He felt the pain before he even opened his eyes. Which was the first sign that it wasn't good. He'd been wounded several times before and usually Mungos had you so pleasantly dazed that most of the time you didn't even know you'd been injured.
Until you tore the freshly healed flesh.
But he hurt, and he had the vague sensation of being hungry too. He moaned.
"It should hurt," a complaining female voice said.
Michel Barten opened his eyes and tried his best to conjure a smile, "Perpetua," he said hiding the pain as well as he could.
It must not have worked because her severe expression didn't shift, "That's medi-witch Spencer," she corrected while adjusting the spectacles that were perched on her nose.
"What's the damage," he asked, trying to sit up and survey the main focus of his pain.
Perpe— Medi-witch Spencer shoved him back down with a firm hand. "Don't consider moving, we're still trying to regrow your intestines and your stomach is never going to be the same again. You can say good-bye to that hot sauce you fancy."
Barten hissed, as he lied back down on the pillow. "That bad eh?"
Was it his imagination or did Pepetua's eyes look a tad moist.
"How did you manage to..." she hastily pulled at his bed sheets and tightly bond him in place.
"I never knew you were interested in bondage," he quipped, "Maybe we could have dated for longer."
If Per– Mediwitch Spencer was the type to blush she might have, instead she frowned and pretended not to have heard him.
"Dark Lords can be problematic," Barten said, trying to sound blasé, even though he cringed when the blankets were pulled a little too tightly.
"Michel," Perpetua said, her firm voice faltering, "You aren't in the position to be— you're not Dumbledore!" Her exasperation was quite evident, but nothing new.
Barten did his best to shrug without moving, "I held my own."
"You're impossible," she flung her hands skyward and stomped to the door, "I'll be back with more pain relief potions," she directed. However, She stopped short when a tall young black man blocked her exit.
"You," she said with an equal amount of irritation. "I leave it to you, Mr. Warren, to try and talk some sense into him."
She left with a fury, and Barten couldn't help but wonder how he always managed to draw his ex-girlfriends as his medi-witch. But he had a visitor, which was another sign that it must be bad.
"She must like you," Barten said, cringing as he once again tried to sit up. Maybe Perpetua had it right this once. "She even remembered your name."
But who forgot Chris Warren, handsome, tall and lean with dark hair and eyes. He was just a kid really, not much older than twenty, but he was an odd soul. And theirs was an odd friendship, Chris wasn't much of a talker, and neither was Barten, but they'd both shared a history of bad experiences. And when Barten had been an instructor of young recruits at the Auror Academy he'd met the quiet young man. Seeing as most of Barten's friends were dead or had fled the country, he was in need of a drinking mate.
"S'not so bad Chris," Barten lied quickly, noticing how the younger man seemed to hang hesitantly in the doorway.
"Good," Chirs said enter more into the room, "I really don't want to have to plan your funeral. It'd just be embarrassing if only me and Medi-witch Sledgehammer showed up."
At least the kid was funny.
"I think I'd draw a little more of a crowd."
"If I offered free drinks," Chris said wirily. He took a seat in the only chair and surveyed the damage with blank eyes.
"You could at least pretend it isn't that bad, 'you'll be on your feet in a fortnight Barty' something like that would be cheering," Barten complained as the younger man's grim face didn't lift and an awkward tension remained.
"I was in Hogsmede," Chris said with a frown, "Wouldn't do much good to lie, I thought for sure they'd tossed you on the cart."
Barten's hand twitched, "What happened after..."
Chris smiled faintly, "I suppose you haven't lost your skills as a teacher, one of your students stepped in and fought Voldemort till help arrived, some impressive spell work, or so I'm told."
Barten's lips quirked to hide a smile, "Which student?" But he thought he already knew.
"James Potter," Chris answered without hesitation.
If it was possible to be drawn aback in his condition, Barten might have been. "James Potter?" he said incredulously. "Couldn't have been." He declared without thinking. "He's decent I suppose," He trailed off. His memory of that fight was slightly hazy, but there was only one of his students who he'd bet money could hold his own against a Dark Lord, and it wasn't James Potter.
