The Halfway - Chapter One
WARNING: DEATHLY HALLOWS SPOILERS AHEAD!
A/N: I've written this fanfic as an A/U exploring the idea of Remus and Tonks not actually dying at the end of DH. Yes, I know that they really did die. However, if the genre of "denial fic" existed, this would fit right in. I've seen a handful of stories dealing with the possibility of a non-death, and was inspired to write one of my own. This is VERY loosely based off of the ideas JKR introduces in the scene between Harry and Dumbledore in DH, although I changed and expanded them. Thanks to JenniGellerBing for the beta! This has been a tough story to write, so please let me know if I should continue. I'd love to hear what you think! Thank you!
Remus felt strange, although he couldn't quite figure out what was wrong with him. He tried to take a deep, steadying breath, but found that no air reached his lungs. By all laws of biology, he should be choking to death. Yet, he felt fine – as if he were breathing. Odd.
The perplexity of the situation caused him to realize that he was, in fact, lying on the floor. He should really open his eyes and figure out exactly where he was. He could be in danger! After all, the last thing he remembered was shielding Tonks against Bellatrix's rapidly-flying curses.
Where was she? Was she okay? Still fighting? Did she find safety or – or...
He swallowed. Suddenly, he had an image of his beautiful wife, lying still and pale at his feet. Or even worse, him being captured by Death Eaters, unable to do anything to keep Tonks out of harm's way. In his mind, he knew he was scared, but strangely, his heart did not speed up nor did his palms turn clammy. He felt no physical response at all.
Slowly, he opened one eye. And was shocked to find Tonks leaning over him. He opened both eyes widely at that. She let out a squeak of surprise and fell backward. He would have laughed, had he known where they were. But he did feel a bit better now; the mere sight of her had diminished some of the fear.
She was okay. They were both okay.
"Sorry," he said hastily as she struggled to sit upright again. "Where are we?"
"Dunno, I just came 'round myself. I think we're alone though."
He looked around and saw that they were indeed alone, and sitting in what appeared to be a very large park. There were benches scattered sporadically along a dirt trail that curved away from them, disappearing into the glare of the sun. The place looked vaguely familiar, though Remus had never seen grass a deeper shade of green, and the sky was such a light shade of blue that it almost seemed translucent.
"Does this place seem familiar to you?"
She wrinkled her forehead in thought. "Yeah... isn't it like that muggle park we went to once in Surrey, remember?"
"Yes! But it's a bit... greener."
"Yeah. Remus, how do you think we got here?"
"I have no idea."
They both paused to think.
"It's odd," said Tonks after a moment, chewing her fingernail thoughtfully.
"We were clearly hit by quite a few curses. And yet, I feel no pain."
Remus' brow furrowed, realizing she was right. He pinched himself. He felt nothing. Not the aftermath of curses, nor those everyday aches that had plagued his weary body for what seemed like an eternity.
Before either of them could discuss this further, however, Tonks went rigid and pointed toward the dirt trail, where three figures were approaching from afar. Remus sat up straighter and squinted, but the sun was bright – brighter than he ever remembered seeing it, though it didn't hurt his eyes to look in its direction. The figures seemed mere silhouettes in the distance.
After a minute, he could make out the color of their hair and clothes: two men with dark hair and a red-haired woman, all three wearing black robes. And when he finally could make out the details of their faces, he rubbed his eyes, thinking he must be seeing things.
Unless he was going crazy – which he must have been – Sirius, James, and Lily were drawing closer.
He glanced sideways at Tonks, whose eyes had widened as she, too, noticed the faces. She clenched Remus' arm tightly.
"Erm, Remus. Is that – it can't be... Sirius?"
"It does seem that way," he muttered. "And Lily and James, as well. Perhaps we're both going mad."
Tonks shook her head. "I reckon so."
Remus and Tonks rose to their feet, Tonks stumbling a bit as she did so. She gripped Remus' arm even tighter for support. Simultaneously, they reached into the pockets of their robes to draw their wands, but found their pockets to be empty.
"You don't need wands here," called Sirius.
Remus stepped in front of Tonks and held out his arm in an attempt to protect her. "And why not?"
Sirius approached them, while James and Lily remained a few steps behind him. Sirius threw his hands up in the air to show that he was, in fact, without a wand himself. "Because you're dead."
Both Tonks and Remus gasped – or tried to, but only managed a strange squeaking noise. Remus let his arm drop to his side. He must be going crazy, that had to be it. Nothing else made sense.
"Tactless, really," Lily admonished while James sniggered. "That's quite a bomb to drop on someone, you of all people should know that!"
