Unbelievably gorgeous chapter image by Violet @ TDA
Well, here it is. The
chapter. I’m so very, very nervous. I decided to keep the “revelation” to the point. No sense in drawing it out any longer, I’ve wasted 18 chapters and some 50,000 odd words building up to it. ;) So…*deep breath*…here goes.
I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, I do own all OCs mentioned herein.
Chapter Nineteen The Captain of All The Men of Death
It wasn’t until three weeks later that Hermione finally found the time to read the book Professor Fotherby had lent her. She was sitting alone in the Great Hall on a Saturday, finishing up an early lunch. Harry had just left for Quidditch practice and Ron had sulkily returned to the Tower with the twins, still bent on blaming Crookshanks for Scabbers’s sudden disappearance.
For once, Hermione was glad that they had gone. She needed a break from the boys and wanted to read in peace without having to overhear their incessant comments and queries.
Pouring herself a fresh goblet of pumpkin juice, she settled down with her book at the far end of the Gryffindor table and began to read.
“When taking into consideration hospital hauntings, one must first be prepared to examine the collective state of the patient body at each facility. Since we are dealing with sanatoriums dedicated to the treatment of tuberculosis (specifically of the mycobacterium variety) an understanding of the disease is necessary. In it’s earliest stages, tuberculosis presents itself as…”
Hermione reached blindly over the table for her goblet, hearing the doors to the Hall opened. She sighed.
Hopefully it wasn’t Ron, back already. She really didn’t think she could handle him now.
Glancing up briefly, she spotted the Patil sisters chatting excitedly. Hermione recognized their enthusiastic breathy tones.
She tried to turn her attention back to her book, but the girls were being obnoxiously loud.
“It’s just strange, anything that Madam Pomfrey can’t fix.”
“…no wonder. Ugh, St. Mungo’s.”
“Someone said dragon pox.”
“But there’s Hermione! Ask her. She’d know.”
Hermione cringed upon hearing her name. What now? She certainly wasn’t in the mood for mindless conjectures or discussing just who was snogging who. Gossip had gotten her into enough trouble already this year, what with her uncontrollable suspicions.
Nevertheless, she tilted her head back and stared at the Patil twins.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Hermione, aren’t you taking International Magic this term?” Parvati asked in her slightly Eastern-tinged accent. She dropped down on the bench beside her.
“Yes, among other things.” Hermione stuck her finger in the middle of the page, saving her place.
“You said it was International Magic, right?” Parvati poked Padma in the side.
“Well, it wasn’t precisely International Magic,” Padma huffed, tossing her long, dark braid over her shoulder. “Meg Carlisle is a teacher’s aid in that class, that’s what I meant.”
“Oh, Meg.” Hermione wanted to roll her eyes. Humph, it had been Meg’s wagging tongue that had increased her unfounded paranoia in the first place. “I know her…somewhat.”
“See!” Parvati looked thrilled. “You didn’t hear then? She collapsed in the Ravenclaw common room last night and had to be taken to St. Mungo’s. Padma was there, saw the whole thing.”
“Looked dreadful!” Padma clucked. “And we were just saying, it’s odd that Madam Pomfrey couldn’t treat her, isn’t it, Hermione? I wonder if it’s contagious. I hope not.”
“Dad says there hasn’t been a dragon pox outbreak at Hogwarts in thirty years, but imagine if we had one?”
“You shouldn’t even say that, Parvati!”
Hermione yawned and discreetly, turned back to her book. “Just because someone faints doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ill. Meg could’ve been exhausted, dehydrated. My cousin once fainted at my aunt’s wedding because she’d skipped breakfast.”
“But she certainly looked sick,” Padma interjected with a huff. “White as a bone. And she had a fever someone said. And…and the cough. Her dorm mates said she kept them up all night.”
“Sounds like the flu,” Hermione replied, idly flipping a page.
Padma frowned at her sister, obviously annoyed that Hermione had failed to take interest.
“I still think it’s dragon pox. To be safe, they ought to send us all to Hogsmeade until they’re certain.”
“Or quarantine all Ravenclaws,” Hermione suggested, hiding a grin behind her book.
