Epilogue: Remus Lupin
It had been three weeks. Three weeks to the day since he'd followed Alastor Moody into the dark, silent Victorian house, chased Rabastan Lestrange through the front parlor, into the formal dining room, into the sudden cloud of choking, poisonous gas. Two weeks since he'd awakened here at St. Mungo's, with no recollection of anything that had occurred after he'd fallen to the dining room floor, lungs clenching and burning as he'd struggled to draw in air. As the grey fog had rolled across his vision and everything had faded to black.
That was normal, the Healers had told him. Perfectly normal not to be able to remember the hours surrounding a trauma. The memories might return, as his magic might return. It could take weeks, or months. Or... Sleep, he ordered himself, keeping his eyes closed. He focused on the soft lumpiness of the mattress beneath him, the antiseptic roughness of the sheet against his skin. The sunlight filtering through the high, barred window, through closed eyelids, orange and warm. The tired, bone-deep ache of his body. Sleep. Easy to forget the past two weeks. Easy to drift back into the comforting oblivion of sleep, if only for a little while.
The scent woke him, a light floral cologne that any other man would consider subtle. The sound of soft breathing, not his own. "Alex," Remus smiled, running a hand through his hair, trying to tidy it as he sat up in the bed. "How have you been ?"
She rose from the chair and kissed his cheek. He moved over so she could sit on the side of the bed. "Gods, Remus, I'm fine. How have you been ? Sheesh, the way you were snoring, I thought the Healer was kidding about you finally being out of that coma !"
It felt so good to talk to her, he thought as they chatted about the last days of the school term. No hushed voices, no side-long looks, no hiding the pity behind reassuring smiles. She'd come down on the train from Hogwarts, still not quite recovered enough to risk long-distance apparating. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate that," Remus told her.
"Appreciate what ?"
"Not avoiding the subject. The loss of my magic."
She took his hand. "It hurts, doesn't it ? Like an emptiness inside." Alex's eyes were filled with sympathy. Sympathy, not pity. Pity had a distinctive sweetness, like spoiled meat. Remus had become familiar with the odor, during the past two weeks. "It took three days, for me. For the magic to start to come back... it was such a relief when that black hole started to fill."
Three days. Remus suppressed a snarl. It had been three weeks. Two solid weeks to the day since he'd awakened with that horrible emptiness. "Like a melon rind, with all the insides scraped out," he agreed, the anger fading almost instantly. It wasn't as though it was her fault.
Alex nodded. "It will come back, Remus. It's just going to take longer, is all. Merlin's beard - you took an avada kedavra ! Severus is calling you 'the werewolf who lived'." Remus laughed, genuinely amused. Of course the Death Eater would never show gratitude, not to him. Not for his own rescue, not for saving the life of a woman who obviously cared for him a great deal. As the woman in question hopped down from the high hospital bed, he wondered, not for the first time, what she saw in Severus Snape. Alex retrieved a package from the floor near her chair and held it out to him with a grin. "Come on, open it !"
"What's this ?" Hesitantly, Remus opened the package. Inside were six potion bottles and a brightly-colored envelope.
"Wolfsbane potion," Alex responded to his bemused look. "Severus and I brewed them for you. A six-month supply."
"Snape ?" Remus chuckled. "He did not."
"Seriously, Remus, he helped."
"Mm-hm. How hard did you have to twist his arm ?"
The American grinned wickedly. "Not at all. I just picked out a couple of wrong ingredients while shopping, you know, asparagus instead of asphodel," she smirked, "and asked him a couple of stupid questions..." Alex widened her eyes and demonstrated in an innocent-sounding voice: "Severus, should I keep this at a simmer or bring it to a rolling boil ?" Remus shook his head, amused at her manipulation of the potions master. "Before you know it, he'd pretty much taken over the whole project. There are preservative spells on all the seals," Alex added, "to keep everything fresh. But look in the envelope," she told him eagerly.
There was a brochure showing Muggle flying machines, the tiny pictures motionless on the glossy paper. Folded inside was a stack of small, greenish-grey parchments. Remus riffled through them; they were all the same, a portrait of a long-haired man in eighteenth-century dress. "Alex, this is a lot of money," he protested, trying and failing to make the conversion from dollars to galleons. "I can't accept this."
"Oh yes you can." She looked surprised, and vaguely disappointed, that he'd been able to identify the Muggle bills. "Look, Remus, you saved my life. I know I can't ever repay you for that." Remus started to interrupt her, but she went on in a rush. "My father sent me money for my passage back to the States, more than enough money. You have no idea... anyway, use it for whatever you want. Gringotts will change it to galleons for you, if that's what you want, but... well, I was thinking you might want to travel."
"To the United States ?" He was touched by her generosity and the thought that had gone into the gift - the supply of potions that meant he could travel without fear of the monthly transformations.
Alex blushed, suddenly embarrassed. "Well, yeah. It was probably stupid..." She shook her head. "It seemed like a good idea at the time, you know, since it will take you a while to recover."
Remus knew she was speaking of the loss of his magic, not his physical recovery. "No, I think it's a wonderful idea. I've never been to the U.S. Nor flown in an airplane."
"It's not supposed to be that bad." She grimaced and he could smell fear for an instant, before she brought it under control. "I think you'd really like it, the United States, I mean."
"I'd never have thought of it on my own... I'll ask Tonks to book me a flight," he said decisively. "In two weeks. That ought to give me incentive to get out of here." His glance took in the bare institutional-green walls, the bars on the windows. Why not ? What was there to keep him in Britain ? In the past two years it had become impossible to find work in either the wizarding or the Muggle world... and now, without magic, he'd be useless to the Order. He imagined Molly Weasley's good-intentioned smothering, Severus Snape's sneers. "Thank you, Alex."
She beamed. "Look me up when you get to New York."
Author's note: Thanks again to all who've read and reviewed. There will be a sequel continuing Alex and Snape's adventures, titled American Road Trip. I will begin uploading that story as soon as I complete Off the Beaten Path, a not-quite-sequel chronicling Remus Lupin's wanderings in the United States.