Professors Dumbledore, Sprout, and McGonagall were watching from the edge of the room as Madam Pomfrey bustled about the room. She ignored them, concentrating on her work. She was good at compartmentalizing, seeing her patient as opposed to the heart-breaking sight of the broken boy on the bed before her.
Madam Pomfrey ran her well trained eyes over the boy, taking in his general appearance. She checked his capillary refill and skin turgor. He was dehydrated. Another wave of her wand told her he was hypothermic. She summoned a hot water bottle and with a tap of her wand, it was filled and she tucked it up against his body. She placed a mild warming charm on the mattress.
With one sweep of her wand, she slashed through the boy's clothing—they were beyond mending anyway. Her eyes zipped across the boy's body, taking mental note of every lesion. The bruising over his ribs concerned her. Her well-trained fingers travelled across each rib, palpating three distinct callous formations over the bone. She pointed her wand between the rib spaces, muttering "Sonorus," and bent her head to listen to the boy's chest. His heart beat loud and clear under her wand. She adjusted the position of her wand, listening to his lung sounds. Normal. Good. No atelectasis. She moved on.
The left leg was a mess. Someone had clearly attempted to set it, but poorly. She slowly swept her wand from his hip to his toes. Blue images of the bone flickered, suspended over the leg. Her brow furrowed as she studied the images. There was a compound fracture to the left tibial diaphysis, and it was laterally displaced. A callous was already forming over the fracture site, and the bone was remodelling. That was unfortunate. She would not be able to mend that so easily as if it were a more recent break. The leg would have to be reset if it was ever going to be normal again. But the leg could wait. She continued with her examination.
She gently turned the boy over. His back was bruised the same as his front, but there was something else that troubled her. She leaned over her patient, her eyes narrowing, trying to see past the bruises and dirt that covered the boy's skin. Scars. Lots of them. She ran a hand gently over his back, feeling the raised ropes that crisscrossed every which way like a sadistic spider web. She traced them with her wand and sighed as her fears were confirmed.
She glanced over her shoulder. Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Sprout were deep in conversation. Snape had joined them. Madam Pomfrey had not seen him enter the room, so intent she had been on her work. Now he stood in the corner, eyes on the boy on the bed. Madam Pomfrey looked back at Harry herself. Tears were coming to her eyes as she stared down at the boy's scarred back. After a moment, she reached down and turned Harry back over, wrapping him in a warm blanket and readjusting the hot water bottle as she did. Then she took a deep breath and braced herself for a difficult conversation.
"Have you contacted Remus?" McGonagall was asking as Madam Pomfrey approached.
"He's on his way," Dumbledore replied. He noticed Madam Pomfrey approaching and turned his attention immediately to her. "How is he?" he asked urgently, or at least as urgently as Dumbledore ever sounded.
"He's stable. I've put him in an enchanted sleep for the time being. He needs time to rest."
"His injuries?" Dumbledore asked.
Madam Pomfrey sighed. "No lasting damage that I can see to his body, though he'll need some time to heal. He has a few broken bones that I won't be able to mend using the emendo spell; the fractures are too old and have already begun to remodel. His left leg is particularly poorly aligned. I will have to reset it. And the wound where the fracture exited the skin has become infected. He'll need to be on an Antibiotic Potion for a couple weeks. Otherwise, he has multiple contusions and areas of soft tissue damage and swelling. A few repeated dosings of an Anti-inflammatory Draught should take care of those."
"His injuries. Are they consistent with a beating?" Snape interjected. Madam Pomfrey was under the impression he was tired of the medical jargon and wanted her to get to the point.
"That is…a probable explanation for his injuries." Madam Pomfrey replied noncommittally.
"Is…" Dumbledore took a deep breath and started over. "Is there any evidence that there may have been…other…forms of torture used?"
Nobody had any doubt about what Dumbledore meant by "other," but the word 'Cruciatus' remained unsaid.
"Unfortunately, there are forms of torture that do not leave a mark on the body. But which can leave a pronounced mark on the mind. To know if Harry has undergone that, we will have to wait until he wakes up." Everyone in the room was silent for a moment, looking at the bruised and battered boy before them, and Madam Pomfrey felt quite sure she was not the only one thinking of Frank and Alice Longbottom.