The Patil sisters shared an identical look of offense. Taking the hint, they wandered away without another word.
Hermione shook her head. And Ravenclaws were supposed to be smart?
She returned her attention to her page, scanning over a few familiar sentences until she found her place again.
“In its earliest stages, tuberculosis presents itself in the form of a persistent cough followed by fever, a pronounced pallor, fatigue and weight loss.”
No, she’d read that already, hadn’t she?
Hermione skipped down a few lines.
“Those at risk for the disease include communities with poor or limited medical care. Frequent travelers to high-risk areas have also been known to contract the disease, as an untreated consumptive can infect up to fifteen people a year.”
She put down the book. There was something of odd familiarity about the passage, but she couldn’t quite place it. Perhaps Professor Fotherby would understand. She was entirely acquainted with the study of tuberculosis in relation to her articles on the hauntings of Muggle sanatoriums. And she was a world traveler.
And she coughed constantly during lectures.
And she had lost weight.
And she sweated with fever.
And she was as white as a bone.
And Meg Carlisle, who had collapsed with similar symptoms, was her teacher’s aid.
The revelation hit Hermione with such a force that she jumped up, knocking over her goblet. The few students lingering in the Hall stared at her.
With some difficulty, she forced herself to sit back down. Here we go again
, she thought with frantic amusement. I’m being so silly
Coincidences, coincidences, what did they matter?
But she was jumping to conclusions, like she had three weeks ago when she saw Fotherby sneaking into the Hospital Wing.
Sneaking into the Hospital Wing, looking for medicine!
Surely, anyone could look through a medical book and find themselves sick with every illness imaginable.
Then why was she slipping off her bench? Why was she hurrying out the Hall, leaving her book bag behind along with several nosy students? And why was she in a sudden state of panic?
Because Meg Carlisle had tuberculosis and Professor Fotherby had given it to her.
It was one of those exceedingly strange days at the end of February, when the chill thawed just so to permit one enough hope for spring. A recent dry spell had left the grounds of Hogwarts snowless and several intrepid souls had wandered out as far as the greenhouses to catch the timid hint of warmer weather.
Freddy, being an old farm girl, simply had to go out of doors. Her sober mood was just suited for the strengthening air and although it was mercilessly windy, she made her way from the castle down a near-empty path to the lake. By all means, she probably should have stayed in bed. The potion she had pilfered from Madam Pomfrey’s stash had not worked wonders, although it had masked her cough somewhat.
She was dreadfully tired and frustrated with her pensieve work. As she had reported to the curious Headmaster last night, her progress was stunted. And even though she was grateful for the loan, she promised to return the runic bowl by Monday. It was simply taking up too much space in her office, mocking her with the futility of her fervent attempts to decipher her dreams.
Freddy was not a Seer. In fact, she was far from it. Trelawney could rant and rave all she liked, it didn’t matter. As she had told Hermione Granger three weeks ago, what good was a Seer who didn’t possess the knowledge to interpret what he or she saw?
Rubbish. She was rubbish, which was nothing new, really. Freddy was used to disappointment now.
A wild wind drove small, grey clouds across the sky. She watched their shadows glide over the lake. To her surprise, she wasn’t the only one brave enough to stroll by its mucky shores. There was a man standing nearby with his back to her, the hood of his cloak thrown back to reveal brown hair with several shocking streaks of grey.
Freddy slowed her step slightly, a half-smile making her lips twitch.
Well, she’d been meaning to talk to him.
Casually, she stopped beside him and waited for him to take notice of her. A minute passed by. Lupin was looking towards the horizon, his eyes melancholy, but thoughtful.
Freddy grew impatient. She cleared her throat.
He jumped. “Oh goodness, Forbia, I did not see you there.”
“I came up rather quietly,” she admitted. “Didn’t want to scare you away.” A dry chuckle rasped in her throat. “So, how are things? I haven’t seen you around lately.”
She was trying to be civil. She ought to be, after he had practically carried her to her rooms after she had fainted.
“I’ve been busy. A student asked me for help with Patronus work.”
“Hmm, very advanced. Is it Hermione Granger?”
