Chapter 38 : Epilogue: November, 1981
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I let out a long, slow sigh. My word was still dark. Quiet, but not silent. No, I could hear distant footsteps and mumbled words. They sounded as if their sounds were muffled through the doors and not as if they originated from a far-off distance.
I took two more deep breaths. I didn’t really want to open my eyes. Sleep had been elusive these past three years, what with all my responsibilities since leaving school. Since Hogwarts, my duties as a Healer at St. Mungo’s, assignments for the Order, and general tasks in my personal life demanded a lot of time. Even my vacations from work hadn’t let me catch up on-
A large hand enveloped my left in a firm but gentle grip. The touch sent tingles up my arm and through my body, warming me. I hadn’t experienced that feeling in months. Years. I opened my eyes.
“Remus!” I didn’t think about the fact that I had been lying in an unfamiliar bed. I didn’t wonder how I had gotten to be a here. All I saw was Remus. My Remus. He had finally returned to my side. I sat forward. Lunged for him. I wrapped my arms around his neck Our lips crashed together.
Remus had been sitting on the bed. When I pounced on him, his right arm flung out behind him, keeping him sitting upright. He let his left hand secure itself on my waist, sending another wave of endorphins through my system.
For just a moment, it felt like we hadn’t been forced to spend the past two years, two months, and thirteen days apart from each other. His lips were so familiar against mine, molding perfectly to me. I instinctively brought one of my hands from behind his head, wrapping my fingers around the front collar of his robes. I could feel his heart pounding through his chest, matching my accelerated heart rate.
No words could describe how happy, joyful, elated I was. I wished it could last forever.
But alas, it could not. Simultaneously, Remus and I released each other. I sat back on the bed. I just gazed at him, drinking in his image. He had a few more scars on his face than I remembered, but they were only noticeable to someone looking for them (like me). But for some reason, his amber eyes were gold, a sign that he had either just gone through another full moon or that he was feeling an intense emotion. He was lacking the accompanying pale complexion that came with a transformation, so it must be the latter explanation.
Wait. Where was I anyway? Certainly not in my room or anywhere else in my flat that I rented with my Muggle friends. But now that I thought of it, this room looked familiar, like I had seen it, or a room similar, hundreds of times before.
“Um, why am I in a bed in St. Mungo’s?” I asked, looking back at Remus.
“Artemis, what’s the last thing you remember?” Remus asked seriously, the gold actually intensifying. I remembered the last time I saw his eyes that bright, it was the day before he had to leave. The two of us had been so happy at that time . . .
I jumped. Remus had moved from sitting on the left side of my bed to sitting at the edge of a chair next to the bed. His hand was on my shoulder, though I didn’t remember when he placed it there.
“Well, the last time you asked me that question, I had just finished Obliviating my memories.” I smiled at him. “Please don’t say I’ve relapsed into my idiotic teenage memory charm days.”
But Remus didn’t return the smile. “Artemis, you were brought into St. Mungo’s because you were found after a Death Eater attack in your flat. I want to know how much if it you remember.”
I gasped. Looked away. What did happen to me before I found myself in St. Mungo’s? I remembered that . . .
“Aaaahhhhh! Zach! Help! Fire, fire, fire!” I then screamed louder, hoping my cries from the kitchen could reach Zach in the living room.
Zach was at the doorway in three seconds, my wand in his hands. “What did you do?!” he yelled, pointing my wand at the stove. “Aguamenti.” Nothing happened.
“You’re a Muggle, remember?! Give me that. Aguamenti!”
Water burst from my wand, smoldering the fire before it could consume more than the stove and half of the refrigerator.
“Why do you insist on cooking when you know you’re no good at it?” Zach asked, crossing his arms. He was once again calm now that the crisis had been averted.
“Because I told myself that when we moved into this flat, I would learn how to cook!” I said. I pointed my wand at the Muggle appliances, removing the scorch marks and drying the excess water.