Chris reached into a pocket and pulled out a rolled up newspaper. "It's been two weeks and he's still in the paper. He's refusing an Order of Merlin for his heroic actions." He tossed the paper to Barten and the man fumbled with raising his arm to study the headline.
"Two weeks," Barten's eyes narrowed. "I've been out..."
Chris remained silent. "From what they told me they put you into some sort of magical coma, some procedure to repair organs..."
"Probably Petty's idea," he cursed."I'll have to speak to Dumbledore I suppose, and see if I still have a job."
Chris chuckled, "I hope so, the Aurors won't take you back."
"Like I'd want to go," Barten said grumpily.
Chris raised his hands, "I'm on your side— " but their old argument feel short as Chris visually bit his lip.
"Err— Trampson was one of the ones who karked it back a Hogsmeade." Chris looked at his hand uncomfortably and Barten also found it difficult to make eye contact.
They'd spent a few drunken evenings complaining over the man's obstinate love of pureblood policy. He'd been one of the people who had been pleased to see Barten quit, after his physical training program requests had been denied. And, despite the current time of war, Trampson and a few others hadn't minded when some of Barten's promising recruits had followed their mentor and left the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
Still, for all his personality faults, he'd died for his country. Barten wasn't certain what that said about the man.
"Two weeks," Barten mused. He stared at the paper blankly, searching for something to distract himself. "You settle into your new apartment," he asked, remembering the reason why Chris had been at Hogsmeade that day.
Chris shrugged, "You could say that. I picked a place a little less...destroyed by Death Eater attack, it's in London. Sort of different living so close to muggles."
Barten laughed, which caused a throbbing pain in his gut, probably not good. Oh well, he thought absently.
Chris was the only son of a pureblood family. Not prejudiced really, no more than most old pureblood clans were, but he still hadn't had any exposure to Muggle culture until Hogwarts.
Perpetua returned looking just as cross and she was carrying to beakers filled with a grayish sludge.
Chris looked more than amused, "Bottoms up, mate," he encouraged.
Barten heaved a heavy sigh that made his gut ache abominably.
"WHY ARE YOU BLEEDING!" Perpetua yelled and, predictably, all hell broke loose.
Albus Dumbledore was a crazy codger, barmy as a one-legged rooster, and several other humorous adjectives as well— but it was probably a little disrespectful to malign a current employer too much. Somehow, despite being stuck in St. Mungo's for almost four months, he'd managed to remain employed at Hogwarts. Perhaps the man really hated looking for Defense professors. Either way, he couldn't help feeling very off put by how his meeting with the headmaster had gone.
The man had been all riddles regarding some facts that the public now considered common knowledge. Like how a slightly better than average wizard like James Potter would be able to fight off a Dark Lord. Especially when Barten knew for damn certain that the last time he'd seen Potter he was hiding behind some debris and shooting off stunning charms.
The Headmaster had also been playing dumb when it came to another young man who, while looking similar to James Potter, was certainly a more interesting variable. Any boy who could produce a fully formed Patronus and fight off the Imperius Curse was certainly a person of interest.
Barten frowned as a tan owl flew back to him, in exactly the same manner as it had for the last few hours. The white envelope it carried was no mystery, and the bird dropped it on his head with more than the needed attitude.
Barten stared at the name written on the envelope grumpily. Harry Tempus. It had been the tenth time today he'd tried to have the letter delivered, by three different owls no less, and as of yet the birds had only flown in circles before returning the letter to him. Tempus, an odd name that, but still even without an address an owl shouldn't have any difficulty finding such an individual.
Which only left a couple options available, few of them good.
Still as Barten made his plans for the coming year, and the decisions he'd come to regarding keeping what was left of himself intact, he couldn't help but remember his strange student.
And he wished him well, wherever he was.
Barten knocked on the door and then crossed his arms awkwardly. He felt very exposed standing on a muggle doorstep in the middle of Muggle London. And exposed wasn't exactly how he'd like to feel.