Sirius turned around to face Lily. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, in case you've forgotten, you came up thinking you were still in the midst of battle. Don't you remember thinking we were Death Eaters in disguise and, after realizing you didn't have a wand, tackling James and punching him silly?"
"Ah, right," said Sirius with a deep chuckle. "I really am sorry about that, mate."
James rolled his eyes. "Of course you are."
"Oy, Prongs! Are you going to hold this against me all of eternity now? It's not like I could hurt you."
"Still, it's the principle –"
Remus cleared his throat meaningfully. Both men fell silent.
"This is all very entertaining, really, but you must be mistaken. We can't be –" he swallowed with some difficulty – "dead."
Tonks clawed at his arm now, nails digging into his flesh, though he felt only the pressure, not the pain.
"No, you're right, Moony," said James lightly. "You're not dead."
"But... you just said we were!" yelled Tonks.
"What James means," said Lily firmly, "is that you're not dead... but you're not alive, either."
"You're not dead," explained Sirius with a smile. "I just said it for a bit of drama."
Lily shook her head. "I can't believe I'm stuck with that git for all eternity. Anyway, it's very rare, it usually only happens after a strange mix of magic. You two were hit by so many curses at once that it should very well have cleanly killed you. But you also used a joint shielding charm, which introduced a unique type of magic. You tried to save each other's lives. Dying to protect a loved one is a very different type of magic," she said with a smile. "My son is living proof of that."
"What are you talking about, a joint shielding charm?" demanded Remus. "We didn't –"
"You both tried to shield each other at the exact same time," explained James excitedly, "thus creating a joint shielding charm!"
"I've never heard of such a charm," said Remus skeptically.
"You wouldn't have, it's not very common. In fact, this may be the first time it happened."
"Then how do you know it really did happen?"
Sirius and James exchanged dark looks, and then laughed. "We know everything now that we're dead," said Sirius in a low voice.
Though still thoroughly confused and unconvinced that his friends were, in fact, standing in front of him in the afterlife, Remus snorted.
"Told you he wouldn't believe us when we told him that," said Sirius to James. Then he turned to Tonks and, in a lower voice, explained, "Remus always has to be right."
"No, I –"
"Or at least he has to be more right than us," clarified James.
"Look, you tried to shield Tonks, Tonks tried to shield you, and your spells joined together," said Sirius impatiently. "Get it? You're just lucky dear Bellatrix didn't hit you with the killing curse."
"Yes, because her reputation at using the Cruciatus Curse on people until it addles their minds is much better," James responded sarcastically.
Lily rolled her eyes and walked over to Remus, taking both of his hands in hers. They were warm and inviting and he felt a sudden calm drift lazily into his body. It seemed strangely as if some of his doubts and fears had melted away with a single touch. "It's true."
Remus nodded. Tonks, however, still looked dubious.
"No, this is mad! We're alive, we are!" She looked desperately at Remus, who averted his eyes.
He didn't know how to explain it to Tonks. He didn't even know how to explain it to himself. They were not alive and they were not dead. He did not know why it was the case, but he knew it was true.
"I think," said Lily kindly to Tonks, "we aren't the best people to talk to you about this. Let's just... give him a moment, shall we?"
And suddenly, another figure appeared silhouetted against the sun. The five of them watched the figure approach. He was tall and large and something was very familiar about him, though Remus couldn't put his finger on it. The man sped up at the sight of them.
"D – dad?"
Tonks' jaw dropped as her father pulled her into a tight embrace, lifting her from her feet as he did so. At first, she seemed slack – almost lifeless – in his arms, but then she returned his embrace. She seemed to cling desperately to the man. When they pulled away, they both had tears running down their cheeks.
"Dora," he repeated in a hoarse whisper.
"So it's... true then? I'm – we're – dead?"
Ted frowned. "Yes... and no."
Tonks sighed. "Same bloody answer this lot gave us," she said, pointing to Sirius, James, and Lily.
The four people – could they be considered people? – shared a laugh. Tonks looked at Remus, who shrugged.
"I... I can't believe this." She covered her face in her hands.
Ted put his hand on Tonks' shoulder. "I know, darling, but –"
"No, you don't know!" she said harshly, and her father removed his hand from her shoulder, as if burned. "We were just married – it's our one-year anniversary in two weeks – and - and we were in the middle of the battle – and – and... my son," she said at last, grabbing a fist-full of hair. "I left him. I'm a horrible mother! I hardly knew him, and I left him! He won't remember his mum… or his dad." She dropped to her knees, staring up at the four supposedly dead people in front of her. "If you lot really are so bloody all-knowing, then tell me... if pain is only for the Living, then why do I feel like my heart's breaking?"