“That was three years ago.” Zach turned and proceeded back to the living room.
“I’m still trying!” I followed Zach to the couch, hopping over the arm to sit beside him. “I know I’m nowhere near as good of a cook as my dad was. But what I do manage not to burn is now somewhat edible.”
“Edible? If we leave you with your wand, the food tends to taste like one of your Healer potions. Just last week, your soup tasted just like unwashed socks submerged in used lemon dish soap. Honestly, how could you mess up making soup?” Zach picked up his calculus book and notes, resuming his homework. “And aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?”
I frowned, looking down at my feet. I hugged my knees close to my chest. “I can’t sleep when we’re all not home. With Randy and Nick out shopping for Halloween treats, I know I wouldn’t get myself to sleep.” I felt my heart skip a beat. “I barely get a good night’s sleep as it is.”
Zach placed his pencil to the paper, but he didn’t write anything. “Artemis, it’s not like you don’t know where he is,” he said softly. “You send each other letters every day-”
“I should be able to see him every day!” I snapped.
“Artemis, calm down!” Zach said. He dropped his books back onto the coffee table and turned to me. “Don’t do this to yourself.”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. I pressed my forehead against my trembling knees. “Yelling at you guys doesn’t solve anything. I know that. I just miss having him with me.”
I felt movement on the couch. Before I knew it, I was leaning against Zach, his arms wrapped around my shoulders. “I know Randy, Nick, and I can’t replace Remus,” he whispered into my hair. “But all three of us also love you, and we aren’t going anywhere on you. And you told us that Albus assigned Remus to covertly get secrets from the Death Eater’s side. In order to do that, he needs to maintain his image as an outcast werewolf. If someone figured that he was in a relationship with you, that would jeopardize his credibility and possibly his life.”
I nodded. I understood Remus’s mission. The arrangement seemed cruel to me, though. The two of us had to be sure we weren’t together during Order meetings. Remus sometimes met with other werewolves less fortunate than himself in order to get their impressions of Voldemort. If they knew that Remus went home to a ’normal’ living at the end of the day, no one would open up to him. They might even kill him out of spite. Each day when I received Remus’s daily letter from one of my friends in the Order, I would hope to read somewhere that his mission would be over soon.
I’ve been waiting for that news for two years. But maybe I’ll finally get something like that with tomorrow’s letter.
Zach patted me gently on the back, trying to comfort me. But I was not warmed by Zach’s embrace. No one but Remus could do that to me. I knew Zach meant well. So did Nick and Randy. One of them was always here in the flat when I got home from my job at St. Mungo’s. And one of them always stayed awake late into the night when I had an Order meeting or had to report to headquarters to heal fellow members injured during their missions. I was the most skilled Healer in the Order of the Phoenix. I did more Healing of my friends than actual missions in the past two years especially.
“Are you alright now?” Zach asked softly. His arms loosened their hold. He scooted away from me. He met my gaze. “Better?”
I nodded, though I kept my gaze on my knees.
Zach pressed his lips together and looked up to the wall. “Are you sure . . .” His voice trailed off.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine, as usual-”
“It’s not that,” Zach said slowly. “Have you ever considered, er, well, maybe you might want to, uh . . .” Zach looked down, shaking his head.
“Considered what?” Now Zach had piqued my interest. “Tell me!”
“Well, you haven’t been on a date in over two years,” Zach said. “Nick and I go out with girls practically all the time. Don’t you miss, uh, male companionship?”
I blinked. “Male companionship? I live with three blokes. Three ‘very attractive blokes’ according to Lily.” I laughed. “Besides, what poor soul would want to be seen with me in public?”
Zach shook his head. “Forget I brought that up,” he muttered. He took a deep breath. Then, with false optimism, said, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have my calculus midterm on Monday. Mental, my professor is.” He shook his head.
“Want me to help you with your studying?” I asked, leaning forward to look over his shoulder. “I got an O on my Arithmancy N.E.W.T.’s. Any other Muggle math is a cinch.”