After ditching Mungo's, he'd returned to Hogwarts for a bit, and then quickly gone overseas.
And even that had only been just in time. The day after he left it, without his Healer's permission mind you, his room had been destroyed in some sort of fire spell. The poor bloke who'd taken residence after him had been reduced to nothing more than a pile of ashes.
He kicked around in Russia for a bit before stopping in Korea to stay with one of his school chums, Patrick, a clever muggle-born Ravenclaw who had wisely decided to ditch England while the storms raged.
He'd been thinking about taking a job in Japan when he'd received a very strange invitation.
It had been a wedding invitation, and it had finally made it to him three weeks after the date in question. More importantly it had been a muggle invitation, which was what had sparked the concern.
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Christopher Warren and Janet Bennett.
Bennett, you couldn't find a more muggle name. What in Merlin's name was Chris thinking?
He knocked again, his knuckles rapping the wooden door a little louder this time.
"Did you forget your keys—Oh!?" A young woman stood framed in the doorway dressed in a big faded t-shirt and some boxer shorts.
"Hello," Barten said trying to smile, although it was difficult.
"I'm sorry," she said her cheeks flushing. "I thought you were..."
"Sorry," he apologized, forcing the smile even more. "I was wondering if Chris was in?"
"Are you one of Chris's friends," She seemed surprised at the idea and her eyes lit up with some interest.
"Yes, I've been away, out of the country, I got the wedding invitation late, it took me a bit to get here" He was silenced when she latched onto his arm and dragged him into the apartment.
"Oh this is wonderful," she said and hugged him as well.
Barten felt more than a bit of shock.
"I haven't met any of his friends you see, and the wedding was so small." She moved about the house anxiously. He watched as she picked up some clothes that had been strewn on the floor and she straightened the pillows. "Well, with Chris's family dead, and all I have is my Dad and he's sort of disapproving and all. You know getting married so young, but he's a barrister and what can you expect really?"
She was beautiful, he realized this is an absent way. She had long legs and thick black hair, and her skin was a rich brown, but with a honey golden quality to it. Her eyes were dark, almost black and such thick long lashes. And so soft and warm, like a child's eyes.
But then she likely was a child, or not much of an adult yet at any rate.
"Would you like some tea?" she offered. "Oh, Chris is out for the moment but I'm expecting him home soon."
Barten hesitated for a moment before taking a seat at their small kitchen table.
"Tea would be nice," he relented wearily.
She moved to the kitchen and he watched as she started up the stove and put a kettle on to boil.
"So you were away? Traveling?"
"Something like that," he stated. "I don't think I introduced myself properly, I'm Michael Barten."
"Michael Barten," she said the name aloud in a thoughtful tone. "Chris mentioned you I think, you worked together once."
"Yes, and we became good friends, I'm sorry about missing the wedding it must have been sudden."
The girl laughed, "Yeah well, when you're in love why wait right?" She grew thoughtful for a moment. Her expression seemed to soften.
"It's Janet, right? I have the invitation somewhere," he fiddled in the pockets of his coat.
"Oh yeah," the girl forced a smile back on, "Guess it didn't introduce myself either. You're sort of like Chris, so formal sometimes. Yep Janet Be— I mean Warren."
The kettle whistled and she moved to get it, she poured the hot water into a small teapot and carried it and two cups to the table.
They seemed stuck in a silence while the tea steeped.
"So," he started nervously, "What do you do?"
"I'm studying art history," she provided. She gestured helplessly toward a small desk that was lodged in a corner of their apartment. Barten could see sketches and large sized art books lying around. "Maybe I should be studying just art instead. I love drawing…I'm just not very good at it." She seemed more amused than disappointed about this.
"What is Chris working on now," Barten asked, his question fishing for how much Janet knew about her new husband.
"Oh I don't know," she said, she sounded a little helpless. "Studying engineering or something like that." Her smile faltered a bit, and Barten had the distinct impression that she was well aware that much of her husband was a mystery.
"Babe, I'm back. They were out of that one thing you like, so I got strawberry. You like that right?"
