed. He was watching Gabriella intently, trying to measure her reaction from her face but it was blank. Nothing showed there either.
Closing her eyes tight, she opened them again and stared directly into Remus’ across from her. “Yo-…You’re…What? Is this some kind of sick joke?”
Remus went cold to the bone. He felt his heart stopped beating and his blood come to a halt in it‘s flow. “N-No. It’s true. I’m a…a were-,”
“DON’T SAY IT!” Gabriella screamed suddenly, ribbing her hands from Remus’ like they’d been badly burned and backed away from the sofa as though he was something revolting that was attacking her. He stood up cautiously, gone deathly pale and took a step in her direction the close to distance. He reached forward to reassure her everything would be ok, he was still her Remus, he loved her just as much and always would.
But Gabriella didn’t give him a chance to say anything. Her eyes were black like coal, emotionless and dark…Void of the love that had set them aglow seconds before.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!” she roared like he had tried to maul her. “I CAN’T BELIEVE…YOU…STAY AWAY FROM ME YOU MONSTER!”
Remus stood here, staring helplessly at her as her face filled with the terror he’d always feared, the hatred he’d always dreaded, the expression that had haunted his nightmares for years. It all showed plainly on Gabriella’s face as she stared in horror at him…The girl he loved was looking him like the monster she‘d accused him of being.
Tears leaked uncontrollably from his eyes as he saw the panic and ultimate detest radiate from her. He looked at her, that one moment sending his heart crumbling to a million pieces that would never be repaired again.
A/N:….I can’t say anything about this. It has to be the worst thing I’ve ever done. I cried from the moment I started to write it. I think it’s so much worse than what I did in the last chapter. So feel free to scream at me all you’d like in reviews…I definitely deserve it after that. I’m so sorry!!! I have to be the worst person ever! So so so so so SO SORRY!!!
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