Lupin grinned, the worried wrinkles ceding from his face. “No. Someone else.”
“Students never ask me for help. I’m not a popular professor.” She had meant it as a joke, but Lupin seemed to see the truth engrained within.
“You’re much too hard on yourself.”
“I have to be.” Freddy shifted from one foot to the other, shivering. Hmm, perhaps the weather was not so mild as she had originally thought. However, she was still sweating a fair bit.
“Look at us,” Lupin commented, his voice trying for joviality, but not quite hitting the mark, “are we actually being polite?”
“Yes. It’s a phenomenon, I think. Perhaps we should report it to the Department of Mysteries?”
Lupin nodded with a weak laugh.
Freddy cringed. Humor had never exactly been her forte either and right now, she was just making things more awkward for both of them. Ah well, she might as well be straightforward.
“So, I just wanted to, umm, ask you about something. It’s been on my mind. I don’t know if you remember that day…when I was ill outside Dumbledore’s office and you helped me? Yeah. I was wondering, more or less, why you kept your promise. You really didn’t have to listen to me, in fact, it probably would have been smart to alert the other staff. That was a chance you took.”
“Are you trying to blackmail me now?”
Freddy’s eyes widened. Apparently Lupin was not good with humor either.
“You don’t have to answer.”
“No, I will.” Lupin shrugged his shoulders, pulling his worn cloak closer and high about his neck. “It’s simple, really. I know what it is like to keep a secret and when I saw you that day, the fear in your eyes was so akin to what I’ve felt for so many years. How could I not help you?”
Now Freddy was confused, though sense told her not to prod any further. She shut her mouth and accepted his explanation with good grace. “Well, thank you. I appreciate it.”
A moment of silence lingered long between them.
Freddy coughed quietly into her hand, her cheeks flushing. “I, ummm…”
Lupin turned to her. “Yes?”
“I…” Freddy mumbled, “You know, I just wanted to apologize for being, er, short with you. I’m not usually…well, I’ve sort of been…I’m sure you heard about Professor Quirrell. We were,” she paused and swallowed, not sure why she was divulging the darkest bits of her past to him. He was, however, a good listener, she decided, forcing herself to carry on. “We were engaged to be married, very briefly, very briefly
. It was before, you know, anything had happened with him. Of course, it was broken off when things started to go bad. People tend to assume I had something to do with the whole, uh, Stone incident. I didn’t, though. And since then, it’s been hard for me…just so very hard.”
Freddy’s voice petered out and she looked up at him nervously, anticipating his judgment.
But Lupin’s face was neutral, if not sympathetic.
“Of course it would be,” he said. “And there is no need to apologize, really. I understand. I only wish I had been aware of the situation beforehand. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so callous.”
“You’re not callous,” Freddy assured him quickly. “At least, I don’t think you are.”
Lupin made a soft noise of indifference under his breath.
Freddy watched the small waves break upon the lake’s shore.
“Sometimes,” she said, “sometimes I feel as though I’m…”
“I don’t know. I have nightmares…all the time. I wonder if I’m…being consumed, wasting away, you know?”
Lupin said nothing, but slowly, reached his hand out to touch her shoulder. And in that instant, Freddy feared that the simple gesture meant something more and she pulled away.
Lupin didn’t seem offend by her withdrawal. He discreetly dropped his hand back to his side and glanced back at the castle.
“Ah,” he said lightly. “There’s Professor McGonagall. I think she’s waving at you.”
Freddy turned around and spotted the Deputy Headmistress tramping purposefully down the path, one hand clamped on her pointed hat to keep it from being knocked off her head by the wind.
“Forbia,” she called, “I’m glad I found you. There is some sort of uproar in the village. That Mr. Lias is besides himself over the Dementors. He wants to speak with a school official. Will you go to Hogsmeade and quiet him down?”
Freddy, for once, was glad for the distraction.
“Sure,” she said and then inexplicably, she turned to Lupin. “Will you come with me?”
It was an odd day that found Professor Trelawney sitting in the staffroom, reading over the weekend edition of The Quibbler
. She wasn’t a great devotee of the paper, for the editor, Mr. Lovegood, who promoted the most suspicious and unfounded forms of magic, was rather dismissive of palmistry. Often, Trelawney had written him polite but firm letters correcting his editorials, although Mr. Lovegood never once published them.