Barten turned to see Chris walk in, he shrugged off a muggle trench coat and turned, his arms filled with grocery bags. The bags dropped from his hands and he seemed to stumble for a moment.
"Barty?" He said, using the old nickname that Barten had developed back in his Auror days.
"Hello Chris," Barten couldn't help the sour tone his voice took.
"Isn't this nice, your friend dropped by," Janet said with a cheerful tone that Barten was growing fond of.
"Yeah, it's been awhile."
It hadn't been that long, Barten thought, a few months, maybe half a year. But seeing Chris made it seem like it had been longer. The young man had cut his hair in a decidedly muggle style and he looked somehow lighter. The premature lines that used to ring his face had faded. He looked like the young man he was.
"Sorry I missed the wedding," Barten offered.
"No," Chris hesitated, "Well, we would have been glad to have you there."
"You want some tea Chris?" Janet said. She looked between the two men, noticing that Chris hadn't reached down to retrieve the groceries, indeed hadn't taken a step closer to his friend. She frowned slightly wondering at the odd reaction.
"Babe, don't you have work?" Chris asked.
Janet glanced at the clock. "Oh no!" she cried. "I still have to take a shower!" She dashed out of the room and through a door that Barten guessed led to their bedroom and bath. But her head popped out a moment later, "Don't go anywhere. I'll get ready really quick and maybe we can still have that tea." Her command seemed important and Barten nodded.
They stood in silence for a moment until they heard the faint sound of the shower running.
"Chris what are you doing?" Barten asked, saying the first thing that had been on his mind since he'd gotten that invitation. It had been the reason he'd left Korea, left his promising job prospect, and finally come back to England.
"What does it look like? I got married."
"To a muggle girl," the room, the girl, everything had made it clear. "She doesn't even know you're a wizard," Barten stated feeling slightly confused.
"Janet and I met, we fell in love and I married her, It's not complicated." Chris bent down and gathered the groceries before walking them to the kitchen keeping his back to Barten.
"Not complicated," Barten repeated, "What world are you living in?"
Chris began putting the things away, his body moving stiffly and he shut the door to the refrigerator with more force than was really needed.
"How can you marry her, what were you thinking, she's a muggle."
"Don't you feed me that pureblood crap, you're a muggleborn yourself," Chris turned to look at him. For a moment the old Chris was back, the frown lines on his face, the dark brooding eyes.
"That's right, I'm a muggleborn, I know better than anyone!" Barten said, he forced his voice to remain low "There are people out there who will hate her, they'll kill her for having the impunity to marry a wizard, a pureblood wizard. How could you bring her into this and not protect her. There aren't even any wards on this flat."
"I don't do magic here. No one knows, she's safe." Chris said his words with a forced confidence.
"That won't work. How could marry her, you know how this world is."
"I love her," Chris said he brushed his hands across his eyes, "She's the first person who has made me want to be alive since my parents died." Chris shook his head, "She's, you've met her. She's so light, and when I'm here there is no war."
"If she means so much to you, then you have to give up the wizarding world, you can't have both," Barten said. He was as certain of this as he was of anything. He stared harshly at Chris, feeling very much like the younger man's father.
"I don't do magic here," Chris said hesitantly.
"I mean nothing," Barten said seriously. "You can't talk to anyone from there, you can't go into the Leaky Cauldron. You can't be alive. If you want to have her, Christopher Warren the wizard has to die."
"I'm not going to abandon my country," Chris said with a scathing glance at Barten.
"And what it that supposed to mean," Barten asked archly.
"You know what it means, you left. You just gave up and decided to let them win. You're a coward."
Barten clenched his jaws fiercely and fought the anger that boiled inside, "I didn't have a choice," he stated. "They were going to kill me, even I'm no good dead. Dumbledore said I should let some time pass."
"When did you ever listen to Dumbledore," Chris demanded.
"When he started making sense," Barten replied with a dark edge to his voice. "This is no subtle war anymore, Voldemort and his idiotic minions are out for blood. They hide amongst us."
"You should still be fighting," Chris said through his teeth.
