Disclaimer : If I were making money from writing that fanfiction, I'd update far, far more often, end up writing crap and winning lots of money. Fortunately it doesn't work that way.
Author's Note : I took my sweet time, didn't I? I'm very, very sorry. I wish I could say it was all work, but the summer vacation did come in between the last update and this one, so the truth is I don't have any excuse. Except that I do, because I was writing my own story (a part of which you can find on FP), and it is a far more serious and important project than Scalpels & Spells. However, I do think this story has grown on me, so I will strive to finish it. And I know Comical Epiphanies will be kicking my ass otherwise. ^^
In this chapter : well, it still feels more like a transition chapter. But good news, I know where I'm going for the next few chapters so with luck (?) you should get the next one anytime between tomorrow and in six months' time.
Please review and more importantly : please enjoy.
Harry Potter was leaning over a bloody mess.
There was blood everywhere, on his hands and arms, of course, but also on his torso, on his feet, and a few splatters on his face. His hands were deep into the body, his fingers probing around the gaping hole for the right artery to plug, the warmth of the blood seeping through his medical gloves.
There were two of them, two surgeons on one patient, battling with his failing heart to push death away. Harry was a cancer surgeon, and even as he stayed entirely focused on his task, somewhere at the back of his mind he wondered what he was doing on an open-heart surgery. Then again, what with the rush this morning had brought, ambulance coming after ambulance, it had been all hands on deck and no time to be picky.
Good thing he wasn't new to this. He couldn't imagine how the interns were coping; the hospital hadn't been nearly that busy in… Oh, all things considered, in at least a week.
'Found it,' he said the moment he finally got his hand on the damn artery that had burst a little earlier.
'Right,' said Dr Meyer, 'now I can…' The rest of his sentence was drowned in sound as the alarms started beeping loudly, alerting them that despite their best efforts the heart was crashing. Then the line went flat, the one final note stretched out.
'Get the paddles!' Harry screamed, even as the nurse was already racing to him with the paddles in hand. 'Clear,' he said, and placed them carefully around the heart. There was a shock, and he looked up hopefully at the screens, but the single tone was still blaring in his ears. 'Charge to 400,' Meyer said, but the nurse had once again anticipated his command and Harry shocked the heart again. It wasn't enough.
In the end, nothing proved sufficient.
The patient died.
Harry sat for in a haze, eating a tasteless lunch, shoveling food down his mouth even though he would have been hard-pressed to tell what it was he was eating. Mechanically, he finished up his plate. He wasn't hungry, was rather nauseous, actually, the way he always felt after losing a patient, yet he had to eat, to keep up his energy so as not to lose another one.
He still had some time before the end of his pause, so he went to the communal area and sat in a corner, doing abdominals. He didn't like it much, but as a surgery could well take several hours, he had to keep up his endurance; plus he rarely had time for sports during his time off, anyway. He lost himself in the task, glad to think of nothing but the number of abdominals he was at, to hear nothing but the sound of his own breathing, to feel nothing but his accelerated heartbeat punching in his ears each time the blood flowed.
Then there was a clatter as the door opened, but Harry barely heard it, focused as he was on his exercise. There was a sigh and, 'Potter.' Startled, he looked up.
His Chief of Surgery stood in the doorway. She was a woman in her late forties, and the trade had made her face's lines hard and strong, but now they were softened with a little concern. 'You're pushing yourself,' she said. It was not question, just a fact.
Harry blinked. 'Ah – err, yes ma'am.' He didn't really know how to answer that.
'You've lost a patient, haven't you?'
He darkened. 'Yes ma'am.'
'Don't let it eat at you.' She smiled a little, but her smile was sad. 'The thing with patients is that they never stop coming. You lose one and you save ten others. That's the way things are.'
Perhaps, Harry thought, but the one you lost, well, that's something unique gone, never to come again. Something irreplaceable. And that was just so, so very sad.
'Are there any other concerns I should be aware of?'
Harry thought about it. Should he mention the fact that he hardly saw any of his friends anymore? Or the fact that Voldemort had seemingly come out of hiding before Harry had even started launching his plan to stop him? Or perhaps the fact that dozens of Death Eaters were now loose in the world, criminals and psychopaths and just plain cold-hearted ambitious people, who would once again spread terror and distrust in the wizard world?
But that was all in his other life. There was nothing that the cancer surgeon he was could do. He was helpless.
'No, ma'am,' he finally said, after an awfully long time.
She didn't believe him, but she decided to let it rest, he could see. 'Well, Potter, I don't want you dropping on us. Watch yourself, will you?' She frowned with severity, but the concern in her eyes was genuine, as well as the smile playing on her lips.
