For Want of Silken Thread
by Jess Pallas
Disclaimer: This is the House that JKR built. I am merely squatting. ;)
A/N: The Flashback chapters of this fic are an adaptation of a series of chapters from a pre-HBP fic I wrote by the name of Oblivious. Although that fic has now been rendered AU, the fact that I got scarily close in several respects to the truth behind Remus' bite meant that I couldn't resist writing this post-HBP adapted version. So for those of you out there who have read Oblivious, much of this fic may seem rather familiar, although hopefully still enjoyable. For those who haven't, I hope you like it. :) Also, many thanks to my Sugar Quill beta Ara Kane for guiding me through the perils of my sometimes dodgy punctuation…;)
1: The Dementor
February 1994: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
It was cold.
Remus Lupin ignored the shiver that whispered down his limbs and spine as he pulled his cloak more tightly around his shoulders and stared into the grim darkness that marked the edge of the Forbidden Forest. It would be evening soon; the taint of night was already touching the rim of the mountains to the east as the orange glow of the setting sun retreated inevitably westwards. He didn't have much time.
And he was the only one who knew just what to look for.
The thought of the boyhood nickname grated against his mind, a sharp-edged reminder of a time when he'd trusted, he'd believed, he'd been happily ignorant of all that was to come. All gone now, of course, scattered on the wind like blown ashes, burned away by the loss of James, of Lily, of Peter. The man, the traitor who'd set those flames had, the night before, broken into the castle of Hogwarts and brandished a knife over the bed of a thirteen-year-old boy. And then he had vanished.
Remus had listened to the whispers of the students that day, to their suspicions and theories as he passed them in the corridors, to their fears and concerns. And all that day he wondered; was his silence the reason they lived in such fear? Was the secret of Black's mysterious break-in his and his alone?
The last slender sliver of his trust was hanging by a thread. The last secret he kept was burning him.
It must have been dark magic. He spoke the words once again in the quiet of his mind, battling mental shadows and the wraiths of doubt. It must have been. How could anyone miss a dog of Padfoot's size if that was how he fled?
But he had to be sure. Lives were at stake. He would never be able to live with himself if he didn't at least slip out and check…
And so here he was, alone, scouring the edges of the Hogwarts grounds in search of footprints.
The cold was settling against his bones as the tree-shrouded shadows of sunset drifted. His mind felt oddly detached.
It was a foolish errand, he knew that, impulsive and dangerous and he had no idea of what he actually planned to do if more than footprints should be found. In those first, terrible days following the deaths of James, Lily and Peter, he had considered many spells and curses he would like to hurl at Sirius Black should they ever again cross paths, but he was older now, wearier, his thoughts of revenge faded into a tired resignation. For Remus just wanted him caught now. He just wanted Harry safe.
He had told no one of what he was doing. Snape was already suspicious of him, spreading whispers of slander and lies amongst the staff and indeed how would it look for him to proclaim he was going out in search of Sirius – of Black – alone? No, better that he do the deed and keep quiet about it. If he should find what he was searching for, which he prayed he would not, then he would go to Dumbledore and confess all.
A part of him longed to find those footprints, to finally have reason to unburden his soul of the lies. But a part of him dreaded the cold disappointment of Dumbledore's eyes and the heavy weight of guilt.
If it is Padfoot – if that is the way he's stayed hidden all this time – then it's my fault. He became an Animagus because I was a werewolf. And if he kills again… If he kills Harry…
It will be because of me.
Clutching his wand more tightly, Remus continued his slow walk through the fading light. Ahead, the outer wall of the Hogwarts grounds loomed against the edge of the forest. The chill of the air grew more profound with every step. His breath misted before him as black thoughts swirled.
Because of me, he repeated softly in the silence of his mind. Everything is because of me. The werewolf that destroys every good thing he touches. Is this punishment? Is this because I dared to try and have a normal life? To have friends, brothers, people I cared for and who cared for me?
Something dark whispered, gliding through the trees leaving chills in its wake. But he did not see it as black thoughts rose within his mind, swamping his emotions with darkness.