"There's something else you should see," Madam Pomfrey said at last.
She led the way back to Harry and the Professors followed. Gently, she turned Harry over so his back was showing and looked back at the professors. Professor Sprout gave a sharp intake of air at the sight of the scars, Professor McGonagall bit her lip, and Snape's brow furrowed. Professor Dumbledore's face was unreadable.
"Lashings," said Snape softly. He was looking surprisingly livid. Dangerous.
"I don't understand," said Sprout. "Black tried to heal him after he lashed him? Why would he do that? And why these wounds and not the others."
Madam Pomfrey drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly before answering. "There is no magical signature to these marks. They were not made nor healed by magical means."
A look of realisation came to McGonagall's and Snape's faces. Dumbledore's face remained blank, but there was a deep sorrow in his eyes. Professor Sprout still looked confused.
"But these are completely healed. If they healed naturally they would have to be years and years old. How…" she broke off, comprehension showing on her kindly, round face. "Oh," she said softly.
A soft foot falls made Madam Pomfrey jump. Professor Lupin was walking up to the bed slowly. Madam Pomfey couldn't say how long he had been standing there, but one look at his face told her it was long enough. He was taking in the site of the boy on the bed silently. Professors Sprout and McGonagall made room for him. He didn't acknowledge any of them. His eyes were just on Harry.
"They might be from when he was kidnapped by the Death Eaters," Professor Sprout offered after a moment's silence. "When he was a child." Madam Pomfrey looked at her kindly. She wasn't sure if Professor Sprout truly believed this suggestion or was merely avoiding the truth in front of her face. Professor Sprout was such a good person herself, she often failed to see the faults in others.
"You see the distinct boarders of these scars. The ones that are over the top of the others. That appearance suggests that the scars beneath were already fully healed at the time that these blows were delivered. And you see the way these here have stretched over the muscles of his back? He was still growing at the time. I…I believe," Madam Pomfrey was getting to the hard part. To this point she had offered only the hard facts that the evidence showed her. Now she was getting to the implications of those facts. "I believe there were multiple series of beatings that spanned over several years. And I believe they date back to when he was little more than a toddler." By the end of this speech, her voice was soft and thin, but so silent was it in the hospital wing, no one could have failed to hear her.
Silence. Madam Pomfrey reached down and turned Harry back over, making sure he was well wrapped in blankets.
Professor Lupin approached the bed slowly. His hands shook as he reached up and brushed the hair gently from the boy's eyes. His eyes were brimming with tears as he seated himself on the chair next to Harry's bed. He reached up and grasped Harry's hand, staring into the boy's face.
"I told you." Professor McGonagall's voice was soft, but the anger in it surprised Madam Pomfrey. Surprised her because the anger was directed at Professor Dumbledore. "When you left him there as a baby. I told you."
Professor Dumbledore merely stood there, silent, looking down at Harry's sleeping face for one more moment. Then he said, "I have to inform the Ministry that Harry has been found." And to Madam Pomfrey, "Please keep me updated on how he is doing." And with that, he left the infirmary. Professor McGonagall blew her nose once before following him out, Professor Sprout close behind. Snape lingered for a bit staring at Harry. But then he too turned on his heal and swept out of the hospital wing with his robes billowing behind him.
Madam Pomfrey turned back to her patient. She thought vaguely of shooing Professor Lupin out too while she reset the boy's leg, but when it came to it, she really didn't have the heart. He was looking too pathetic, grasping Harry's hand and staring at the battered and bruised face, his breath shuddering.
No, he wouldn't leave, even if Madam Pomfrey ordered him to. Madam Pomfrey sighed and resigned herself to working around him.
Madam Pomfrey brushed a tear from her eye before setting herself to her task. She had no doubts as to what was on everyone's mind, but the word 'abuse' remained unsaid.
