"Blood-Stained Tears" -
Disclaimer and such in chapter 1
Ever since HBP came out I have been thinking about whether or not to rewrite this story to include certain new canonical details, but I have decided that, instead, I am just going to continue it as in AU story. So, this will now contain canon through OotP, but will not include HBP.
Also, a big thank you to all my reviewers. I will reply to you all in the new fashion after this chapter. I just wanted to let you know that the reviews and the support you have given have truly helped me continue this story, even if it has taken me a while. :)
Remus's mind reeled as he walked out of the infirmary's double doors. He could not believe that he had just become responsible for protecting Hermione from an unknown danger to her life, as well as monitor her and help her through her first transformation. It was all a little too much to take in at once.
"Would you like to accompany me back to my office for a spot of tea while we wait?" Albus said, placing a hand on Remus' shoulder and breaking him out of his thoughts.
"No, thank you." Remus shook his head. "I'd rather start making preparations for the meeting with the Order."
Dumbledore glanced briefly at the young man before walking down the corridor back to his office. Curiously looking at the retreating back of the headmaster, Remus furrowed his brow and followed the elderly man.
"That will not be necessary, Remus," Albus said after a few moments of silence.
Remus stopped walking and stared with unabashed confusion at the headmaster.
"Why not?" he questioned, frustration at Dumbledore's lack of clarity prominent in his voice.
The headmaster halted his steps and sighed. Every emotion shone clearly through his wearied eyes, and it was then that Remus understood.
"You already know who attacked her, don't you, Albus?" If that were true, he could not fathom why it had not been divulged to him earlier, when he was first informed of Hermione's condition.
Looking around briefly, Dumbledore placed a hand on the young man's shoulder and lead him to a nearby empty classroom. Remus leaned against one of the desks, and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Yes," Albus began, while closing the door tightly, "I know who attacked Miss Granger, Remus, but I had wished not to involve you in the politics of this affair." He held up a hand to silence Lupin's protests. "However, since it seems that an attempt to do so now would be futile, I will tell you all that I know."
Remus wasn't sure he was ready to hear whatever it was Dumbledore was about to tell him, but he steadied his emotions and waited as patiently as he could manage.
"I'm sure you have been aware," the headmaster started, as he sat down behind the large teacher's desk at the front of the room, "that while Harry is of course the most vital member in the war against Voldemort and his followers, Miss Granger is by far Harry's greatest asset in that fight."
Remus nodded. He was quite familiar with Hermione's problem solving abilities, if her discovery of his condition back in her third year was anything to go by.
Albus sighed. "Unfortunately, Voldemort was well aware of this as well. It is mine and Minerva's theory that Voldemort, tired of his failed direct attempts on Harry's life, wished this time to weaken those around Harry, so that he might be more vulnerable for a future attack. It is most likely he sent a werewolf so that if it didn't outright kill Miss Granger, it would at least leave her out of the picture for a long while."
"Are you sure it was him?" Lupin asked, the ache in his chest firmly settling itself in his heart.
Dumbledore nodded sadly.
"No other wizard could have placed such a dark and powerful spell on Miss Granger's wand."
Remus' head spun. He should have expected something like this from Voldemort, but the reality of it was a little hard to swallow. After the deaths of James and Lily, he thought he had hardened himself against the pain of finding out a friend had been attacked, but his young friends always seemed to get through to him still.
"Does Harry know?" Lupin asked, running his hand through his hair once again.
"No," he said after a few moments of contemplative silence, "and he mustn't. Not yet, at least."
Remus understood. He knew that Harry would only blame himself and try to push Ron and the rest of his friends as far away from him as possible. The headmaster was right, only necessary Order personnel would be told of Voldemort's involvement in the attack on Hermione, and no one else.
With a finite nod, Remus stood to leave, but halted his motions when he saw that Dumbledore remained seated, his eyes firmly locked with his own.