“No, get away from my notebook!” Zach tilted his book away from me. “Unlike Randy and Nick, I know that doing my own homework helps me know it for the test. So stop trying to ‘help’ me!”
“Awe, but Zach, I want to pay you back for the many times I copied off you!”
“Artemis! Just sit back and read a book or something. I’m trying to study!”
“Fine, I’ll leave you alone. Accio muffin!” I caught my pastry and started nibbling. Maybe I could annoy Zach by just staring at him. Or annoy him with crumbs on the couch. Or annoy him by asking when Randy and Nick would get home.
Someone knocked on the door, rapping loudly.
“You get it!” I said quickly.
“But I’m working! Fine, fine.” Zach put his books back onto the coffee table. “At least with them home, you’ll be able to go to bed and I’ll be able to do some studying. If they forget their keys one more time, I have half a mind to tell them to find a room at the Leaky Cauldron for the night.”
“Hey, there’s no way I’d let them spend-”
“I know, I know. I’m allowed to complain, aren’t I?” Zack undid the locks.
“No, only I am as per Artemis Law. I thought you were my smart friend.”
“And I thought you were my smart friend.” Zach opened the door. “Mates, you know better than staying out-” Zach paused. “Who are you?”
I dropped my blueberry muffin. Looked back to the door.
“My business isn’t with you, Muggle. Avada Kedavra!”
“NO!” I screamed.
Zach fell hard to the ground, his eyes blankly staring upwards. Dead.
A witch, a Death Eater, walked into the flat. “Now then, I take it you’re Artemis Monroe?”
I didn’t answer. I ran away, into the kitchen. I just needed to buy myself an extra few seconds. Just a few seconds to-
“Expecto Patronum!” I yelled with all my might, pointing at the window.
A silvery-white owl exploded from my wand. My Patronus continued forward, shooting itself through the closed window and disappearing into the darkness outside. I hoped it would find Randy and Nick in time. I had to warn them not to come back here.
Pain shot through my body. Excruciating. My body was on fire. I couldn’t think of anything else.
And then it was gone. I gasped hard on the tiled floor. My fingers twitched, searching for my wand. Where was it?
“Looking for this, Little Goddess?”
I looked up. And there was the Death Eater, my wand in her hands. Only my friends were allowed to play with my wand.
“Oh, you want this?” The Death Eater knelt beside me, waving my wand over my head. “You want this, Little Goddess?”
I reached up, trying to take it.
“Oh no you don’t. You don’t get to take it.” She pointed her own wand at me. “Crucio!”
Pain. Everywhere. No escape. Nothing but pain.
The curse lifted. I was once again panting hard on the ground.
“Now, where were we?” the Death Eater asked. She was now holding my wand at its two ends between her first fingers and thumbs. “Oh yes, now I remember.”
She put a bit of pressure on my wand. It bent. Curved.
“Oh no, looks like I broke your wand, Little Goddess,” the Death Eater taunted me. “Oh well. You won’t be needing it anymore.”
“Argh, you evil witch!” I screamed. I shot my hand upward, pulling off her Death Eater mask.
Bellatrix Lestrange laughed down at me. “Really, you think knowing who I am will help you?” She continued to laugh.
“What do you want from me, Bellatrix?” I demanded. But I really didn’t care. My brain was buzzing. Did my Patronus reach Randy and Nick? Did they get my message before Bellatrix got to me? Would they actually listen to my instructions like they promised one year, five months, and nine days ago?
“Oh, this isn’t about you, Little Goddess,” Bellatrix said. She started pulling the unicorn hair from my broken wand. “But the Dark Lord wants to avoid anyone from seeking personal revenge for his plans this night.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
Bellatrix leaned closer to me. I could feel her chilled breath on my face. “I want to see the look in your eyes when you learn that your friends are being hunted down tonight. At this very minute, the Dark Lord is killing the Potters. I was hand-picked by the Dark Lord to take care of you and the werewolf. And the other is taking care of the last of your cute little friends from your time at school.”