Harry was warm. He couldn't remember ever having been so warm and cosy. And it was bright—he was vaguely aware of this, even behind his closed eyelids. Strange. It had always been so dark in the cave. He pushed his legs out, stretching out his spine. His leg made contact with a warm, firm weight which jerked itself away from him as he moved, as though it had just jolted awake. Harry sighed, a slight smile coming to his lips. "Hello, dog," he muttered to it, not opening his eyes. He took a few deep breaths, relaxing into the warm and comfortable pillow, snuggling under the soft sheets and down comforter. And then his brain clicked on.
He jerked up to a sitting position, staring around wide-eyed. He was in a large, high-ceilinged room. Everything was white and clean and shining. There were two rows of neatly made beds with clean white sheets and metal bed frames that were polished such that they sparkled when they caught the light. Next to each bed was a simple, straight backed chair on one side and a bed stand on the other. Harry put a hand to his forehead. The brightness was making his head pound. He felt dizzy.
"Harry?" came a soft, hoarse voice to his left, very close. Harry jumped and started round. Harry stared blankly at the man sitting in the chair beside his bed. His brain couldn't process what he was seeing. Harry was vaguely aware that his breath was coming in short, sharp gasps.
"Harry?" the man asked again, looking more and more concerned with each passing second as Harry just sat there staring at him. A strangled sort of sob cut through the air which Harry vaguely realised had escaped from his own mouth. And then his body half launched himself at the man sitting beside him, arms tightening around the other man's neck as though he would never let go. And he felt the other man's arms encircling him just as tightly. Harry's shoulders were shaking as he took deep, shuddering breaths, burying his face in the other man's neck. The chest he clung to was rising and falling with deep, calming breaths.
"I thought you were dead," Harry managed to gasp out after a time, not breaking the embrace. Harry couldn't remember ever hugging anyone in his life before this. Not really. He had been hugged here and there, but he never returned it, and he never appreciated any comfort in it. Until now. Now he clung to Remus as though he were the only thing keeping him from drowning in a sea of emotion.
"I know," Remus whisper back in his ear. "I know. I'm so sorry, Harry. But I'm right here. I'm so sorry."
They sat like that for some time. Minutes? Hours? Days? Harry really couldn't say. After a bit, Harry's breathing had calmed and he pulled away, sitting back against the headboard. He flinched as he readjusted his weight. His ribs still twinged painfully. He looked down at his left leg.
"Madam Pomfrey was unable to heal a few bones, I'm afraid. The breaks were too old and the fracture sites had callused. She re-set your leg though. It should heal. It just might take a few weeks to be back to normal.
Harry said nothing. He stared down at his casted and splinted leg for a while then back to Remus. Remus looked exhausted. There were dark circles under his eyes, and he looked thinner and greyer than Harry remembered. And he looked worried. He was looking at Harry with apprehension. Fear, almost. Harry studied Remus's face for some time, silently. He couldn't help but notice that the longer he sat there staring at Remus, the more and more anxious Remus appeared.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Harry asked hoarsely.
"I just…er…" Remus swallowed, his brow furrowing as he looked at Harry. "How are you feeling," he asked after a minute's silence. Still he looked at Harry with that strange, fearful look. He leaned forward a little toward Harry.
"Peachy," Harry replied, sardonically, still waiting for an answer.
"I just meant…" Remus broke off. He gave a sigh and a small self-deprecating smile. "It doesn't matter," he said. "It's just…Madam Pomfrey was concerned… She thought you might… Sometimes, when the body is taxed as yours has been, it can…affect the mind too. It can…"
"You all thought I might have gone mad," Harry interrupted, matter-of-factly. Remus looked embarrassed, but didn't deny it. Harry looked down at his lap, thoughtfully. After a moment, he looked back at Remus and asked, "Have I?"
Remus gave out a strange sort of choked chortle and replied, "You tell me."
Harry looked around the room, seriously considering this. He nodded a few times. "Possible," he said at last, looking back to Remus. "I am talking to a dead man, after all."
They stared at each other for a few seconds, and then Remus's face broke and suddenly they were laughing. They were laughing so hard and so manically, had anyone walked by at that moment, he probably would have thought that they both had gone insane.
