A/N: Sorry, plot won't be moving too quickly for a while. I've managed to drown myself in the sheer number of characters that I've abandoned the reflections I usually try to incorporate into my stories, and I'm trying to slow down and 'kill' some of them off – NO WORRIES! I'm not actually killing anybody (yet, LOL, I think I'll make you sweat for a while). But yeah, an attempt at slowing down and reflecting in the next few chapters. Basically, each of the chapters is through the eyes of various characters. In those cases, I'm just referring to them by their given names, not appointed names (i.e. in this one, both the teen and the adult are referred to as Remus).
Chapter 9: A Changing World (Remus Lupin)
How was it even possible that the world could have changed so much? It was as though he'd been dead centuries, not decades.
There were days Remus Lupin swore he'd lived too long, and he was pretty sure this experience ranked right up there on his evidence for that theory. True, 23 years was a long time: 23 years before 1998, he was 15 and attempting valiantly to rein in his wild best friends to keep from losing his new prefect's badge. 23 years ago, the love of his life was a toddler, just a name thrown around sporadically in the rare instances Sirius discussed his family. 23 years ago, the world had been simple.
But to see the world he thought he'd finally figured out turned so crazily sideways and upside down: vampires, werewolves, and all manner of abnormal wizardry at Hogwarts, out in the open for the world to see and to know? Was the world brainwashed? It was impossible, simply impossible for an entire world's opinions to change that much in so short a timeframe!
In the world he knew, you didn't announce abnormality to the public, you hid it, you tried to blend in as well as you could. Those who were a danger removed themselves from society. You didn't try to fight the rules. You had no way of obtaining power or control in any way, shape or form.
Listening to Harry's children, to Teddy, to their classmates in Gryffindor Tower tonight had only intensified his doubts. Laughing about the things even recklessly irreverent James and Sirius wouldn't have dared touch with a twenty-foot pole: about how the little vampire Blair would soon be forced to drink his own blood if Lysander didn't pass him a Blood Pop and soon. About how Kingston, one of the fourth-year students, had finally developed tolerance for Wolfsbane and had kept practically the whole school up at the last full moon with her howls and screams and crashes. How Morgan, one of the sixth-years, had managed to twist around the future so badly in an attempt to put off breaking up with his girlfriend that all the NEWTs and OWLs had been written a term early, those students had left for vacation early and most everybody had failed and were forced to come back to school and rewrite them when the situation had been rectified…
Sure, James and Sirius had poked fun at his werewolf status. But it usually had been restricted to an occasional comment about his 'furry little problem' and the rare wolf crack. They both knew and understood very well that it wasn't something to make light of: Remus could easily slaughter the both of them on any given full moon, or if he got angry enough.
This casual integration of the abnormal into everyday life just wasn't done. Even the most progressive of people knew that there were certain subjects that were just taboo.
What was really weird was how at ease his adult self looked when the young pink-haired woman – what was her name again? Something only a Black would name their child – came over to him from her conversation with Lily and sat down easily next to him, shaking her hair out of her eyes. She leaned over his shoulder and murmured something in his ear. He sighed and replied something softly.
How long ago had he met her? She didn't seem all that much older than he himself was right now. How long had they been together? What had finally made him crazy enough to subject another person to life with a monster?
"You're thinking too much again," Dora murmured into his ear, her body warm against his side. "Stop thinking so much."
"Why?" he asked softly.
"Because it always seems to result in you walking away," she replied quietly, and the dagger pierced his heart. "Forgive me for not liking it when you do that."
"All right, sorry," Remus murmured back to her.
"So what was it this time?" she asked. "What deep, profound, life-changing thought was running through your mind this time?"
Remus sighed as she searched his face with those hopelessly penetrating blue eyes. "Nothing much, I suppose. Just thinking that this whole world's changed, and I'm not entirely sure it's for the better."
She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. Then she glanced back over at the teenage Remus for a moment and said, "This is Remus the self-sacrificing-stupidly-chivalrous-lycanthropic-masochist Lupin rearing his head again, isn't it?"
"You do have a way with words," Remus commented drily as she sighed in annoyance and leaned back against the wall.
"Well, I could shorten it and just call you a self-serving bastard," Dora shrugged. "Sounded grander the other way. What's bringing this on?"
And what about that other boy – Ted, had they called him? His son? What the hell kind of hallucinogenic potion had he been on? A kid?
Clearly, his genetics had screwed the kid up. You only got those sorts of brutal scars from werewolf claws – he of all people knew that better than anybody, having not only felt the injuries, but having inflicted a few onto his best friends in the last few years.
"Oy, you think too much," came James' voice beside him, and a sharp prod on each of his arms in perfect sync interrupted his train of thought. "Shut off your brain already."
"You make us feel stupid," Sirius agreed from the other side. "Don't think so much." Remus rolled his eyes and sighed heavily.
"What are you pondering anyway?" James asked, looking at him. "You're not pondering mischief without us, are you?"
"Good little prefects like Remus don't ponder mischief," Sirius disagreed. "That's best left to incorrigible rogues like us." He grinned at his friends. "Come on, Remus, don't make us get creative. Tell us what you were pondering."
Remus paused for a moment. "I'm thinking that I went flying off the deep end," he finally replied, making a slight gesture in the direction of his adult self.
James and Sirius both exclaimed in unison, "Ladies and gentlemen, the one around whom the whole world revolves!" Then they both knocked the back of Remus' head.