Her Inner Eye was slumbering today, however and she knew better than to force it into a round of grueling Seeing.
She was halfway through the cover story when a worrisome pounding sounded on the staffroom door, followed by the clicking of the lock as it was subsequently thrust open.
“I’m sorry, so sorry, but is Professor Fotherby in here?” A familiar, bushy-haired third year spilled into the room, her face flushed, her chest heaving violently. “She wasn’t in her office, I didn’t know where else to try. Is she here?”
Trelawney turned in her chair, intrigued, but not shocked by Miss Granger’s entrance. Last night, she had divined an unusual visit from a student. This must be it.
“I’m afraid not, my dear,” she replied tactfully. “Is there something I might help you with?”
“Professor Trelawney?” The girl’s lips dipped down in a pained frown and she leaned upon the open door.
“Why, don’t look so disappointed.” Trelawney folded The Quibbler
in half and pushed back her chair.
“No, I…I didn’t mean…” Hermione shook her head in frustration, strands of her hair sticking to her cheeks. “It’s just….I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do know. Your aura is pulsing my dear, pulsing
! What is it? Out with it! Out!” Trelawney slapped the arm of her chair with an open palm.
Hermione jumped. “You’ll think I’m mad,” she mumbled miserably. “Maybe I am.”
But Trelawney was too curious to let the girl leave. “Come on now,” she prompted her again. “Let’s have it. Yes, perhaps you are mad. I cannot fairly judge until you tell me.”
Hermione stepped back, took a deep, unsteady breath and then let her words out in a rush. “I think Professor Fotherby is ill.”
“Ill?” Now Trelawney was standing. What was this about dear Forbia? She had been thinking of the poor girl recently, her dark, disturbing dreams of brooding buildings and bloody lungs…
For the first time in a long while, Trelawney felt a sense of shock freeze all of her limbs at once.
“I’m mad, I know it, but I just can’t help myself,” Hermione rambled on. “She has a certain set of symptoms and another student collapsed yesterday with the same symptoms and, and it’s probably a coincidence but it all fits together too well to be chance.”
Trelawney did not answer Hermione. Instead, she looked down at her hands, at the trailing lines that had carved her fortune into her flesh even before she was born.
Of course. Of course.
Dear Forbia, dear, dear Forbia. She had misinterpreted her dreams.
The dreams of the old building…a hospital.
The dreams of a failing body…her own.
It was not about Quirrell at all.
Trelawney stared at her hands and noticed that they were shaking.
“For the record, my dear,” she said slowly, “I do not think you are mad at all.”
Lupin didn’t know exactly why he had agreed to walk Fotherby down to Hogsmeade that day. It seemed like the polite thing to do, although he could not actively disguise his curiosity anymore.
There was too much of a mystery around this woman to encourage his indifference. As they approached the village, he continually ran over their previous encounters in his mind, volatile though they sometimes were.
Fotherby had spoken of secrets almost unknowingly. And she had behaved entirely strangely towards him, neither skittish of his lycanthropy nor open in acknowledging it. As it was, there were very few people Lupin knew who could deal so frankly with his condition.
But the fact was, Fotherby had never outright mentioned it at all.
Could it be possible
, he wondered, that she doesn’t know I’m a werewolf?
He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and was shocked when the sun darted from behind a cloud, rendering her face wretchedly pale and drawn.
No, Fotherby wasn’t a malicious person. She couldn’t be. Someone who had loved and lost and been betrayed such as she could be no stranger to suffering.
And it was then that he remembered. Fotherby had not been at the start of the term staff meeting, when Dumbledore had made the nature of Lupin’s condition clear to the other teachers.
know, which meant she hadn’t insulted him that day outside the staffroom.
Lupin felt a strange mixture of relief and pity. He was relieved to discover that he did not have another enemy, but sorrowful for some unknown, unsettling reason.
The air, he decided, was vaguely tremulous that afternoon.
They passed the first of the houses clustered along the high street, including The Three Broomsticks and the Shrieking Shack.