“No, the Potters are safe,” I said, thinking of James, Lily, and Harry. “Voldemort will never find them! You could never even get their location from me. I’m not their Secret Keeper.”
“You dare use the Dark Lord’s name?! Crucio!”
I had fought Bellatrix before. Barely escaped. This time, I felt like I wouldn’t be so lucky. I waited for eternity to take me.
And then . . . the pain disappeared. And I was still alive. But barely.
I opened my eyes. This might be the last thing I’ll ever see.
But Bellatrix wasn’t focusing on me anymore. She was clutching her left arm, screaming as if she were now on fire. “My Lord!” she yelled. She then turned. Disapparated away, leaving my broken wand behind.
I closed my eyes. Unconsciousness overtook me.
My mind snapped back to the present. Remus was now sitting on the right side of the bed, rubbing circles into the back of my hand. He jumped slightly as I moved to sit in a better, more comfortable position.
“Bellatrix attacked me,” I said. “I was home with Zach. Bellatrix- did she really kill Zach?”
Remus looked back down to my hand. Swallowed. Nodded. “Zach was killed four days ago.”
“Four days?” I whispered. Tears welled up in my eyes. I didn’t try to hold them back. “I’ve been here for four days? Zach is really dead?” I didn’t want to ask, but I had to know the truth. “What about the Potters? Bellatrix said something about Voldemort . . .”
This time Remus bowed his head, tears falling from his eyes. They landed on the back of my hand. “James and Lily are dead,” he whispered.
“Oh my god. And Harry?”
“He’s alive,” Remus said. He now looked up. Smiled sadly. “For some reason we don’t know, Voldemort couldn’t kill baby Harry. Artemis, Voldemort is finally gone. After eleven years, he’s gone.”
“I’d rather have Lily, James, and Zach still with us,” I said. Merlin, I can’t believe I lost three of my friends all in one night. “So, when can I go home? I need to see Nick and Randy. Let them know I’m safe. Do they know where I am? They must be going mad with worrying about me after what happened with Zach. Oh Merlin, Zach.” Don’t cry, Artemis, don’t cry. Be strong. There’s a time and place for tears.
The smile was already gone from Remus’s lips by the time I finished. “Artemis, there’s more you should know about what happened the night, er, you were attacked.” He took a deep breath. Then another. And another.
“That bad?” I whispered. Now I took a deep breath. “Who- who else is- who else is dead?”
“First of all,” Remus said. I could tell he was stalling. I knew him that well. But part of me dreaded the moment when he would build up the courage to tell me. “When you were attacked, what else did Bellatrix say to you? Besides what she said about the Potters? I mean, she’s known to toy with her vict-” He stopped, his eyes widening when he realized what he was going to say.
“I know, Bellatrix is mad that way, playing with her victims,” I finished for him. I could still hear her taunts of me from the first time I ever faced her. I thought back. Back to what I felt was last night but was actually four days ago . . .
“She said Voldemort was going after the Potters,” I repeated, remembering the pompous attitude in which she revealed her master’s plan. “And then, she said she was hand-picked by him to come after me and ‘the werewolf.’ And that a third was to go after the last member of our group of friends- wait. How could she know that you’re a werewolf?”
But Remus, sitting on a chair on the right side of my bed now, had a far-away look to his eyes. He blinked himself out of it when I actually addressed him. “Artemis, I know you’d been to Order meetings. You’ve heard Albus tell us that there might be a spy in the Order, leaking information to Voldemort.”
I groaned. “If I have to listen to Black insinuate that you’re the spy one more time, just because of your special long-term mission-!”
“Artemis, wait,” Remus said. He placed a hand on my right arm. The connection warmed me. I had ached for his touch, his presence for years. Discussing the fall of Voldemort and everything I had missed was not how I envisioned our reunion . . .