"Listen, mate, I hate to break it to you," Sirius continued, "but the world does not revolve around you, and you're not half as stupid as you think you are."
"You overthink everything, Remus," James agreed, his intense eyes watching the pink-haired young woman across the room, who was watching them with the same intense interest. "Maybe you stopped thinking for once. It'd make a nice change, you might actually get out, live life and enjoy it."
Remus opened his mouth to protest again, and Sirius and James poked him again. "Don't be so argumentative," they said in unison.
"It's actually sort of cute," Dora told him with a laugh, leaning back against the wall. "It's like a tag team. Do you notice it now, watching it for yourself?"
"Yeah, I noticed," Remus replied. "I noticed the first time Sirius tried to hit me without James hitting me too. Never did feel quite the same. He stopped trying after a while."
"That's true, isn't it?" she said thoughtfully. "I realize now I never did see Sirius hitting you like that." There was silence for a moment, before she said, "So what do you think?"
"About what?" he asked.
"About Teddy," she said. "What do you think? I don't think Harry did a half-bad job. Even if he did apparently let Teddy jump off roofs." She grinned at him momentarily. "Even though I'm pretty sure I'd have let him do the same thing."
"I did not encourage that roof-jumping incident!" Harry called defensively from the doorway, where he was sitting on the ground, doing paperwork. "No matter what Ginny tells you."
"So?" Dora pressed again.
"I think that he turned out a pretty respectable member of society," Remus finally admitted. "Wouldn't know it to look at him – "
Dora laughed. "But then again, you wouldn't know I'm a die-hard enforcer of law to look at me either. You're such a conservative."
"I was thinking it was probably better he turned out more like you than like me, actually," Remus agreed. "He's definitely much more open-minded."
"Why?" Dora asked.
"Teddy definitely told Remus off for discrimination earlier," Harry called.
"Hold on, here," Dora exclaimed. "The discriminated-against werewolf is a discriminatory werewolf? Do explain," she said to Remus expectantly.
Remus sighed. "I may have said that vampires were more dangerous than werewolves."
"May have?" she prompted.
"All right, I did say it," Remus corrected himself. "Did he really need to go off at me like that?" he asked Harry.
"Well, the whole discrimination thing is a trigger for that kind of reaction for all the Order and DA kids, though," Neville said softly. "Marcus was a werewolf – and there's still people around that still think of him as one, even if he doesn't transform any more. Lysander's a vampire – one of Blair's brothers bit him a year ago in retaliation for some stupid teenage stunt. Victoire – "
"Oh, yeah, I guess between Bill and Fleur…" Dora said.
"No, actually, has nothing to do with that," Neville corrected. "Suppose that might've triggered some of it, though…"
Harry got up and joined them. "I'm tired of yelling at people from across rooms. What were we discussing?"
"Victoire," Neville told him. "And why discrimination makes the kids mad."
"What's wrong with her?" Dora asked. "Didn't look – "
"No, it's nothing visible," Harry replied. "Nothing too visible, any way. Usually. You caught her on a really good day yesterday. She's got mental problems."
"She's not the easiest person to deal with on a day-to-day basis," Neville agreed. "She's bipolar, and she's also got obsessive-compulsive disorder. The bipolar aggravates the OCD, and for some reason the magical therapies actually makes them worse in her."
"So she's on Muggle therapies, but they aren't really a very good solution, because she's so severely affected by both of those disorders," Harry continued. "The magic negates some of the efficacy of the medication. We think that she's always had the OCD, because she had her little rituals even when she was a kid. The bipolar started surfacing her seventh year."
"It got so bad we had to send her to St Mungo's," Neville said. "She'd get so manic that her magic would be going everywhere without any sort of control, she was up all night, every night for days on end, her train of thought was running so fast that she couldn't keep up with herself. She'd barely have half of one sentence out before she was off and running with another idea. Her essays didn't make any sense whatsoever. And then without any warning, she'd lose complete interest in everything and you couldn't get her to get out of bed for anything."
"And that was just the bipolar," Harry said. "Her hands were practically raw from all the washing and the disinfecting she was doing. She was sending owls to Teddy three times a day. And I remember that because he came home early from his trip, he was so worried about her. That was before Jay and Fred managed to figure out how to make cell phones work in magical vicinities. Now she just calls him or texts him a hundred times a day."
"The other students thought she was stark raving mad," Neville continued quietly. "It got really ugly for a while when she was in the hospital. Before a brilliant Healer figured it out, there were a lot of people who thought she ought to be locked up or kissed by a Dementor or something to put her out of society entirely."
"There were?" Harry said derisively. "There still are." For a moment, he rolled his eyes. "We are nothing if not controversial in this family."
The sun was slowly setting, and after fielding what must've been a hundred calls from various people on what Harry explained was something called a 'cell phone' – "an instant means of communication with everybody on the bleeding planet", Harry had left to go back into London and the Ministry, his face grimmer than it had been the first time.
"So?" Dora asked softly as she nestled down against his side to fall asleep. "D'you think it was worth it? Dying? D'you think it made a difference at all?"
Remus looked at her for a moment, his arm curved around her back as he relished the warmth of her body against his. "Yeah, Dora, I do. I think it made all the difference in the world."
"M'kay," she murmured drowsily. "That's good."
Looking over at where his teenage self was still watching them, he sent a slight smile in his direction.
Yeah, maybe he hadn't screwed up. And as Remus Lupin fell asleep, the familiar queasy feeling of a full moon approaching in his stomach, he knew that if he was going to die, he was going to die a happy man.