Harry couldn't say when the tone of the laughter changed. All he knew was that sometime in the middle, he looked at Remus and saw tears in his eyes and realised that the laughter was fast transitioning into weeping. And at that moment he realised there were tears in his own eyes. Their laughter died out, and suddenly Harry found it hard to meet Remus's eye. Remus sniffed beside him.
"I thought I'd lost you," Remus said softly. Harry looked at him. There an immense sorrow in his eyes now. And guilt.
"And I you," Harry whispered back, looking at his hands clutched in his lap.
He felt Remus get up and move to sit on the edge of the bed beside him. An arm came around Harry's shoulders, and he felt Remus's lips pressed against his temple in a soft caress. Harry closed his eyes, wondering if this is what it felt like to have a parent who loved him. He shifted his weight and rested his head against Remus's chest.
"You're tired," asked Remus after a moment. Harry could feel the words reverberating in the chest below his ear. Harry nodded. He was exhausted.
"You need to get some rest," said Remus. "You need to heal." He made to move away, but Harry clung to the front of Remus's robes.
"Stay," he said. He was already falling asleep, head still resting on Remus's chest. "Please."
He felt Remus settle himself back onto the bed, leaning against the headboard. Harry breathed a deep sigh. There were things they would have to discuss—things left unsaid. But they could wait. And with that, Harry descended into a deep sleep, feeling safe and warm for the first time in a very very long time.
Tonks tripped over the last step as they hastened up the marble staircase from the Entrance Hall. She hurried to keep up with the gaggle of rushing wizards. There was an awful lot of arguing going on ahead, but she was paying more attention to not falling on her face than to the actual conversation. She merely caught snippets here and there.
"Really, Cornelius. Is this absolutely necessary?" Dumbledore was saying. "The boy has been through a terrible ordeal. He needs time to rest and recuperate."
"I've had enough, Dumbledore! You've been bandying about with the boy for too long. Why, if it hadn't been for you and your blatant disregard for your charge, the boy never would be in this state in the first place! I intend to see him, Dumbledore, and I intend to see him now. He will lead us to Black."
"Really!" cried Professor McGonagall. "Harry only just regained consciousness, and you want to start interrogating him?"
Tonks opened her mouth to agree with McGonagall, but Kingsley shot her a warning look and she shut it. Snape swept along beside them all, ever silent.
At this point, they were flying down a corridor on the third floor. They turned right and headed up to a pair of double doors. Fudge reached them first, and he wasted no time flinging them open and marching into the hospital wing.
Madam Pomfrey started from her task of organizing potions on a shelf. "Really!" she cried in hushed tones. "Headmaster, I really must protest…"
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?" shouted Fudge, interrupting Madam Pomfrey's pleas for quiet. Fudges attention was on a bed halfway down the ward. It was a touching sight: Remus Lupin, sitting on the bed, fast asleep with Harry Potter cradled in his arms. At least Tonks thought it touching. Fudge clearly did not agree. Both Remus and Harry started awake at his shout, looking around dazedly.
"You condone this in your staff, do you Dumbledore?" Fudge was raging. "How many of your staff go around sleeping with underage wizards?"
Remus jumped to his feet at those words. "What exactly are you implying?" he said, staring down the minister with bared teeth. He looked dangerous right then.
"I think you know very well what I'm implying," said Fudge, stepping forward so he was face to face with Remus. A muscle in Remus's jaw was twitching and his hands were curled into fists. Tonks had the distinct impression Remus was holding himself back from punching Fudge so hard his bowler hat would end up in another time zone. "I want this man removed from Hogwarts immediately, Dumbledore!" snapped Fudge.
"Cornelius," Dumbledore stepped in before a brawl could start. "As we have discussed previously, the appointment of positions in this school is entirely within the power of the headmaster. Not the Ministry. Remus has my every confidence. His relationship with Harry is in no way inappropriate…"
"Damn your confidences!" Fudge interrupted. "I told you when you hired a werewolf, it would come to nothing but trouble. But I stood by you, against my own better judgement. And now look!"
At the word 'werewolf,' several sets of eyes glanced awkwardly at Remus before quickly looking away.
Remus stood stock still. He stared at Fudge, his jaw clenched, nostrils flaring.