“Fine,” I sighed. I looked to my right, but Remus and the chair he was on was missing. Looking around, I saw that he was once again sitting in the chair on my left side. I wish he would make up his mind on where he wants to sit, I thought. Aloud, “You were saying something about the spy?”
Remus’s eyebrows shot up. He was silent for a minute. But when I was going to ask him if he was okay, he finally got started on filling me in. “Sirius, Black, he was the spy after all. We figure now that while Voldemort went to Godric’s Hollow and Bellatrix to your flat in London, Black was ordered to go after Peter. You know, in order to ensure no other Marauders came seeking revenge.”
But my eyes widened when I heard Peter’s name. “Oh my god, is Peter . . ?”
But I had my answer before anything was said aloud. Remus’s eyes once again turned misty. He looked away from me, down to our hands with intertwined fingers. He gave my hand a gentle squeeze.
“From what I heard, it was terrible. Black cornered Peter. You know Peter was barely capable with his wand, only getting an A on his O.W.L.’s. Muggle witnesses say that Peter demanded why Black helped kill the Potters. Black then threw a curse at Peter, powerful enough to only leave behind one of his fingers.”
I closed my eyes, now returning the pressure to Remus’s hand. I’ve known that Sirius was not a big fan of Peter. I always thought Sirius just didn’t like getting slowed down by anything or anyone. Now I guess his ambitions really did belong in Slytherin, just like his mad, deranged cousin. And what hurt the most was that he was James’s best mate. He was trusted to be the Potters’ Secret Keeper. And he betrayed them. He betrayed everyone.
“Black should be locked away,” I hissed. “He was responsible for three deaths?! How could he even-?!”
“Black has already been sentenced to a life in Azkaban,” Remus said. “But there’s more. Whatever Dark curse Black used, it killed a dozen Muggles at the scene.”
“Oh god,” I whispered.
“Artemis, please, I’m not done.” Pause. “Randy, he must have known something was wrong. He was at the scene of where Black attacked Peter.” Another pause. “You know Randy. He couldn’t really accept the fact that he might be powerless against anyone with a wand.”
My fingertips turned cold.
“When the Aurors arrived, they found Randy . . .” Remus squeezes his eyes closed. “Randy was one of those twelve Muggles . . .”
I blinked. I couldn’t be hearing this right. No, my ears must be tricking me. I felt like my throat was closing up on me, the air becoming thick. Whatever Remus was trying to tell me about my best mate, it couldn’t be as bad as I was thinking. I mean, hadn’t I lost enough loved ones already?
But I couldn’t be in denial forever. “Randy? He’s dead?”
I cried. I pulled my hand out of Remus’s, curled myself into a ball, and cried. I screamed. My world was shattering more and more around me. I wrapped my arms around and squeezed my legs closer to me, as if that might help prevent anything else from going wrong. I would do anything, anything, to bring him back.
I don’t know how long I was crying. But I eventually ran out of tears. My throat felt raw from screaming. I unfolded myself, finally laying back against the bed I was in.
“What about Nick?” I whispered. I looked up at the white ceiling tiles.
I opened my eyes and looked at Remus on my left. He had once again found my hand, but he was just holding it loosely now.
“What. About. Nick?” I repeated, sharper this time. “Was Nick also killed?”
Remus shook his head. “Actually, no one’s seen him in over a week. Any remaining Death Eaters wouldn’t have any use for him, so we’re assuming that he may still be in hiding.”
I nodded. Nick was safe. My Patronus had at least reached my friends. But what had really happened with my Patronus? I thought Randy and Nick would stay together. Did they both get my message to get to safety? Did my Patronus only reach Nick? Did it only reach Randy? That could explain why Randy was at the same place as Sirius, probably only realizing too late that he had sought out the traitor that the Order knew we had in our midst. If only I had been able to reach him and Nick, to protect them myself.
“Wait.” I stopped with my train of thought, looking up to Remus. “How could no one have seen Nick in over a week? If I was just attacked four days ago, then I definitely saw him four days ago before he went Halloween shopping.”