"You cannot tell me there is more to this horror story, Albus." He slumped down into a desk this time and rubbed his eyes. The day was just getting better and better.
"I'm afraid what I must tell you now is the worst of the news." The headmaster's eyes fell with sadness, as he waited for Remus to mentally prepare himself for what he was about to hear.
"You must have wondered how Miss Granger was not killed while she lay unconscious in the dark woods for days." At the subtle question, Remus narrowed his eyes and nodded his head slightly in acquiescence.
"Well," Dumbledore continued, "as I said earlier, Minerva and I examined Miss Granger's wand when we brought her back to the castle. It seems that although her wand was blocked from performing protection spells, Miss Granger was able to cast one anyway."
Remus's eyebrows itched to shoot up in curiosity. Why was this going to be the worst news yet? How could a simple protection charm be considered worse than the contraction of Lycanthropy as the result of an attack from Voldemort?
"I don't know how she knew the spell, Remus," Dumbledore said with a sigh and sought out the young werewolf's eyes, "but she cast the Argentum Tutela."
The wolf inside Remus cringed horribly at the mere mention of the advanced silver protection charm. It was the most effective device in warding off werewolves known to the wizarding world.
"But how...?" Remus stammered, trying to compose his racing thoughts. "It's a protection spell. How could her casting of it possibly be bad?"
Remus saw the headmaster lean back in his chair, a slightly defeated look crossing his face.
"Well," Albus began slowly, "as you know, once performed, the Argentum Tutela seeks out and envelopes any nearby lycanthrope, causing immense pain. Then, it forms a protective barrier around the witch or wizard who cast it."
Lupin nodded in acknowledgment of the facts, unfortunately having been subject to the spell several times. Those were dark times in his past, however, which no one besides his closest friends and most hated enemies were privy to. It was a time he wanted to forget.
"It seems," Dumbledore continued while stroking his beard, "that Miss Granger has encountered a slight side effect of the spell. Never in the spell's history has it ever been cast by a lycanthrope, undoubtedly due to the fact that the wolf blood still present within the otherwise normal-looking human would register the witch or wizard incapable of even uttering the enchantment. However, Miss Granger said the words while the werewolf was still biting her."
The headmaster paused, hoping the young man sitting in front of him would understand what he was about to say without actually having to say it. When Remus's eyes urged him to continue, Dumbledore sighed.
"Because she was being infected at the time she cast the spell, it both invaded her lycanthropic cells and provided the protective barrier. Since an occurrence like this has never been recorded before, we don't know how it happened, but the magic mutated and became a part of the werewolf blood within her."
Remus searched the headmaster's eyes for answers. What did that mean for Hermione?
"What this means, Remus," Albus continued, sensing the confusion in the man sitting across from him, "is that until the magic dissipates, every time Miss Granger transforms, she will feel the effects of the Argentum Tutela."
Remus choked on his own breath. Every time? The Argentum Tutela was the worst pain he could even remember. He had seen Voldemort's evil before this, but somehow, what he had done to Hermione echoed much deeper within Remus's soul.
Anger consumed him.
"Is there anything that can be done to ease the pain?" he asked the headmaster quietly, clinging to a last shred of hope.
Dumbledore slowly shook his head.
"Minerva and I are working on finding a solution, but as it is, the only thing we can do is inform Miss Granger of her situation and hope that she has enough strength to endure the pain until we can figure out a way to destroy the traces of the spell within her body."
Remus shook his head tensely. Silence lingered as the two men contemplated the implications of not only Hermione's condition, but also of Voldemort's involvement in it.
The war would be full-fledged now. Voldemort had ensured it.
"Perhaps it would be best if we discussed the details of Miss Granger's living arrangements."
Remus nodded and stood to follow Dumbledore as he walked out of the classroom and made his way towards the golden staircase leading to his office.