"Remus?" Harry was looking up at Remus with questioning eyes. His voice was soft, barely more than a whisper, but it got Remus's attention immediately. Remus half glanced down toward the bed, but he did not meet Harry's eye.
Remus looked back at Fudge, his face hard and resolved but there was an underlying of sadness. And then he walked around the bed and in the direction of the door. "Remus?" Harry said again, louder this time and more panicked sounding. Remus's step faltered for half a second at Harry's call. Again, he half turned back to the bed before thinking better of it. He walked on and out through the open infirmary doors.
"Remus!" Harry shouted again. His voice was thick with betrayal, but Remus did not return.
"Now. Potter," said Fudge, curtly. "Let's get right down to it. Tell us everything."
"W-what?" said Harry, still staring distractedly after Remus.
"Black. Where is he?" snapped Fudge, clearly out of patience, if he ever had any.
"I don't…why…?" Harry looked confused and disoriented. Still his attention was on the door through which Remus had disappeared.
"Now listen here, Potter," said Fudge. "Black broke out of Azkaban, kidnapped, and tortured you. Don't you think he deserves to be punished for that?"
"He didn't…I don't…I'm…" Harry cut off and finally turned to Fudge. "Punished how? What do you mean?"
"He'll get the Kiss for this one," said Fudge, curtly.
"The…what?" Harry asked, clearly thinking he had misheard.
"The Dementor's Kiss, Harry," said Dumbledore gently, is a form of corporal punishment, in which a Dementor, one of the creatures you encountered at the gate yesterday evening, attaches its jaw to the prisoner's mouth and sucks out his soul.
Harry looked completely horrified. "That's what those things were trying to do to me last night?" Professor McGonagall shot Fudge a glare, and he had the decency to look mildly ashamed. "And you let them to that to prisoners? You're going to let them do that to Sirius?"
"Potter, listen. Every moment we waste is a moment Black could be using to get away. Black deserves—"
"No!" interrupted Harry. "No one deserves that! Forget it. I'm not helping you do that to him."
"After what Black did to you—"
"It's not his fault! He didn't mean to do anything to me. He's not in his right mind. He needs help, not punishment."
There was silence for a minute. All eyes were on Harry, and he met them head on with a determined glare.
"Have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome, Harry?" Fudge asked, his tone changing to that of a kindly uncle.
Harry let out a groan and buried his face in his hands.
"It's entirely possible, Minister, that Black used a Confundus Charm on Potter to encourage him to comply."
"I'm not confunded," ground out Harry, face still in his hands. "And I'm not deaf either," he shot at Snape. "Look, I'm not saying Sirius and I are ever going to be the best of friends and go dancing through a field full of daisies together, but that… That's barbaric, and I won't have any part in it!"
Tonks looked around at her companions and found the range of facial expressions in the group was comical. Fudge looked livid and Snape's lip was curling in disgust. Professor McGonagall and Kinsley merely looked thoughtful and Dumbledore looked right out proud, of all unlikely things. Tonks saw Dumbledore and Kingsley exchange a significant look.
"Cornelius," said Dumbledore quite cheerfully, "why don't we step away and let the Aurors do what they do best. I have a few other things to discuss with you at present."
Fudge grumbled for a bit under his breath before he snapped at Kingsley, "Get what you can from him!" and marched away with Dumbledore. Everyone else followed except Tonks and Kingsley.
Harry was now resting his head on his knees. Kingsley walked around to the side of the bed and pulled up the chair and sat down so he was on eyelevel with Harry. Harry turned his head to look at him with a stubborn expression on his face.
"Hello, Harry," said Kingsley, gently. "Remember me?"
"I try not to," replied Harry coldly.
Kingsley just laughed. "Yes. Don't blame you. You know, some time I'd like to get the chance to talk to you when you're not having a terrible day for a change."
Harry let out a small chuckle. "Yeah." Then his face turned serious again. "I'm not telling you anything," he said firmly.
Kingsley nodded solemnly. "We're just trying to help, you know. Even the Minister. I know he comes off a little…" he paused looking for a word.
