"My head's making choices that my heart just cannot take" - The Coronas, The Talk.
How could you have been so selfish? said the voice inside his head, the voice that had been keeping him awake every night since Dora had told him the ‘good news’. You’ve cursed the child, don’t you dare deny it. It will be like you, and not only will you have doomed it, but it will hate you for it.
Remus could not switch off his brain; it was too flooded with worries and anxieties. Sleep simply refused to take him. He had been tossing and turning all night. His thoughts and the guilt they conjured were consuming him, gnawing away at his mind and making a fierce assault on his conscience. No matter what position he lay in, he could hear his heart thundering in his chest. The sound unnerved him. The beatings were fast and frantic, as though pulsing the same words rhythmically: my fault, my fault, my fault, my fault, my fault.
He had doomed his wife and his child.
He turned his pillow over, hoping that by lying on the cooler side, sleep would find him. He could hear Dora’s gentle breathing. She was fast asleep beside him; her dreams untroubled, her conscience clear. She was so naive, so young. She didn’t understand. He had tried to explain, but she wouldn’t listen. She just couldn't comprehend the extent of the damage he had done nor did she want to. She just stubbornly insisted that she didn’t care about his condition, that it didn’t matter. She was wrong, but she couldn’t see it. She persistently assured him over and over that the child would be fine, that the curse could only be transferred upon being bitten by a werewolf. But she had no way of knowing for sure. Werewolves don’t usually breed. Their case was unique.
He had doomed the child, he knew it and the child would hate him for it, hate him with every fibre of its being. The child was innocent. It had done nothing wrong. It had done nothing to deserve the fate in store for it. He had cursed it, doomed it and dragged it down into his own dark world of pain, fear and terror. There would be no escape. No respite. No light in the dark.
He rolled over, facing Dora as they lay side by side in bed. He looked at her. She was so calm and so peaceful. Her hair was vivid pink and her expression so relaxed. He remembered how Yaxley and Rabastin had tortured her at the wedding. None of the others had been tortured, only he, Remus, because he wasn’t human, and Dora, because she had married him. He thought of Bellatrix and how hard she had tried to kill Dora not a week ago as they battled to get Harry safely out of his aunt and uncle’s house. She wanted Dora as badly as she wanted Harry, all because Dora had married him, Remus Lupin, a werewolf. By marrying her, he had effectively signed Dora’s death warrant. He had marked her for death and it wouldn’t be quick and clean either. Bellatrix would torture Dora first. Dora would suffer and then she would die and it would be his fault, all his fault.
And the child, if they discovered the existence of the child they would surely slaughter it. The new regime was already trying to liquidate Muggle-borns, imagine what they would do to a child that was actually born a werewolf. He had given life to a baby that would either die before it had a chance to live or would live a cursed life, being forced to transform at every full-moon. He didn’t know which fate was worse. He had doomed the child, make no mistake about it. How could he have been so reckless?
And if, by some merciful miracle the child was not a werewolf, what would happen then? It would still be hunted down and treated like vermin for having a werewolf father. It would be doomed to live a life of poverty, shame and exile. It would surely grow to hate him, to wish he never existed, to wish it had any other father in the world but him.
Remus threw back the covers and got out of bed. He instantly began pacing up and down the room; the floor-boards moaning in protest as he stepped upon them. He couldn’t stand being in his own company anymore. He couldn’t stand being himself, being Remus Lupin. Everything inside him was screaming, and he just wanted to rip everything inside him out, so he could think, so he could sleep, so he could feel something that wasn’t fear, anxiety or guilt. He didn’t know what do to. He didn’t know how to fix his family. He could fathom no solution to the mess he had thrown them all in. Everything was his fault and there was no way he could pull Dora out of the dark abyss he had dragged her down into.
You could leave, said a voice inside his head, they would be much safer without you.
Remus turned and looked at Dora, sleeping soundly in the bed he had just vacated. Did he have the strength to leave her? Did he possess the will to abandon the last good thing in his life? Then again, was he being selfish staying? Was he putting his own happiness above his family’s safety and well-being?
He did not know the answer to any of these questions. He did not know what to do.