Ted made to go over to his daughter, but Remus reached her first, putting an arm around Tonks and placing a kiss against her temple. "I know. It's not fair," he whispered, "it's not fair at all. I'm scared for our boy, as well. And I regret – so much – not spending more time with him. I love him more than I can even put into words, Tonks. I can't bear the thought that I won't hear his first words, see him off to Hogwarts, watch him grow up into the wonderful wizard that I am sure he will become."
Tonks, seemingly at a loss for words now, propelled herself into Remus' arms, letting out a strangled sob against his shoulder as she did so. Remus, too, had to bite his lip to keep the tears from falling.
"I realize I was... not the best husband and father and I deeply regret that," he whispered. "I was looking forward to a lifetime devoted to making up for it. You deserve that, and more, Tonks, and I failed you."
"Don't say that," she croaked, punching him feebly. "You've already made up for it and you know it."
He looked doubtful, but before either could say another word, Sirius stepped forward. "Sorry to break up this love-fest, really, but you two are acting as if you're dead."
"But we are!" sniffed Tonks.
Sirius let out a exasperated huff. "Haven't you been listening to a damn word we've been saying? Merlin's beard, I've forgotten just how thick you two are. We –" He began, gesturing to himself, James, Lily, and Ted – "Are dead. You two are not."
"Everyone expects that there are two worlds," interrupted Lily, "the World of the Living and the World of the Dead. What people don't know is that there's an in-between stage as well, what we souls refer to as the Halfway. Not everyone ends up here," she added when Remus made to protest, "only for certain types of deaths. Deaths in which people give up their lives for one another." She paused. "I was sent here first, but I chose to die in order to protect Harry. If I had come back to life, the protection I'd left him in the wake of my death would have disappeared."
"Is it like... purgatory?" asked Remus.
The four figures laughed. "Not quite. It's not about purifying your soul, it's more of a... holding place. Before you make the decision to either live or die."
"Then, how are you four here now?" asked Remus.
"This is the one place where the in-between souls and the dead can meet. We, as the Dead, can choose to visit this place at any time, though we cannot enter the World of the Living unless summoned."
"How can you be summoned?"
"Oh, there're some powerful spells that very few wizards know – seers and stuff," explained James, "though only one live witch has that power at the moment. Also, there's the Resurrection Stone..."
"I thought that was fake."
"No, it's real. Actually, Harry's got it right now."
"He has it. Dumbledore gave it to him." James smiled proudly. "I daresay at this very moment, he's calling upon our souls – you, me, Padfoot, and Lily that is."
"But I don't... feel anything."
No, you wouldn't. When you're not alive, your soul can split at will. It's possible for the living can do it, too, but... it's not exactly something people like to talk about. There's dark magic involved. Dividing your soul is a terrible thing to do when you're alive. It's not a power intended for the Living. It is one that can only be obtained through the Dead."
"So, wait, Remus and I – we can... live?" asked Tonks hopefully.
"There is a chance," replied Lily slowly.
"A chance?" asked Remus. "What do you mean?"
"You need to earn a second chance at living. You'll need to defeat your personal demons," said Lily.
"Demons?" asked Tonks nervously.
"It means you must defeat those things that haunted you in life. You'll need to conquer your personal battles in order to return. Each person has a different battle to fight, so I can't tell you what you will have to do."
"When can we fight?" asked Tonks.
"You'll know when the time comes," James replied. "Be patient. Just enjoy being here for now."
"Enjoy being here?" repeated Remus incredulously.
Yet, Remus was shocked to find that, on some level, he actually enjoyed being there, reunited with his old friends. But he felt guilty, as well, because he knew he should want more than anything else to be back with his son. And he did want to return to his son, but he couldn't deny that he was not completely ready to leave his friends again.
He didn't know what to think – his emotions were all tangled up. Instead, he focused again on how strange it felt to be nervous, and yet have no physical symptoms of it. He would give anything to feel his heart pounding in his chest right now.
"I don't understand," said Tonks slowly, "Why wouldn't you choose to fight?"
Ted shrugged. "Some people are ready to die."
Remus' eyes widened as he was propelled back into reality. "How do you know? How do you know if you're ready to die?"
"Do you want to go back to the Living?" asked Lily.
"More than anything," Remus responded without thought, his confidence surprising him.
Lily smiled. "Then you're not ready to die."