"Mental?" Harry supplied.
"…forceful," Kingsley continued, but he gave Harry a small indulgent smile. "But he's trying to do what he must to protect his country. You must see that Black is a danger to anyone who comes into contact with him."
"I don't think he is," said Harry and his eyes were earnest. "Look, I'm not stupid. I know what this looks like." Harry gestured to his bruised and battered body. "But you have to believe me, this isn't what it looks like. It was just an accident. I'm not saying my little jaunt with Sirius was a picnic, but he never hurt me on purpose. I think the only one he's truly a danger to is himself." He looked at Kingsley with wide, pleading eyes. "You have to believe me."
"I do," said Kingsley softly. "Or at least I believe it's what you believe."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry asked.
"Harry. A Confundus Spell can change our perception of what—"
"I'm not confunded!" cried Harry, exasperated.
"Okay okay," said Kingsley, holding up his hands in submission. "Let's say you're not confunded. Why did he take you if not to hurt you?"
"He was trying to protect me," said Harry quickly, seeming glad that someone was finally listening to what he said.
"Protect you from what?"
"Well… a rat," said Harry.
There was a pause. Then "A rat," Kingsley repeated.
"I never said it was logical!" Harry protested. He sighed. "But apparently there's a rat running around Hogwarts that wants to kill me. I know it's crazy, but that's my point! He's not in his right mind. He needs help. He told me a lot of things while I was with him. Things about my parents and how he was framed for their murders. I'm not really sure how much to believe. But I really do believe that somewhere in his perverse and twisted mind, he genuinely did think he was helping me."
"Okay," said Kingsley slowly. "Then if he was helping you so much, how did you end up like…" he gestured a hand at the casted leg and bruises covering Harry's body.
"It was my own fault," said Harry looking embarrassed. "I tried to escape and ended up tripping and falling off a ledge. Sirius tried to patch me up as best he could." Tonks knew Kingsley well enough that she recognised the scepticism behind his eyes, but he did not challenge the story.
"How did you manage to escape?" Tonks was quite impressed watching her superior's interrogation techniques. For a conversation that had started with the words 'I'm not telling you anything,' quite a lot had been said.
Harry shrugged, "I wasn't able to use magic at first. I'd hit my head pretty hard back at Remus's, and it took a while for my magic to come back. I waited until it did and until my leg was healed enough that I could walk on it. And then I surprised him and overpowered him. I took the wand and I left." Harry said it as though it were the simplest thing in the world.
"How did you make it back to Hogwarts?" asked Kingsley, his brow furrowed.
Harry gave a grim smile and replied, "As my very blistered and frostbitten feet will attest, I walked. I tried to telepor—er…Apparate…part of the way, but I wasn't strong enough.
"Where did you have to walk from?" Clever, thought Tonks. Very clever.
But apparently not clever enough to fool Harry. He gave Kingsley a knowing smile. "By which you mean, where did I leave Sirius?" Harry said. Kingsley smiled back, not looking remotely ashamed for being caught in a blatant manipulation. "I don't know why you even want to know," continued Harry. There's no way he's still there. He's mad, but he's not stupid. He'll have moved on as soon as he woke up."
"Woke up?" asked Kingsley.
"Yeah, well…" Harry looked mildly uncomfortable. "I sort of knocked him out. So he wouldn't follow me."
Kingsley gave a few nods, a strange expression on his face. And then he burst out laughing.
"I had to!" said Harry, indignantly.
"I know, I know," Kingsley managed, still chortling. "It's not that. You did the right thing. It's just…" he paused, shaking his head slowly and still grinning, looking at Harry with fondness. "You remind me so much of your father," he finally finished.
This did not seem to be the response Harry expected. He studied Kingsley for a moment and then asked, "You knew him?"
Kingsley gave a small secret smile of reminiscence and then said, "James was a good friend." Then something caught his eye, and Tonks followed his gaze to the doorway where she saw Fudge standing, tapping his foot impatiently.