The thought of actually leaving frightened him. He wondered if the child would be safer if he did go. No one knew about the baby yet, aside from Dora’s parents and the Weasleys. If he left, then Dora could pass the child’s father off as someone else and, provided it had not inherited his condition, it would live a normal life, free from the shame of having him as a father. But what if the other case was true? What if it was like him? What if it was a werewolf? Then, as cowardly as it sounded, at least he wouldn’t be around for the child to turn on him and hate him. He had suffered too much in life to have to endure that, the horror of his own innocent child turning into a monster and then between full-moons turning on him as he was the one that had cursed it in the first place.
And Dora, what about Dora? If he left would she be okay? She would miss him surely and she would be hurt, very hurt. She would hate him, absolutely loath him for leaving. But some pain now would be better, far better, than the horrible torture she would receive if Bellatrix caught her, or if they had to watch their child die before their eyes under the new regime, or worse still if they had to witness their child become a monster, then turn on them, blaming them for its fate worse than death. A bit of pain now would surely be better than the pain that would come if he stayed. Yes, he would hurt Dora today, but with time the wound his departure caused would heal, the pain would ease and she would get over it and find someone else, someone far better; someone younger, someone whole and someone who had at least two galleons to rub together. Dora would be hurt now, but would be saved from a worse pain later on. Maybe she would even live a better life afterwards, one that did not have him and his dark world in it. A bit of pain now was surely worth it in the long run. Right?
But what about you? piped up a small voice that seemed to come from his heart more than his head. Wouldyou be able to survive without her?
Remus didn’t care about what happened to himself. He didn’t care at all. He didn’t care if he had to suffer a pain beyond endurance, and make no mistake about it, leaving Dora would be akin to being subjected to the Cruciatus Curse until he lost his mind. He knew full well that if he left Dora, he would be alone again, alone like he was in the twelve years that had elapsed between the deaths of James and Lily and Sirius’s escape from Azkaban. But that dreadful despairing loneliness would be worse this time, much worse, because if he left Dora now, he would be truly alone this time, as he had no Mad-Eye to visit him every Tuesday evening like clockwork, no Dumbledore to drop by over the school holidays, no Sirius to write to him as he had done after he escaped from prison. No, if Remus left now, he would be alone completely and absolutely. He would return to poverty, darkness and depression. If he did leave Dora he would have no reason to get out bed in the morning, no reason to struggle through a life that really was not worth living, no reason to continue to subject himself to exile in the hope that maybe, one day, he would be welcomed into society as an equal. If he didn’t have Dora, he would most certainly just surrender himself to death and the freedom that would give him. At least he would see Sirius again, and James. He had no friends left anymore, they were all lost to death, Dora was all he had in the world.
There’s Harry, said a voice inside his head. You’ve got Harry.
That was certainly true. He had Harry. He had Harry and Dora and that was it. But Harry was off on his mission for Dumbledore, the one that none of them knew the details of. Harry would surely need help; he, Ron and Hermione were just kids and they would be facing magic more powerful than anything they had ever imagined. They would need his help surely. He could protect Harry, keep him safe. Certainly that was what James and Sirius would have wanted, they would have wanted him to watch over Harry and protect him as he fought against Voldemort. Remus loved Harry, and had done since the boy was born. He didn’t want Harry to die. He remembered how they had all been interrogated about Harry’s whereabouts for hours after the wedding. Voldemort would tear the whole country apart looking for him. There would be hundreds of Death Eaters, monsters and Snatchers on his tail. Harry couldn’t take them all on by himself. He was just one kid, one kid out there battling against a wizard that had brought the whole world to its knees. Harry would need help, he would need Remus. And, if he left Dora to go help Harry then not only would he be protecting the boy, but he would also be working to bring Voldemort down, working to ensure that Dora and her child could live a happier life in a much safer world.
He was beginning to feel afraid because the idea of leaving was starting to make sense and that scared him. If he left, it would be best for everyone, best for Dora, best for the child, best for Harry and even best for Dora’s parents as they would be free from the shame of having their only daughter marry a werewolf. If he left now it would be best for everyone, it would be for the greater good. Leaving seemed like the solution, the way to fix everything, but leaving was a prospect that scared him more than he cared to admit.
But would leaving be the best for you? asked his heart, the part of him that was desperate for him to stay where he was. Can you live a life without her in it?