“Artemis, there’s something you should know about why you’re here,” Remus said. “Do you remember what time it was that you woke up here?”
“Yeah, about an hour ago or so.” I looked around, but this room didn’t have a clock in it.
“What day is it today?”
“November 4th. You told me that.”
Remus shook his head. “It’s now November 7th.”
“Huh? But you said that I’d been in here for four days-”
“I did say that. Three days ago.”
“No.” I shook my head. “That’s not possible. I would know. Stop teasing me, Remus!”
But Remus frowned. “I’m not teasing you. Or trying to trick you. I’ve spoken with the Healers around here, and they don’t know what to make of it. Artemis, you’ve only been lucid for about an hour’s worth of time over the past week.”
Remus took a deep breath. He seemed to be doing that a lot recently. “I don’t know how else to say it. The Torture Curse has been known to drive people mad, breaking many people mentally. When Bellatrix attacked you, you should have . . . Well, you shouldn’t be able to talk to me.” Remus leaned forward, looking up at me. “Bellatrix has been known to torture people into insanity. No one who’s been severely attacked by the Torture Curse has ever shown signs, and hope, of being remotely sane again. Except you.”
I looked around. I thought I was in St. Mungo’s because it was standard procedure for someone to come here after an attack. But then again, no other Healer had poked their head in here to check on me. No one else had been in this room except Remus.
“So why am I different?” I asked softly. “Why am I not mindlessly staring off into space, unaware of my surroundings?”
“Most of the time, that’s exactly how you look,” Remus said. His eyes took on a golden hue around the rims once more. He reached a hand forward, brushing his fingers slowly against the side of my face. “We just don’t know what’s different with you. How can you talk with me?”
I shook my head. Remus had just reworded my own question. “I guess I’ve always been a little mental. Now that I’m mental, I’m just a little sane.” I offered a weak smile. I could barely get the ends of my lips to turn upward. I couldn’t even force a smile anymore. Too many things had happened. Too many people have been lost over the years.
Ken Lambert and Jake Tryson. December 1976. London attack. Ken was killed in the first explosion. Jake by a direct killing curse seconds later.
Rachael Kiely. June 1978. Hers, Peter’s, and my first Order mission. Rachael took a killing curse to give Peter and me a chance to Apparate to safety.
Warren Monroe and Mr. and Mrs. Potter. April 1980. A routine Muggle attack investigation lead to a terrible blood shed when the Death Eaters were still at the scene. No one survived the Fiendfyre that engulfed the Muggle home.
Kati Page. September 1980. Kidnapped and tortured to death for information relating to the Potters and her new godson. She never cracked.
Zach Burrs. October 1981. Killed by Bellatrix in our flat when the Death Eater was ordered to kill me.
James and Lily Potter. October 1981. Killed by Voldemort when he tried to kill Harry according to some prophesy.
Peter Pettigrew. November 1981. Killed by Sirius Black when that traitor was ordered to turn on one of his former friends.
Randy Sanders. November 1981. Killed by Sirius Black, most likely trying to help Peter in some way.
Sirius Black. Sentenced to a life in Azkaban Prison for killing Peter and twelve Muggles, including Randy.
Nick O’Neill. Missing. Hopefully, still alive.
Twelve loved ones dead, five within a few days of each other. One missing. One serving life in Azkaban.
Only one was still free and complete. But he still had to live with his curse. His lycanthropy.
Speaking of which, Remus looked like he was starting to look a bit more pale. His complexion was indeed a shade lighter than when we first started talking. The gold to his eyes could be caused by his upcoming transformation.
“Remus, did they bring the clothes I was in with me? Are they here?”
Remus, who was now pacing back and forth in front of my bed (I didn’t remember him getting up, so I must have ‘spaced out’ again), looked down to me. He nodded and turned to a drawer at the side of my bed. He pulled out my shirt and jeans.