"Now. Harry," said Kingsley, suddenly business-like. "Am I correct in assuming that you have told us all you intend to about your time with Black?" Harry nodded, cautiously as though expecting a trick. "Very well." Kingsley got to his feet. "Then I shall do what I can to keep the minister off your back for as long as I can." He clapped a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Get some rest. You need it," he said. And then with a nod for Tonks to follow, he was leaving the room.
Harry watched them go with a thoughtful expression on his face. Tonks couldn't help but wonder what parts of the story were left unsaid.
Remus poked his head in the door of the hospital wing tentatively. He had passed the time walking around the lake feeling utterly ashamed of himself and miserable. He waited until he saw Fudge and the Aurors leaving before heading back to the castle. That Tonks was a strange one with her spiky pink hair and her way of looking at him as though she understood a great deal more about him than she possibly could. He wasn't sure what to make of her. She was the only one of the party who had noticed him on the grounds as they left, and she had given him a nod.
But that didn't matter. Now he had to try and undo the terrible mistakes he had made with Harry. He drew a deep breath and entered the hospital wing. The boy was sitting on his bed with his head in the hands, and he did not seem to notice his approach. But as Remus neared, Harry spoke.
"You came back," said Harry. "I wasn't sure you would." He didn't look up.
"Of course I came back," replied Remus softly. It made him terribly sad that Harry had doubted it.
Finally, Harry looked up—looked Remus straight in the eye—and now Remus found himself wanting to look away. Harry's face was hard and unforgiving. "I called for you. I was practically begging for you to come back. And you just walked away. Just left. Left me with him!" Remus was studying his feet. "How could you do that?" Harry finished.
"You're right," whispered Remus, suddenly feeling like a chastised school boy. "You're absolutely right Harry. I never should have done that." He looked up at Harry, imploring him to understand. "I just got…overwhelmed. My relationship with Fudge…with the Ministry…is very…strained. Strained because I'm a…I'm a…"
"You're a werewolf," Harry finished for him, matter-of-factly.
Remus let out a breath and closed his eyes. "I didn't want for you to find out that way. That must have been hard for you. I'm sorry."
"Remus I already knew," said Harry. And when Remus looked at him startled, Harry said, "Sirius told me." Still his face was hard and unyielding.
It was time. Remus knew it was coming. He looked down, collecting himself. Merlin, this was so hard. He had faced so much rejection for being a werewolf in his life and gotten through it. But how could he take it from Harry? How could he get through that? "I know that my…condition…must be hard for you to accept…"
"I don't give a damn about your 'condition!'" interjected Harry. Remus looked up to find Harry looking at him like he was crazy. "What I care about, is that you didn't tell me. How could you not tell me?" asked Harry, his tone accusatory.
"How could you not tell me about your uncle?" The minute the words were out of Remus's mouth, he wanted to snatch them back. What an awful, petty retort. But this conversation was making him feel like he was a child again. And so he was acting like a child.
There was silence in the room and then, "What?" Harry was staring at him with betrayed eyes and a dropped jaw.
Remus sighed. There was no going back now. "I know Harry. I saw the scars. On your back. I'm not a complete fool. I can put two and two together…eventually."
Harry was shaking his head indignantly. "I… That's none of your business!"
"It's as much my business as me being a werewolf is yours," Remus insisted. Harry was staring at him with a look of ferocity, but Remus, feeling that he might as well be hung for a dragon as an egg, barrelled on recklessly. "How long was it going on, Harry? Is that why you left your aunt and uncle's?"
Harry was still shaking his head, breathing hard through his nose. "No. No. Absolutely not. I'm not doing this. For months, I sat listening to you talk about trust and about being open and honest with each other. But if you can't even practice what you preach, why should I?"
Remus drew in a shuddering breath, "Harry…" he began.
"Get out," stopped him. His voice was cold and hard.
"Get out! I refuse to answer your questions. Get out. I don't want you here. I don't want anything to do with you!"
The words hit Remus like a battering ram to the chest. He stood there for a moment stunned. Harry was looking determinedly toward the window, not acknowledging his presence at all. Remus took a shuddering breath, nodded a few times, and then swept out of the room.
Behind him, a dejected boy sat on a bed with his face buried in his hands.