Remus stopped pacing, turned and faced the bed. He looked at Dora sleeping peacefully in the darkness. Dora, his wife, the reason he got out of bed in the morning, the reason he was standing there now, breathing. Death had governed his life as surely as it had governed Harry’s, but Dora had pulled him out of that dark space and had shown him that in a world dominated by death and darkness and lost friends, there was still life, still something to keep fighting for, to keep alive for.
He continued to look at Dora for a long time, wondering if he had the strength to stop looking and the conviction to continue to never look at her again.
Stay or go? Stay or go? Doom them all or give them some small chance at a better life? Be selfish or be selfless? Put your happiness first or hers? Stay or go? Stay or go?
Remus seized fist-full’s of his own hair, in a vain attempt to pull his thoughts out of his brain. He did not know what he wanted to do. His head was screaming at him to go, but his heart was pleading with him to stay. He knew that going was the right thing, for everyone, but he did not know if it was what he wanted to do. If he left he would be hurting Dora and himself, but it would be for the greater good. But if leaving was the right thing, if leaving made sense, then why on earth did it scare him so much?
It scares you because it's the right thing, said the voice inside his head, it scares you because you know you have no other choice, because you know it's for the best.
Remus looked at Dora again. Her chest was rising slowly up and down under the bedcovers. Her hand was tucked up under her pillow, clutching her wand so that she could retrieve it instantly if necessary. Remus almost laughed, in spite of himself. He just knew that old Mad-Eye would have been so proud to know that his young protégé had taken his slightly paranoid teachings to heart. Remus just stood there staring at Dora, with her heart-shaped face and pink hair, and he knew that he could stand there and look at her forever and that would be enough.
How could he tell her he was leaving? How could he deliver that cruel blow? He could just leave a note, but that was so cowardly. But then again, he did not think he had the strength to say the words that would hurt her most, say that words that would break her heart mere weeks after she thought she finally had it mended. He did not know if he could stand watching the happy smile fade off her face and her vivid hair turn limp and brown, all the time knowing it was his doing, his fault.
Slowly, very slowly, Remus opened the drawer of his bedside locker and removed parchment and quill from its depths. He stared at the blank page. It was cream-coloured and pristine and he was about to dirty it with painful words and flimsy excuses. Remus lay the parchment down, then took a pair of robes from the old wardrobe and put them on a little haphazardly. He was hoping that the longer he took dressing the greater the odds were that when he looked back at the parchment the right words would flow from his head to his quill, or better still, that some divine creature would take pity on him and write the letter for him. Groping in the darkness, he pulled on shoes and socks, his mind frustratingly full of nothing but overused clichés and silly platitudes, words that had been written so many times over that they had lost all meaning. He took his wand from his bedside locker and pocketed it, along with his nearly empty money bag. Finally, he looked at Dora, still lying peacefully in bed, blissfully sleep. Then, he looked at the empty page in front of him.
He had put it off for long enough, it was time to write.
The quill felt strangely alien in his hand, as though it knew what he was about to do and decided that it wasn’t going to cooperate, that it wasn’t going to have a hand in the desertion he was about to embark on. With an oddly stiff movement he wrote the word Dora at the top of the parchment. His hand-writing looked forced and strained, with its harsh, straight lines and pointed lettering. The name Dora should never be written like that.
He stared at the parchment for a moment that stretched on and on. The blank page just stared back at him, endless and daunting; its very blankness infecting his brain, wiping it of all coherent thought and of all the words he wanted to say. How could he write a note with the knowledge that every word he wrote would be like a stab in the heart, not only to himself, but to his wife? All that floated around in his head were platitudes: it’s the best thing for everyone, it’s because I care that I have to go, I love you, and always will, I just want to keep you safe. These stupid sentences angered him. Words were pointless. Words were empty. Words could not express what he wanted to say. Words were useless, utterly useless, all they would do was cause Dora more pain. The pain of his departure would be enough. He was not going to add to it by forcing a quill to taint this piece of parchment enclosing her name with platitudes and banalities and cringe-worthy sentences that would always fail to express what he really wanted them to.
Sighing deeply, Remus looked at Dora’s name, etched onto the parchment, written with such force that it looked violent, almost indecent. Then underneath it he wrote three words, the only words that made sense to him, the only words that did not seem false or fake or empty: I love you.
Remus left the parchment on his pillow. He turned to the door, he knew he had to leave now, before he changed his mind, before he became selfish again, before his own fear betrayed him, and before he lost his nerve. He did not trust himself to look back, to take one last glance at her, one that he could lock away forever, one that he could carry with him, one that he could revisit when he needed reminding that there still was light in this dark world.