My bite. Gently Remus ran silent fingers over his torso, tracing the unseen crescent of tooth mark scars that marred the skin beneath the concealing robe. It's all because of my bite.
He remembered nothing of that dreadful, life-changing night, had never been able to remember; too young, his parents said, too traumatic; the events that had shaped the rest of his existence and that of those around him lost behind a blank wall in his mind. But the echoes of that forgotten night lived on, and would live on forever. He had fuelled the arrogance of Sirius and James in not putting a stop to their dangerous Animagi plans and those wild and dangerous full moons on the loose. Had it not been for James' prompt actions, he would have long ago killed Severus Snape beneath the Whomping Willow. His condition as a werewolf had led to distrust within the Order, distrust that turned suspicion away from Sirius and his true intent. And the true horror of his condition had led to that terrible night, November the second, 1981, when, left alone with his grief and far too much Firewhiskey, he had lost control for one horrendous instant and allowed the wolf to take over his human mind. That Alastor Moody had not been injured by his furious assault was far more down to the prompt appearance of Albus Dumbledore that his own actions and although he had never again fallen prey to the loathsome baser instincts of his condition, he could never forget that one moment where Remus Lupin ceased to be and all his mind was wolf.
So much suffering he had seen. So much loss…
It really was ridiculously cold.
The shadows rolled. Dark memories heaved.
From a headline that screamed of the Potters' death, Sirius Black's picture laughed insanely…
The teenage Severus Snape's eyes filled with loathing as he watched him enter their first lesson together after the attack…
Albus Dumbledore's eyes were filled with regret. "Remus – it's Lily and James…"
Alastor Moody stumbled back, clutching his bloody cheek... "Lupin! Snap out of it! Lupin!"
Stop it now.
His father's face, pale and lost, as it appeared within his fireplace. "Remus, it's your mother…"
Silver moonlight. The Shrieking Shack.
No, stop, no! What was the matter with him?
Something dark brushed against his wrist. A cowled shadow loomed out of the trees…
A Dementor, patrolling the perimeter of the school for signs of Sirius Black, just as he was. And he had walked right up to it.
And every happy thought had drained away.
Silver moonlight, full moon gleaming…
And it was not alone.
Two Dementors. Three Dementors… Dementors all around, Dementors gathering, hungry Dementors that had smelled his mind, his soul and come in search of an easy meal. They obeyed Dumbledore, yes, but Dumbledore was not here and Remus was alone…
He clutched his wand. They had sensed his moroseness, sensed his despair and they were gathering to latch onto his vulnerability. He had to prove he was not easy prey – he had to call on his Patronus. A happy memory. He needed a happy memory…
But with dark thoughts and silver moonlight rampaging through his mind, a happy memory was not easy to find…
Remus couldn't think, couldn't breathe. The world was swirling, pulsing, every happy thought that he could muster dissolving into nothingness. There were just too many, just too close.
But he had to try.
So much silver…
Silver. Silver. So much silver, painful, painful silver…
Silver light… and so much pain…
And then, inside Remus Lupin, something broke.
Silver light stained the overwhelming darkness, dappled patches that glinted and flashed at the eyes in a mockery of beauty. He could feel his own gasps for breath against his raw, painful throat, the tremble of exhausted limbs; he had run too hard, too fast but what else could he do? Branches slapped against his face, knocking him backwards again and again – desperate, sobbing and bewildered, he scrambled on all fours now, his clothing torn, blood leaking from exposed skin as he fought with all his strength to get away…
He could hear it coming. Just as he'd said it would.
He had never been so scared in all his life.
He had to hide. He had to hide now.
A tree loomed in his path, low branches dangling within his reach; leaping desperately, he grasped at the trunk, bark crumbling beneath his small fingers as he scrabbled for some kind of purchase, the height that would take him safely out of reach.
He was too slow.
He heard himself scream as claws plunged into his back, dragging him down and flinging him roughly to the ground to leave him curled on his right side, trembling and sobbing against the mossy earth.
It was over.
A dark shape, more than twice his size loomed from the shadows, its forelimbs stained with the dark taint of his blood. Teeth glinted against the silver light of moonshine, vibrating to a low and primal growl that seemed to send shivers to his very core. Golden eyes gleamed.