Another tour of the lake and Remus had come to much the same conclusion as he had the last time. He had to go back up to the hospital wing and apologise to Harry. He had been acting like a child, and meanwhile Harry needed an adult. Now more than ever. He steeled himself for whatever was to come, telling himself over and over that he would not lose his temper again. And with that he walked up the stairs from the great hall toward the hospital wing.
For the second time that day, he took a deep, steadying breath before pushing open the hospital wing door. But as he stepped into the infirmary, his eyes fell upon an empty bed, the covers still mussed from where Harry had lain. He looked around. Harry was nowhere to be seen. Suppressing the panic in his heart and telling himself there was sure to be a reasonable explanation, he turned to his left and went through a door at the end of the hospital wing. He did not bother to knock, and Madam Pomfrey jumped as he pushed his way into her office.
"Where's Harry?" he interrupted.
"Harry?" she asked, looking confused. "Why he's right…" she looked over his shoulder to Harry's empty bed and her voice trailed off. "He was right there," she insisted, abruptly looking panicked. "I gave him a pain reliever just minutes ago! He was right there!"
But Remus didn't wait to hear more. He was barrelling out of the infirmary. "Tell Dumbledore!" he shouted at Madam Pomfrey over his shoulder as he raced down the stairs.
Oh, God. What have I done? Had Harry made a run for it because of what he had said? Or worse? Could Black have gotten in? Taken him? He jumped the last few stairs into the Entrance Hall. Several students paused to watch him streak through the oak doors out onto the grounds.
He stood at the top of the steps leading into Hogwarts and scanned the horizon in each direction. There was no sign of Harry or Black. He couldn't have gotten so far as to be out of sight. Not if Madam Pomfrey had really seen him only moments before. The secret passage ways! Black could have used them to get in unseen! And with that thought, Remus had turned around and was racing back to the third floor.
The One-Eyed Witch Passageway had always been Black's favourite at school. Probably due to the advantages of chocolate on the other end. He would check there. But when Remus reached it and muttered the word Dissendium, he saw that the opening to the tunnel was laid thick with cobwebs. No one had been through here in some time. He thought again and then ducked behind a tapestry and up another flight of stairs.
On the fourth floor, Remus pushed a large mirror aside and stepped through into the dark tunnel behind. "Ouch!" he cried, as he stubbed his toe on something unseen. And then, "Lumos!" The light of his wand showed him that he had hit with his foot on a large boulder. There was rubble everywhere. He pointed his wandlight deeper into the tunnel and saw that the entire passage way had caved in. It was completely blocked. Well not this way.
This wasn't working. He would do better to return to the infirmary and confer with Dumbledore and the other teachers. Organise a proper, methodical search. He headed back to the infirmary, now getting very out of breath. Dumbledore and a collection of staff were already there, huddled together, talking urgently.
"Remus," Dumbledore acknowledged him gravely.
"I checked the grounds and a few secret passage ways. No sign of them," Remus began.
"What's going on," came a small voice from the door. Remus whipped around. There was Harry. His hair was dripping wet, and he was holding a towel, looking at the gaggle of professors perplexed.
Relief such as Remus had never known swept through him. "Where have you been?" Remus's voice was harsher than he'd intended.
Harry looked taken aback. "I just…fancied a bath," he replied, looking around at the other professors who were all letting out sighs of relief and a few thankful chuckles. "I haven't had one in a while," Harry was saying, but he broke off in alarm as Remus reached him and grasped him by the arms.
"You can't wander off like that! Never do that again!" Remus enunciated his words with a little shake of Harry's shoulders. Harry was looking at him with wide, alarmed eyes. Remus let out a long breath and pulled Harry tightly to his chest. His breath came in strangled gasps as he hugged the child. Only when he felt Harry's arms go around him to return the hug did he start to relax.
The other teachers began filing out around them. Remus felt Dumbledore clap him on the shoulder as he passed, but he did not look up.
"I'm sorry," he whispered in Harry's ear. "I'm so sorry, Harry."
"I'm sorry too," Harry replied softly.
And both knew that these apologies had nothing to do with wandering off to take a bath. They didn't need to say what the apologies were for. Both knew very well.