He walked towards the door, his footsteps echoing in the chilly silence that had rushed into the room as though wanting to fill the void he was about to leave behind. His fingers enclosed around the handle. It was shockingly cold. It felt like ice. He was about to pull it open. He knew he had to leave now, before his selfish heart over-powered his rational head. So with blood pounding in his ears, Remus pulled the door open. His heart was hammering so violently now that it was almost as though it wanted to escape from his chest and just stay with Dora forever. A cold draft swirled around the room, entering via the open door. Remus still hadn’t moved. He could not step out of the room. He did not have the strength to leave.
“Remus?” Dora called anxiously into the darkness.
He felt as if someone had just punched him in the stomach. The sound of her voice calling his name, as though calling to him across a vast, distant ocean seemed to fill his heart with grief.
Dora turned on the bedside lamp on with a flick of her wand. The light blinded Remus. He turned his back on his wife and faced the cold, empty vastness of the landing outside. He blinked furiously, the image of her sitting in his old, poorly furnished bedroom imprinted permanently onto his retinas as though burnt there by red-hot pokers.
“What’s up?” Dora asked, her voice slightly sharp, as though she were scared. She got out of bed and half-ran towards him. He could hear the soft slap-slap of her bare feet against the old, creaking floor-boards. Then she knocked into the leg of the bed and stumbled. He smiled; he loved that she was clumsy, her trips and near-falls took the seriousness out of a very serious world, if only for an instant. Remus needed that. He needed that small reminder every now and then that things were not yet gone beyond the point where a stumble or a stubbed toe can make a room of very serious, very grave people just burst out laughing. Laughter had not yet died, it was alive still, even at times when they all thought it was gone. But the smile that crept across his face almost instantly turned into a grimace as he realised that he was never to see her accidently break a plate or trip over an old troll-leg umbrella stand ever again.
Dora suddenly took his hand in hers. He jumped, caught off guard. He did not want to let go of her hand, but knew he must. His heart sinking, he severed the connection between their hands and moved forward several paces.
“Remus, what’s up?” Dora asked, her voice both confused and anxious.
Remus looked around the old bedroom of his parents’ house, now his. The floor-boards groaned under the slightest pressure. The bed springs moaned. The wardrobe was battered and the left door always fell off its hinges. There were holes in the curtains. The bed-covers were tread-bare. Dora deserved so much more. She deserved miles better than what he could give her.
He took a deep breath and clenched his fists as though to strengthen his resolve. He tried to steady his thundering heartbeat by taking slow calculating breaths, but it was useless. He could not look at Dora. He did not want to see the hurt on her face when he said what he was going to say next. He had to go. He had to leave, right now.
You can’t do this, his heart said, she will hate you and you won’t be able to stand it. She will think you are the most selfish person in the world.
You have to do this, you have to, it’s the best thing, for both of you, said the voice inside his head.
In the corner of his eye, he saw Dora look from him to the open door and back again, as though trying to decipher some strange code. Slowly, very slowly, her brain was picking apart the scene and putting it back together again so as to display what was really going on.
“I have to go, Dora,” Remus said miserably.
“Go?” Dora repeated, completely bewildered. “Go where?”
Sometimes you have to put your own happiness first, sometimes you just have to leave things up to fate, you don’t have to be making what you think are noble and selfless choices all the time, said his heart fiercely.
You can’t leave it up to fate, you control your own destiny and Dora’s and the child’s. You have to leave. You have to go, said his head in response.
“I have to go and help Harry,” Remus said, his voice sounding like one you get from a poorly tuned radio. “He needs me.”
“What’s going on? What's happened?” Dora asked, fear replacing the worry that had filled her voice seconds before.
“Nothing,” Remus said, his voice blunt and forceful.
“Then why are you...” Dora began, her voice trailed off as her head figured out what her heart had known for many minutes now.
All the blood began to drain from her face. “I've told you a hundred times that I don’t care that you’re a werewolf!” she said, as though hoping the old argument might work this time, even after so many failed tries.
“I care,” Remus said. A knot was forming in his throat now, constricting his windpipe, strangling him right on the spot.
“If you do care then you won’t walk out that door,” Dora said defiantly.