"What about you, are you going to take the battle to Voldemort's door. Going to take Janet there with you?"
"I'm not you," Chris said.
"So it's alright for me to die for the cause!" Barten fumed.
Chris just stared. Barten felt twisted inside. A part of Chris was right, but a part of him was wrong. Christopher Warren, a young man with old eyes. He'd fooled Barten for awhile into thinking that those eyes meant he was all grown-up. But he was still a kid, and he hadn't wanted to know that his heroes were human. Barten was supposed to be some renegade warrior, not a solider who wanted to live to fight another day.
"Maybe you're right, maybe it is. Maybe it's alright for you too. We picked our sides. We didn't have to. No one made us. We chose with our eyes wide open. Can you say the same for her? You're dragging her into a war she doesn't even know exists. A war she can't fight. And what if she has a child? Have you thought of that? Do you want to bring a child into this."
"I know what I'm doing," Chris argued. But his expression seemed to falter some at the thought of a child.
"I hope so," Barten said tiredly. "But someday, if you really love her, then you'll have to leave her. You can have our world or her. You can't have both. I wish we lived in a time when that wasn't true. But it is."
Chris shook his head.
He wasn't going to change his mind. "It's a risk, you shouldn't have married her." Barten repeated the words hoping that some sense would permeate.
The bedroom door opened. Barten was surprised, he had forgotten that anyone was still here. And he realized, absently, that the sound of the shower hadn't been running for a few minutes. Janet's stony expression as she stood awkwardly in plain looking clothes told him she had heard more of his conversation that Chris would like.
"I'm going out," she said, "I'm late for work."
"Janet," Chris said quickly, his expression nervous.
But she shook her head and quickly fumbled with her shoes and a coat before shutting the door behind her.
"Don't ruin this," Chris said with a pleading manner.
Barten felt like a heel, he felt like the guy who told kids there was no Santa. It was true, but no one found any joy in it. He hadn't meant for Janet to hear. She was a good kid, pretty and friendly, artistic and maybe exactly the sort of girl that Chris should be with. Except that she was a muggle, and this wasn't the time for the only son of the pureblood Warren family to marry a muggle.
"Be careful," Barten said softly.
He shook his head. He'd had a lot of friends go out this way, people who had chosen to take risks. It was a recipe for happiness, not survival. But as Barten began to think of his lonely little flat, all the meals he'd eaten alone— what did he know anyway.
Osaka was a nice town, big, filled with foreigners. But the sake was good, if sake could ever be good. Frankly he'd prefer a steaming glass of firewhiskey, but it was bloody expensive when it was available at all. And he really needed to be drunk today if he was going make it till the morning, and as he wasn't quite flush with funds— well he had to drink cheap. The strange taste of the sake, made from rice of all things, burned his throat as he downed yet another glass.
"More," Michel Barten requested, tapping the glass on the table and alerting the attention of the blind bartender.
"Too much," the Japanese man muttered under his breath, his English surprisingly good. Still he poured another line of glasses for Barten and moved further along the table to fiddle with an old wireless that was spluttering static.
Barten ignored the man's unobtrusive advice.
He had reason to drink, because life was ugly. It was unfair and hideous and he felt worthless because he couldn't do anything about it. His stomach was rolling and boiling but whether the pain was due to the alcohol he'd drank (which would wreak havoc on his weak stomach) or the anger and rage—that he didn't know.
A coward, Chris had called him that once. He felt like one now, a dirty coward without an ounce of pride.
He was sitting in a rundown pub in the underground magical community of Osaka. He'd been in Japan for a little over six months. He'd taken a job teaching boxing to some Chinese wizards who seemed to think it was a good lark. When that job dried up he'd done some freelance work for the British embassy in Tokyo. Strictly classified, which made it sound exciting but it really wasn't. He'd gotten out of that and excluding other events, maybe he'd still be training at the small dojo that had allowed a British wizard entry, he'd been getting good at the whole meditation thing.
Except a letter had come a few days ago and he'd spent the subsequent time getting thrown out of the various drinking establishments throughout Osaka.