Seeing the old, crumbling place of his early torment inspired Lupin somehow and he turned to face Fotherby fully.
“I’m a werewolf,” he said.
She stopped and stared at him, dark smudges making her eyes appear large and round. “Pardon?”
“I’m a werewolf. Dumbledore informed the rest of the staff during the start of the term meeting, but you weren’t there. We spoke of secrets and promises, now you know mine, now you know why I helped you that day.”
Her mouth formed a tiny ‘o’. “I suppose that explains a lot. I won’t lie and say that I’m not surprised, but…” She trailed off, shrugging.
Lupin was aghast. “It doesn’t bother you?”
Another shrug from her thin shoulders. “Not really. I appreciate your honesty more than anything, it’s more than he
would have done, anyway.”
Quirrell, she was talking of Quirrell again. And Trelawney had predicted that he would be better for her than his successor.
Some commotion in the center of Hogsmeade distracted him. Lupin glanced over his shoulder, squinting his eyes. Mr. Lias, Madam Rosemerta and the shop keeper of Gladrags Wizardwear were all engaged in a rather animated discussion. Several other business owners hovered on the fringe of the uproar, gazing with frustration up at the turrets of Hogwarts.
An angry mob
, he thought wryly. Perfect.
As it was, poor Forbia didn’t seem in any condition to deal with the disturbance, as McGonagall had hoped. Lupin knew he would have to help her.
Stepping forward, he approached the crowd with a calm smile.
Fotherby did not follow him.
She saw it in the owl office window. The poster, the same poster the two Ravenclaw girls had paraded around Hogwarts at Christmas, asking for donations.
The printing stood out with terrifying clarity.
SUPPORT THE YORKSHIRE WIZARDING SANATORIUM FOR CONSUMPTIVES
The sanatorium itself was made from imposing red brick, roughened by age and rain. Beneath the front entrance, the submerged first floor was altogether hidden behind a subterranean courtyard, strictly guarded by wrought iron bars. A squat, unattractive staircase led up to the entrance and the wooden double doors were scarred with heathenish graffiti. Inside, the wide main hall wound past a desk, a piece of abused cherry confiscated from an old school and burdened with blank day passes.
There was a picture beneath the lettering, a young healer, smiling, waving, pristine in a white coat.
And Freddy loved his smile, because he was so devilishly handsome. Brown eyes. Warm, smooth skin. A square, sculpted jaw.
She loved him because he was the only man who wasn’t afraid to come near her now.
He welcomed her into the examining room and made her hop up onto the table. The nurse listened to her heart with a stethoscope.
“I’m sorry, dear,” he said. “But you have a pleural effusion. We have a procedure for it, though, quite like pneumothorax. If you’ll just lie on your side, I can drain some of the fluid.”
And he took a needle out of the cabinet. “I can help you,” he said, “if you’ll just let me.”
Consumption. Tuberculosis. An inner wasting. What she had, what her body had tried to tell her. Coughing, coughing, coughing.
And the wind keening like a wolf.
She bent over, a sudden warmth in her mouth and in opening her lips, there was blood.
So much blood.
It spilled down her robes, into her hands. It came with every cough, with every throb of her infected lungs.
Because Freddy had tuberculosis. Because it hadn’t been Quirrell haunting her after all, but the captain of all men of death.
And she hadn’t been able to See it.
Vaguely, she heard Lupin calling out to her as crimson melded into darkness.
And there you have it. Freddy has tuberculosis (or, as I prefer, consumption). I’ve been planning this from chapter one, although I don’t know if you readers will be shocked by it or not. ^_^
The phrase “the captain of all the men of death” is an infamous pseudonym for consumption penned by John Bunyan when he wrote, “the captain of all these men of death that came against him to take him away was the consumption, for it was that that brought him down to the grave.”
I would like to thank everyone who has stuck with this story so far, including my beta, Renfair. I do hope this revelation wasn’t disappointing. If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. I would especially love to hear your thoughts on this chapter.
There will be a total of twenty-three chapters in this fic. Chapter Twenty has already been written and will be posted no later than July 13th. Take care!