It was the final test. She was offering him a way back, a way to stop all the madness before the pain of it all set in and crushed the pair of them.
“It's because I care that I have to go,” Remus said, each utterance felt like he was being repeatedly hit with a knock-back jinx over and over.
“Care for Harry now or for me?” Dora asked, her voice cold.
“For both of you,” Remus said.
Dora stared at him, her expression caught between agony and anger. “And how exactly, now, does running away show you care?” her voice savage and sarcastic.
“Don’t you see?” shouted Remus, grabbing his own hair and gesturing madly around the room. “You’re an outcast Dora, the whole world sees you as nothing more than a slug; something inferior, ugly and disgusting, all because you’ve married me! Your own parents are even disgusted! Bellatrix wants to murder you! And the Ministry will hunt down the child as soon as its born! Don’t you see what I’ve done to you?”
“You’ve made me happy,” Dora said, her expression full of a horrible kind of hurt.
The words washed over him. All he felt was an agonising kind of crumbling, as though all his courage, all his resolve had just been brought down. Everything was breaking; his heart, his head, his soul. He found that he had nothing left, absolutely nothing left inside him anymore.
“Stop it!” Remus snapped angrily. “Stop trying to change my mind! Just stop right now! Don’t you think I don’t know how hard this is? Don’t you think I don’t know how much this hurts? This is killing me too!”
“If it’s killing you, Remus, why are you leaving?” Dora asked completely confused. Her eyes were full of tears.
The guilt over what he had done to his family and the fear of what could happen to them if he stayed assaulted his soul, growing stronger with each passing second. He had to go. It was the only way, the only way to keep her and the child safe. Leaving was the right thing; the only solution available to them.
“Because it’s the only way I can save you,” Remus said, his voice quiet, as though all emotion had been drained from his body, sucked out by that one sentence, by that one irreversible truth.
A single tear had broken ranks and started to trickle down Dora’s cheek. She moved towards him, her eyes pleading with him, begging with him not to go. He found himself stepping back. It was the first conscious movements his legs had made since the conversation began. Dora's expression instantly changed.
“I'm an Auror, I don’t need saving,” she replied rather harshly.
Remus had no reply to this. She just didn't understand. She could never understand.
“Look," Dora began, her voice was full of calm seriousness which seemed to beg him to reconsider his departure. "I know things haven’t been exactly easy and I know you’re scared - Merlin, I'm scared, but it'll be okay, as long as we've got each other's backs, everything'll be okay.”
GO NOW! shouted the voice of reason in his head. It’s the right thing. I promise it’s the right thing.
Listen to her, please, implored his heart, stay, don’t go, you’ll regret it if you do.
His whole body shaking, Remus stepped out of the room and began walking down the stairs. He could hear Dora running after him. She smashed into the banister, but barely seemed to notice, instead she continued forward as though convinced that if she reached him before he made it to the door then everything would be alright. She started screaming his name, screaming it as though her life depended on it. Remus’s hand was suddenly on his wand. Then the door was open and he was outside. The night air engulfed him and the wind began its attack on his body, as though trying to force him back into the house, back into Dora’s warm embrace.
Keep going, keep going, his head urged him.
If he stayed, he would doom them all. If he stayed, they would all die and it would be his fault. Fear, guilt and anxiety swelled in his chest, strangling his soul, choking his heart, growing ever more powerful as each second collided into the next.
“Remus!” Dora yelled from behind, reaching the front door which he had left open. The sound of her anguished voice pressed down upon him, causing his very soul to crumple into the slushy remnants of some poorly made potion. His soul felt as though it had left his body, like it was just pouring out onto the ground beneath him, glossy and dead.
You fool! You fool! moaned his heart. Go back! Please go back!
He wanted nothing more than for her to mop him up and gather him together as he was, but she could not, because he had left her, because he had traded his own happiness for some perverse greater good that made sense to him five minutes ago, but right now seemed like utter lunacy.
Don’t look back, said the voice in his head, keep walking, don’t look back.
Remus knew that if he looked back and saw Dora, then he would never have the strength to stop looking at her. So not knowing if he was right or wrong, not knowing if he was even alive or dead, Remus kept his head down and kept on walking, the sound of his own screaming heart echoing in the blackness, summing up in one sound all the pain, grief and agony that words could never fully explain.