Silently, I took my jeans and found the right cuff at the end of my jeans. I pulled at the fabric until it ripped. Inside was a tiny bit of parchment, rolled up to fit within the hem.
“I think I finally figured out the right mixture,” I said, keeping my eyes on the jeans. I held up the paper. “Take this to a potion maker you can trust.”
“What is this?” Remus took the paper, but also sat down on my right. I heard him unroll the scroll.
“My attempts to find a cure for your lycanthropy,” I said. “I’ve been working on it for nearly two years now. It’s not exactly the cure I was working for, but it should prevent the transformation from turning your mind from human to beast. It’s probably too late for this month, but maybe it will help you for the December full moon. You’ve said numerous times that you loath having zero recollection of those nights.”
Remus was silent for a minute. Two minutes. Longer than that.
I looked up. No one was in the room. The jeans I had had in front of me were gone. I was alone. I studied the bed sheets that now covered my lower torso.
I looked back up. Remus was once again there.
“You disappeared,” I said. “You were gone for about four or five minutes. I-” I stopped.
Remus was still pale, but he had a fresh scar on his face, just a centimeter from his left ear. The full moon must have passed.
Remus saw me staring at him. He reached up and ruffled his hair slightly, moving some of his longer strands of sandy hair over the new scar. The ruffling of hair reminded me of James. James reminded me of Lily. Lily reminded me of Ken and Jake. As I kept thinking, my mind just kept turning from friend to friend, each one either dead or a traitor.
“I’m sorry you woke up without me here,” Remus said. “I try to stay here as long as I’m allowed.”
Remus’s tone told me that he was trying to comfort me, but I just felt a pang of guilt. I could guess that I’d been in St. Mungo’s for almost two weeks at this point. Two weeks with me as a new long-term patient. Healer, reduced to patient indefinitely. And Remus, being faithful and devoted, wouldn’t want me to spend my few precious moments lucid by myself.
“How long have you been here today?” I asked softly.
Remus checked his watch. “Just four hours.”
Remus continued to talk to me, but I was having a mental battle with myself. Should I, or shouldn’t I? What was more important? My happiness, or Remus’s?
“Remus, stop,” I said. He was once again sitting on my left side.
Remus did. His mouth hung open for a few seconds before he realized that I wouldn’t speak while he was attracting flies.
“Remus, I know you mean well, but this isn’t doing you any good,” I said. I watched as his eyes took on a golden hue around the rim of his irises. I hated doing that to him. “I know you’re spending all of your time in here. And most likely, I’m as entertaining as a melting popsicle in Antarctica.”
Remus’s lips twitched upwards before returning to a downward hint.
“You know I love you. With all my heart. You’re the only one I’ve ever been with, and I don’t regret any moment of it, good or bad. And because I love you-” My voice choked up. I took a deep breath. And I looked down to my left hand.
“No,” Remus whispered.
I ignored him. With my right hand, I gently pulled at the ring around my left ring finger. And for the first time in over two years, my left hand was missing my engagement ring.
I remembered when I got the ring vividly. Remus and I had been going on a date every other night or so. However, at the end of some dates, Remus seemed to get flustered and tripped over his words, eventually signaling me to go up to my flat without an explanation to his speechlessness. But on the fifth such date, Remus finally just shoved a velvet box at me and muttered, “Open it.”
When I saw the ring, the small but nevertheless beautiful engagement ring, I simply took it out of the box, put the ring on, and said, “I was wondering what this would look like. Thanks. So, for tomorrow night, do you want to see a Muggle movie or visit an amusement park? I want to know if I should brew an anti-nauseous potion so I don’t vomit over you again.”
I had had no doubt that Remus and I would get married someday. Our seventh year in Hogwarts, our dates, and the general time spent with each other told me that. If course, Remus was always one to get worried about my reactions if he thought saying something might ruin our relationship. I reminded him that if I still loved him after the events of our sixth year in Hogwarts, I would love him until the world came to an end, and longer still.