Despite feeling rather miserable, he couldn't help smiling back. 'Yes, ma'am,' he said again, more firmly.
'Good. That's the spirit!' Just as she left, her fingers rapped on the door and pointed to the clock – he had to go.
Harry shook his head, pushing his worries away, then he sprang up, shrugged on his blouse and went back to work.
Remus Lupin looked outside the window. Wind lashed out at the world, bending mighty trees with its wrath as it howled in fury against everything that was, whipping all and sparing none. Dark clouds had come with it, like crows in the wake of an army, and the whole created a peculiar atmosphere, heavy and threatening and stifling.
His own house shook under the strain. Remus tried to bury himself in books, as he was wont to do when unable to go for a walk, but it wasn't working; something was off and he was feeling restless. Feeling a little cold, he rose from the window side and scraped his chair closer to the timid fire burning in the chimney, tendrils of wispy smoke curling almost wistfully around the flaming logs before drifting upwards and into the fury,
There was a soulful air to everything today, it seemed. Strange how he was always the most observant as when he was forced into reflection by circumstances. He itched to go out and stretch his legs, yet at the same time, a great lassitude had taken over at the thought of the fierce battle he would have to face outside. He sighed. Not even thoughts of things past, of merry laughter and peaceful times and playful walks in the wood could cheer him up.
When had he got so old?
Just as he was rising to make tea, to keep himself occupied, the very fire he had been staring into came alive with a beautiful green color. Mere seconds later, Hermione Granger was emerging from his chimney, stepping out with the slightest bit of a stagger, shaking soot off her robes.
'Thank you,' she told him as he had unconsciously reached out to steady her. She looked up at him, chocolate brown eyes sparkling with life and the energy of youth – again an old man's thought, Remus, he told himself. Something in her expression softened as she took in the sparse furniture, his threadbare – well, everything. All of it screamed of unemployment and difficulty of making ends meet. But when she looked at him again, any sign of unwelcomed pity was gone, and Remus had the bizarre impression of being several years earlier, with an acutely curious Muggleborn witch for a student. 'Professor Lupin,' she said, 'It's nice to see you.'
'Nice to see you as well, Hermione, but please call me Remus, will you? I feel old enough already.'
She pouted a little. 'I'm not used to calling former teachers by their first name... You'll have to forgive me if the transition takes time.'
He waved her off. 'Would you like some tea?' As he was busying herself putting the kettle on the fire – magically conjured tea never quite had the same taste -, he asked: 'So why are you here, then? Not that I mind,' he added hurriedly when he saw her worried expression.
'Do you know Occlumency?'
Not one to beat around the bush much, her. 'No. Werewolves are entirely immune to Legitimency, therefore I never had to learn it. Why?'
'So you know of it?' she asked then, unwittingly ignoring his question.
'Well I'm not a specialist, but I do know some of it, yes. But you'd be better off speaking to an expert, you know. Professor Dumbledore is one, I'm sure he wouldn't mind explaining it to you.'
'I'm sure he has other things to do.'
Remus shrugged. 'There's always Severus...'
'I'm not having anything to do with that man, not if I can help it.'
Startled by such vindictiveness, he laid back a little. 'Any particular reason why not?'
'Because he's an unfair bastard, that's why!'
His mind jumped back to third-year Hermione, polite to the extreme and always a little fearful about defying authority, no matter how misused, and the contrast was so stark he found himself laughing. 'Hermione, you're one of a kind.' There was a constant, though: her hate of prejudice and unfairness. She hadn't brooked it for Buckbeak, after all, and he was surprised she had borne it so long from Snape.
She blushed a little. 'Sorry. It's just... I thought a lot ever since I graduated from Hogwarts and I thought that yes, he has had a rather sad life but so has Harry, or Sirius or… ' She stopped herself. So has you, was what she had wanted to say, or so he guessed. 'That has never made them become bitter, snarky or downright traumatizing for children! I mean what the hell is that man doing in a classroom…!'
She crossed her arms in indignation; the picture so amusing Remus might have laughed again had the kettle not signaled its displeasure at being left alone. She rose with him to fetch the teacups while he took care of the pot, and when she sat down again, she had calmed down enough to remember the purpose of her visit,
'So, about Occlumency? What can you tell me?'
He stirred the tea to give himself time to think but in the end, he was helplessly curious. 'Why do you want to know, though?'
Looking into her face, he could see a little embarrassment. 'It's about Harry. I'm not sure I'm supposed to say.'
