Chapter 1 : Atlantis
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She changed the flowers in the vase on the bedside table every day.
It was a strange crystal arrangement, placed between him and the window so that sometimes the morning light fragmented through its innards in such a way that he could see rainbows around the stalks of dying flowers.
Every day he received fresh flowers—for a moment, the vase was gone, replaced by clearer water, replaced by flowers of a different color, of a different bloom. He watched the light play off their petals, play through their petals. The shadow of the vase was always interplayed, overlaid, with these colors—in the mornings, the sunlight, and then the flowers themselves.
She had told him about the future once. It was an incredible future—he remembered sitting on her knee, staring into those large, pale eyes as they retraced their own history for his amusement. She told him about the school he would one day attend, a school of magic, where he would find a paradise of friendship and genius and charms and potions and books and books and books, and his eyes flitted over the endless bookshelves in the living room, lit by flickering firelight, and he wondered how there could ever be more than this in the world.
Now she brought him books, and they gathered dust beside the vase as he tried to find the strength to pick them up.
He heard his father’s voice sometimes, raised and very nearly hysterical, out in the hall. The Healers would try to calm him, and he could hear their would-be-soothing murmurs from where he lay with his vase and unread books. He would close his eyes tighter, because they were the only parts of his body he really felt he could control, and by closing them he could block out the truth. The Healers could never calm his father, and he would inevitably sob over this ruin of a son while his wife kept a hand against his back, for support, for comfort—not because she could come to terms with the truth any better than he could, but because she saw him like this every day.
It wasn’t quite so hard anymore, for her.
It never got easier, for him.
One day he realized he could turn over in his bed. Slowly he sent feelers down his arms, down his legs, and noted, with a strange element of surprise, that these still existed, and responded to him. Healers crowded to him, and in the ensuing hubbub, something crashed—the pages of the book survived, but the spine did not, and the final test of his mobility was his request to shuffle the brightly colored pages back into their rightful places himself.
They called his parents in, and the crystal vase received its usual daily fresh flowers. His mother’s large, pale eyes beaded matching large, pale tears, and his father held his hand and told him, repeatedly, how much he loved him still.
No matter what.
The day of the first full moon dawns, far too bright for his eyes. They are not yet used to being open again. His mother comes to visit in the morning, changing the flowers like always, and sits by his bed and takes his hand.
“It will be fine, Remus,” she says softly. Her eyes are shining, whether from unshed tears or fear he cannot really tell. She believes in her own words about as much as he does.
He shakes his head. “What if—what if I do something?” he croaks. It was an accident, that night a month ago, he’s sure of it, and there is no way for him to make sure that he does not do the same tonight.
“You’re small, honey,” she tells him softly, stroking her thumb across his hand, snug in hers. “You won’t be able to hurt anyone just yet. And the Healers will take you out somewhere in the country where you won’t be a danger to anyone.”
He nods; it’s not new information to him, but it still does not calm the nerves coursing through him. They lapse into silence, and his eyes focus on the rainbows that the crystal vase is throwing over his bedside table.
They are absolutely beautiful, he thinks, unable to find a more fitting word and also unwilling to pursue the thought because beautiful is out of the question for him, now.
They told him he’d done admirably. Of course, he was confined to bed rest for the next three days at the very least because he had sprained his ankle falling down a hill mid-transformation, which amused his mother to no end. She collapsed on the end of his bed in a fit of giggles, and a Healer brought her a sweet-smelling yellow potion.
It’s relief as much as anything, the Healer muttered to him. I think she was a bit more worried than she was letting on. No need, of course, you’re in good hands here, my boy. And she beamed at him, patted his shoulder, and bustled off.
When the potion had calmed his mother sufficiently, she fell into a frenzy of hugging him and told him she would return around dinnertime with his father, who would be so proud of how well he’d done.
Memories from the first transformation remained jumbled and vague; the more he tried to make sense of them, the less they seemed to want to exist. His Healer told him that it was always like this; his mind was not human when he transformed and so it would be senseless to attempt to order memories from the transformations in a human way. It was best, she said, to find some sort of a distraction.
It drives people mad, sometimes, she told him. This trying to figure if you’re really wolf or human. As far as I’m concerned, you’re human as they come, and that’s how I treat you. Up to you to decide if you agree.
So he retrieved the books his mother had brought him last month from where they’d been stacked at the far end of the ward, and began reading.
Accidentally, he overheard a conversation between his Healer and his parents. His eyes slid from the page to the closed door of the ward, from behind which their voices, soft and urgent, were issuing.
There’s a team of Aurors working on the recent outbreak of werewolf attacks, he heard his Healer say quietly. They believe Fenrir Greyback’s behind most of them. Certainly Remus is exactly Greyback’s style; I wouldn’t doubt it was him.
He heard his mother give a small sob while his father cursed. I thought it might have been, he said furiously. He said he would make me pay, but I didn’t think he’d stoop so far as to take it out on Remus.