And because I loved him, I wouldn’t let him throw his life away because I became a casualty of this war. I always encouraged Remus to get out into the world, to make something of himself and prove the popular prejudices wrong. He couldn’t life his life to the fullest if I were in the way.
Back in the present, Remus was still shaking his head back and forth. “No,” he kept whispering. I felt his eyes look up into mine. But he remained still.
I held the ring delicately between my first finger and thumb for a minute, looking at it. Looking at the ring, the last gift I personally received from my fiancé, was a lot easier than looking into those gold-rimmed orbs.
“You know I can’t marry you in my condition,” I said. “I know we promised each other that when the war was over we would be married, but I won’t have you throw your life away for someone locked up in the loony bin.”
“No, Artemis, I don’t want anyone but you! You’re the only one who would ever love someone like me.”
“I don’t believe that. You’re kind, generous, and understanding. You always looked over my oddities. I just hope the girl who really deserves this ring knows exactly how lucky she is to have you.”
“There won’t be anyone else.” It sounded like a promise to himself more than a vow to me. “There can’t be anyone else. C’mon, Artemis, you can come out of this. You have to! You’re the only one left. Of all our friends, everyone else is gone. I can’t go on without you in my life.”
Tears stung the back of my eyes, but I refused to release them. I could understand Remus’s pain. But he had to understand. He had to let me go. And I had to make him see that.
I reached forward, took Remus’s hand, and placed the engagement ring gently into his palm. “It’s time to let me go now,” I whispered.
“No, I won’t! You’ll see! You’ll stay lucid for longer, and then you’ll be back to normal, and we can get married. You don’t even have to wear the dress! You can marry me in your favorite pair of jeans if you want! Anything you want, you can have it. I promise, just don’t leave me.”
I just looked up at Remus. I committed his image to my memory, taking in every hair, every scar, every line on his worn face. Knowing that after ‘today,’ I would most likely never see it again.
“Please, just leave me,” I said softly. I then looked to my right, towards the window outside.
“No, Artemis! No, not again!” Remus’s hand took hold of each side of my face, turning it to face him. “Artemis, snap out of it! I know you’re still in there! Come out of there, please! I beg of you!”
But I kept my eyes locked and unfocused, not daring to move them in any way. I struggled to keep my breathing slow and regular. My nose started to burn as well as my eyes as I told myself not to cry. Not to cry. Not to . . .
I blinked. The room was empty. I was laying down on the bed, facing the pitch-black window.
“Remus?” I whispered. I sat up. Looked around. He wasn’t by the doorway. I stood up out of bed, my legs wobbly from the inactivity. I poked my head out of the small, private room. No one was in the darkened halls.
I returned to the bed. I noticed a calendar sitting on the counter on the right side of the bed. It was of November 1981, but the first sixteen days were crossed off. It was November 17th.
I looked from the calendar to the window. The window was now light, showing bare trees outside and a small sprinkling of snow on the windowsill. Looking back to the calendar, it was now November 18th.
The window scene changed. It was dark and gloomy, a steady rain pattering itself against the window. The storm intensified. It . . .
The storm was gone. Now it was sunny and dry. A small bird fluttered to sit in front of the window. It chirped, puffing out its feathers to keep warm against the wind. Then the bird . . .
It was dark, but the crescent moon was just barely peeking through the window, illuminating the room ever so slightly.
Every few minutes, the weather and time of day changed. Days were marked off on the calendar for me, keeping me informed on how long I had been a patient here. Three weeks. Twenty-four days. Four weeks. A month.
The calendar turned to December. The weather outside the window showed the first real snow fall. Frost covered the window on some days. Other days allowed sunlight to stream through.
December 13th. My birthday. I was now twenty-two. Next to the calendar was a note. My name was on the envelope. It was done in Remus’s handwriting. The same way that his first letter came to me so many years ago when I least expected it.
The potion works. Thank you.