About Harry...? Remus blinked. Could it be his (adoptive) godson had decided to tell the prophecy to his friends? But Occlumency took time to understand, much less master till not even the Dark Lord could penetrate one's shields. He should have told them to learn Occlumency much earlier, Remus reflected. That he hadn't revealed quite a lot on how secretive Harry really was. Hufflepuffs were supposed to be loyal to the end, but the myth that they were trusting to the point of naiveté was just that: a myth. Even he didn't know half the secrets Harry kept!
Lost to his musings, he finally realized she was still waiting for an answer and cleared his throat to hide his embarrassment. 'Occlumency, then... It's mental magic. Wizards use it to shield their minds from mental invasion, mental attacks, visions... Occumency also helps stimulate one's memory, as a good part of it consists in putting order into your memories, which is why it is sometimes taught to people suffering from punctual memory loss.' Remus had slipped back into teacher mode without knowing it, and it struck him how much he still loved it, even now that his career had been flushed down the drain by the Potions master. 'Lastly, it allows one to have a better grasp on their emotions; it teaches self-control. People with a temper will for example manage their anger far better.'
'And you say Snape is a master?' she asked, tone full of derision. 'I can't imagine how he was before he learnt, then.'
More angry than bitter, unlike now. The problem was that one could rid oneself of anger... Not so with bitterness, for bitterness was regret's sibling. And Snape has plenty of those.
'Do you know anyone who would be able to teach us?'
Remus frowned, thinking hard. 'Other than Dumbledore and Snape... Perhaps people of the Order, like Kingsley or Tonks?'
'The Order... of the Phoenix?'
Remus stared, disbelief making him forget his manners. 'Harry has never mentioned it to you?'
Hermione smiled, 'He's not so tight-lipped as that. He has talked about it, but I think only Susan and Neville got to meet some of you. I was merely confirming the name. I didn't know you were part of it.'
'I am. Sirius was, as well,' he said, his throat closing up unexpectedly when he mentioned his friend. It had been several years since he passed away, but to Remus it was a wound as fresh as if it had been yesterday. It was a good thing he had Harry and the Order to keep himself busy, or he would have way too much time to look around and realize none of his friends were still alive.
'I see,' the witch said, a little unsure; she mostly was, whenever Sirius was concerned. If Remus remembered right, she had only met him once, back when he was still a convict on the loose, the night when they had all discovered Peter to be the traitor instead of Sirius. And it was only after his death that Harry and her had grown close enough for him to talk of things other than classes and the weather and other politically-correct things one spoke of with acquaintances. 'Who, then, among the Order?'
'I'll ask for you at the next meeting. If nobody is available, I'm sure Dumbledore will find an Unspeakable to be your tutor. How many of you would there be?'
Sience stretched for a moment as both sipped their tea, which had gone from scalding to merely hot, welcome warmth against the battle of the elements outside. To make it even worse, a somewhat ethereal fog had slinked out of the ground, blurring everything, and the rain had begun to pour.
'You've heard about Azkaban?' she finally asked, the subject probably prompted by the dreary weather.
'Neville is taking it hard,' she revealed. 'That Bellatrix Lestrange had escaped was bad enough, but now Rodolphus as well... And all the others that helped torture his parents...'
Alice and Frank Longbottom. Other people I used to know who are no longer around. The names brought bits and pieces to his mind, a smile, a shake of the hand, a night spent playing billard... Now ghosts of their former selves, in Saint Mungo's for life.
'It must be hard,' he conceded, thinking of his former student with concern. 'You should send him to me. I don't know if I can be much help, but I know how it feels to have people you loathe running free.' Again, he thought of Sirius's wild face and haggard look on every newspaper in the country. These days, the newspapers displayed a different picture: that of Great Britain swarmed by Dementors who kept showing up everywhere, and terrified at the idea that Death Eaters would soon join in, bringing about mayhem and destruction.
'I'll tell him, I think he might just swing by.' She checked her wristwatch, a thin little thing of silver he had sniffed as soon as she had stepped into the room. 'I have to go. It was a pleasure, Pro- Remus.' She smiled at him prettily. 'I'll see you soon.'
'It will stil be too late,' he retorted, a smile tugging at his own lips. He watched the fire turn green and engulf the witch, and then he was alone once again, loneliness draping over his shoulders once again, disagreeable and cold. Suddenly, it was too much for him to bear and he wanted nothing more than to be out of this wind-beaten house, so he took his cloak, locked all entry to his chimney save his own by a flick of his wand, and grabbing a fistful of powder, he was off. He might as well go see Harry; heaven knew his godson must be handling the news of Akaban's fall quite poorly as well.