Hermione did the best she could to fend off Madam Pomfrey's incessant coddling as she took a few tentative steps around the hospital wing. She was still a little weak from the blood loss and lack of hydration over the past few days, but she just could not stand to lie in bed any longer. Even if she couldn't leave the hospital wing, she sure wasn't going to be confined to best rest. If only all her books on magical beasts and creatures weren't still sitting out in the Forbidden Forest. She needed something to occupy her mind, something besides her current situation.
She made it about halfway across the room before she made a little swoon and Madam Pomfrey rushed over.
"I told you it wasn't a good idea to be walking about by yourself just yet," the old nurse said, as she helped steady Hermione's shaky limbs.
"I am fine, Madam Pomfrey," Hermione declared rigidly. "I just haven't been upright for a few days, so, I need to get used to it again."
Madam Pomfrey cast her a dubious look, but relented the point and let Hermione continue her small constitutional around the room.
When she was on her fifth circulation, the double doors creaked open, revealing the form of her third-year DADA professor. Hermione's composure faltered, his presence making the weight of her situation hit her full force once again.
Suddenly feeling very dizzy, she took a seat back on her mattress, the springs squeaking softly as she sat down. It really was happening, wasn't it?
Remus gave her a soft smile as her approached her.
"Dumbledore thinks it would be best if we exit the castle as soon as possible," he said quietly, sitting down in the chair next to her bed.
Hermione nodded silently. She had known that this was to be the eventual outcome, but she wasn't sure if she was ready to leave the safety she felt when inside the walls of Hogwarts. She needed that comfort now more than ever, as well as the comfort Harry and Ron provided. It was all happening a little too quickly.
"Hermione," Remus whispered as he leaned in, sensing her concerns, "I will not let any harm come to you while you are under my protection. You have my word."
Biting her lip to keep herself from shedding any more tears, Hermione sighed and wrung her right hand in the material of her jeans.
"I know you won't," she said after a few moments, even though she didn't quite believe herself. She really wasn't sure of anything anymore.
The clicking of Madam Pomfrey's approaching shoes broke the quiet scene between the two.
"I do not like the idea of letting a patient who is still injured out of my care," she huffed, but didn't take her concern further. "Since I have no choice, though, I made sure to put the appropriate salves, potions, and bandages among Miss Granger's things. I expect you to follow the instructions I have left implicitly." She looked from Remus to Hermione. "Both of you."
Remus let a small smile slide onto his face at the antics of the worn nurse.
"Of course, Poppy. I would do nothing to incur your wrath," Remus teased, half-heartedly, then looked back to Hermione. "I think it best we leave now, if you're well enough that is."
Hermione paused before nodding. Taking a deep breath, she let Remus help her to a standing position and put her cloak over her shoulders. She winced slightly as the rough fabric fell over her injured shoulder, but kept the pain at bay the best she could.
With her good arm linked with his left, they walked out of the hospital wing and down the corridor towards Hogwarts's main entrance. The walk across the school grounds to the front gate was a quiet one, Remus unsure of what to say and Hermione simply unwilling to say anything at all. She looked around the castle grounds with new eyes, like it was the last time she would see any of the familiar things she had grown accustomed to over the past seven years. She had known that someday she would cease to call Hogwarts home, but she never expected that day to come so soon. A new pain coursing through her, she tightened her grip on Remus's arm.
Remus glanced down at her pained expression, his heart aching, but said nothing, allowing the privacy he knew Hermione cherished to remain intact.
"Hold on tight," he said as they finally reached the stretch of snow-covered dirt just beyond the school's front gate.
Taking extra care not to graze Hermione's left shoulder, Remus wrapped both his arms around her and instructed her on what to picture as they Apparated. They would be at his flat in only moments.
Hermione did her best to wrap her good arm around his waist and concentrate on the image of his flat that he was describing to her. With a final glance back towards the institution she had come to love over the past seven years, she choked back a cry. Closing her eyes tightly to block out the pain, she took a quick breath and waited for them to Disapparate.
Not a moment later, they were gone.