Pepetua was as snarky as she had ever been, and her letter had surprised him. He hadn't heard from her, barely even thought of her, since he'd left England. The letter had been more bad news, of course.
What a young idiot. Such a fool, he should have known better.
"They never know better," the blind bartender said from his corner and Barten realized he must have been speaking aloud.
He'd paid for it, stupid twat.
It's a sick and unfair world we live in.
"Yes, but we get on," the bartender said.
Was the man a mind reader, Barten wondered.
"You've been mumbling," the man said turning back to the wireless.
Barten took another drink and made a sincere effort to keep his internal monologue internal.
Chris dead, what a bloody waste. And the kid, Barten couldn't help but wonder what had happened to the kid. He'd spoken to Chris only a month ago and he'd sworn that the marriage and child were still separate from the wizarding world. Neither knew that the other existed.
But secrets tended to unravel in a war like this. What if someone had found out, would the kid be in danger? And that girl, what had her name been, Jane? No, Janet. She wouldn't even know that there was a danger to protect the kid from.
Maybe he should go back.
He took another hit of the alcohol. "Yeah, that would go over well," he muttered.
He hadn't been real happy the last time they had spoken, mad at Chris really. His second visit had been worse than the first and he'd taken some of his frustration out on her. Janet, warm soul that she was, wouldn't welcome his sudden appearance. Still, if Chris's kid was in danger. What had the boy's name been? A solid sort of name. Dean? Dennis? He was probably a year old now.
"Hey English," the bartender said. "Something on the wire," he pulled the battered wireless closer to Barten. In his drunken stupor he didn't really care what new carnage and destruction was laying waste to his country. Still, he had nothing to distract himself and the crisp sound of another British voice penetrated his sodden brain.
"I repeat, News coming in from our home office in London has reported that You-Know-Who was destroyed last evening at the Potter residence in Godric's Hollow. Information is sketchy at best, but it's suspected that You-Know-Who went to the Potter home with the intention of killing Light proponents James and Lily Potter, a pair who had dropped out of public eye in recent months. James and Lily Potter are recorded as dead at the scene, but —are you sure they got this right Stenson?"
The air went dead for a moment.
"It seems..." the announcer was speaking very slowly now, "That You-Know-Who also chose to attack the Potter's son, one-year-old Harry Potter. However, the killing curse rebounded, striking down the Dark Lord and— I can't believe I'm saying this gents— leaving Harry Potter alive.
"Already the wizarding world is celebrating the end of eleven years of war, and heralding their young hero, The-Boy-Who-Lived."
"Amazing," an heavily accented voice stated on the radio, "Have there been any speculation on how this will effect the young wizard?"
"According to some information leaked from St. Mungo's, all magical diagnostic tests ran after the attack show that the young boy and his magic are in good condition. Seeming no effect, excepting a lighting bolt shaped scar on his forehead."
"Fascinating," the other voice commented, "I am thinking we may expect great things from this Potter."
"Indeed. Once again, for those just tuning in You-Know-Who was destroyed last— "
Barten let the repeating message drift away as his sluggish mind mulled over the startling news. He felt as if he'd been shocked sober, or at least he felt more steady than he had in a few days. How could things change so quickly, it seemed impossible. And all due to some infant—James Potter's son of all things. And James dead, and that wife of his, good girl.
James Potter. Lighting bolt scar.
Suddenly Barten was laughing. His voice echoed throughout the small pub and its patrons turned to look at him before going back to their own business. The blind bartender had taken a few steps toward him, probably wondering if the English wizard had drunken himself crazy. And maybe he had lost his mind, because he could swear...
"Ha ha ha, that bloody bastard."
Barten got to his feet, standing rather steadily and threw a few galleons on the bar.
Maybe this old world wasn't worth giving up on after all.
I've been preoccupied with other things lately, am currently finishing up a Twillight fanfic which I hope to be publishing soon, and haven't worked on this as much as I would have liked. So I present a pre-betaed version of this chapter to amuse you. I hope it begins to explain some the questions regarding Barten and Dean Thomas.