He dropped his book on the bedside table and curled beneath his blankets, pretending himself into sleep. They didn’t understand—it was just an accident.
“How are you feeling, baby?” his mother asks him, grabbing both his hands and clutching them as if she is afraid he will lose them tonight.
“Fine,” he replies softly. All week he has been feeling steadily worse, but he will not admit it to his parents because they will only worry. His Healer has told him that it will always be this way leading up to his transformations.
His father produces a package of chocolates from his pocket and hands them over with a small smile. “Here, Remus. You’ll feel better.”
Admittedly, his spirits perk up as he munches on the chocolate, and he jumps out of bed later to hug his parents goodbye when they get up to leave.
He sinks back down and eats a few more, but slowly the gloom is returning. It will be another long night.
Am I going to be here forever? he asked his Healer one day.
She was busy clearing up his breakfast tray and paused to look around at him. He was holding back tears, and he knew she could tell. She could tell a lot of things just by looking at him now.
No, dear. We usually keep people in for two or three months for a werewolf bite, to make sure the actual bite heals properly and to help you adjust. You’re always free to stay longer or visit if you feel comfortable here.
He nodded, simultaneously relieved and terrified. It had been two and a half months already, but he could not imagine the world outside anymore. There was no place for him in it.
He returned to his books. There was always a place for him there.
After a while books started being cycled out of his ward in time with the flowers on his bedside table. He felt comfortable moving around more, so his Healer acquired a table and some chairs and he spent much of his time sitting up now rather than lying down. He went for frequent walks around the hospital and on occasional outings, hand clasped tightly by either his mother or his Healer.
One day he asked his Healer for some parchment. She returned with several rolls, a few quills, and three different colors of ink. He lived in his books, and now on sheets of parchment larger than himself he could recreate his worlds.
Carefully, within the confines of his ink-and-paper paradise, he reconstructed all that his mother had ever told him of her magical school. His parchments acquired well-worn creases where he folded them and tucked them inside the covers of books, because he knew it would only make his parents terribly sad to see him brooding over this future that he would never know.
What really struck him was the idea of a civilization. That was something he could never be a part of, given what he was. Had the mysterious Fenrir Greyback struggled with these same thoughts, when he was young?
“Are you alright?” asks his mother, her eyebrows drawn together and hands fluttering and pressing at every crease in his bedclothes.
“Don’t worry about me, Mum,” he replies, grabbing her hands in his before they press him out of existence. “I’ve done this twice before, I’ll be fine.”
“Yes, yes,” she titters, and finally sits down. “Yes. It’s just—I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. Oh, my baby.” She clasps him in her arms and he pats her gently on the back. It’s funny, he thinks. He feels very calm this time around. Maybe it is something you get used to, after all. Strange. Even the scattered memories from his two preceding transformations seem to be similar enough to be somewhat comforting.
“It’s alright, Mum. I love you. I’ll be fine.”
Gradually, the plans for his magical school exceeded the limits of his parchment and returned to his imagination. Teachers came into being and lectured him while he read. Dancing letters on the pages of his books became his friends. He named them, and they loved him even though he sometimes closed them away from daylight. When he shut his eyes, he danced down arched stone hallways to the library in the school, which was so enormous that its ceiling escaped his eyes.
But try as he might, he could not remember the name of his mother’s magical school.
So he selected a name for his own. The magical appeal itself fit quite well, but the main idea was perfect—a civilization lost to time, unrecoverable, something magnificent and ancient, understood by the lucky few, but never for him. Swallowed by the sea—in his case, a sea of blood and moonlight. From one of his books, he chose the name Atlantis.
On the morning of his fourth transformation, his mother comes with more flowers than usual. His father has taken the morning off work, and the three of them sit at his little table and breakfast together, like old times.
“How would you like to come home, Remus?” asks his father.
“What? Come home? Today?”
“Once you’ve recovered from this transformation. We’ve spoken with your Healer and she believes that you are ready, if you want.”
He cannot quite work out what to say; there seems to be something quite large stuck in his throat. It eventually bursts out of him in the form of a storm of tears, and he throws himself at his parents. After a confused series of tearful hugs, his mother looks him quite seriously in the eyes.
“Things will not be easy, but St. Mungo’s will always support us, if you should need anything at all. It’s perfectly safe, and we would love for you to return home.”
He can hardly restrain another batch of tears, and bites his lip to keep them in as he nods. He thinks of the bookshelves at home, waiting for him. There is a knock at the door, and his Healer pokes her head in. He runs to her and hugs her, too.
“Oh, my dear boy, I’m going to miss you,” she tells him softly. “You’ve been so brave, so wonderful. You’re going to be absolutely brilliant.”
Later, when they are all gone and he is supposed to nap before the transformation, he pulls his Atlantis parchments out. It will never happen, he is sure of it. It will never happen, but he can wish, and imagine, and pretend it to be real.