And then he knew nothing but pain…
"Remus? Remus? Hey, get out'o'it, get out!"
He was on the floor, flat on his back in the grass beside a towering wall, but this was no forest by moonlight, no blood-stained earth and the ache of his scar was no more than residual pain. Around him, a half dozen spectral figures stared from within eyeless hoods as they drank away all but his nightmares…
His mother's voice singing gently to him. His father's crooked smile as he leaned against the doorframe and watched them. The determination on James Potter's face as he swept across a Quidditch pitch on his broomstick. The triumph on Peter's face when he finally got the Animagus transformation right. Lily's laughter on Prefect patrol. Harry Potter's stag patronus.
Silver light flared. The Dementors fled.
An enormous hand closed around his arm as he was hoisted unceremoniously upright. Hagrid's bearded face, huge and panting, stared down at him.
"Yeh'll right, Remus?" he exclaimed. "Them bloody things are like vultures…"
"I'm fine." Remus was certain the declaration would have been rather more convincing if he had been able to stop shaking. "Really," he added firmly, catching a glimpse of Hagrid's sceptical face. "They just…caught me by surprise."
"Shoun't be here," the gamekeeper muttered with a shudder, his gaze suddenly far away – suspecting that he was remembering his brief spell in Azkaban, Remus laid a reassuring hand against his arm. "Evil, evil things they are…"
Remus found his mind was racing, tumbling through the images he'd seen, but he desperately forced himself to focus on the here and now. There would be time enough to think when he was alone.
"Agreed," he said softly. "And Dumbledore agrees too. It's not safe for the children."
Hagrid shook himself, although something vaguely haunted still lingered in his eyes. "Are yeh all right now?" he asked suddenly. "I can walk yeh to Madam Pomfrey if yeh…"
"I'm all right," Remus reiterated quickly – plunging into the pocket of his robe, he drew out a bar of Honeydukes chocolate. "Or I will be soon enough."
Hagrid laughed slightly. "If yeh sure…"
Giving him one final smile, Hagrid nodded and turned to begin the long plod back to his cottage.
Remus took a deep breath, then another. Unwrapping the chocolate bar quickly, he took a large bite.
Warmth spread immediately throughout his body, tingling in his fingers and toes, spreading physical relief from the chilling cold. But icy shadows still lurked with his mind.
Because, for the first time in his life, Remus Lupin knew that he had remembered the night he had received his bite.
Remus had never been able to remember the night he was bitten. He was too young, his mother had told him when he had tentatively asked about it years later, and the trauma of the event had created a wall inside his mind, a protection against an experience that no child should have had to endure. He was better off, she had said, without knowing.
Only once had he asked her how it had happened. She had burst into tears. He had never asked again.
And so, it had remained a mystery, by his choice as much as anything; after all, he had dealt with the uncertainty of the circumstances of his bite for almost all of his life and he saw no need to stir up troubled waters. He had grown used to not knowing. The wall in his mind was a part of him, and he understood perfectly his parents' reluctance to talk about what both had referred to – when they thought him out of earshot – as the worst night of their lives. That at some point on a chilly February evening towards the end of his third year of life, he had found himself in dark woods alone and been set upon by a passing werewolf was something he had reluctantly come to accept. After all, it was not as though he could do anything to change it.
But suddenly, he had seen it. It was there, in his mind. It was real.
And all he could think was why?
Why had he been there? Why had he been chased? Why was he alone?
The Dementor's vision had galvanised him – it was as though an indifferent dam had burst in a torrent of sudden questions. He was no longer content to just to acknowledge that it had happened; he was not prepared to shrug his shoulders anymore and declare it didn't matter because it was all in the past. His life had been changed forever that night. Surely he had the right to know why.
And why, why, had he never been able to remember before?
Abruptly, Remus shook himself. He took another bite of chocolate. This was ridiculous. Standing here in the encroaching darkness, getting himself worked up. Now, he needed to calm down. He needed to rest. He needed to sleep on things.
Everything would look different in the morning.
He was sure of it.
But in the depths of his mind's eye, chilling golden eyes still stared beneath a gleaming moon and told a different story.