Disclaimer: Based on situations and characters created by J.K. Rowling.
Author’s Note: Thanks to SHE for beta reading this. I never realized I had an obsession with commas beforehand. Also thanks to Zylly who I’ve forced to read just about everything I’ve written, and he still hasn’t become frustrated with me.
Phases of Courage
She sat in one of the hard, plastic chair. Her wand was between her fingers, where she played with it constantly as she gazed in the direction of the ward. It’d only been a few hours, but it felt like a lifetime since Rhea’s son had been brought there. When she’d first seen him after the attack, his body had been so still she’d sworn it was already too late for him. Every time she shut her eyes she saw him lying there, blood staining the pale blue t-shirt and his face so pale and twisted from the pain. But he’d opened his eyes and looked up at him, and he’d given her a weak smile.
“Don’t worry, Mum. I’ll be brave. Like you.”
Brave… She certainly didn’t feel brave. Everyone kept telling her how strong she was, but it was only because the initial shock hadn’t worn off enough to allow her to break down completely. She moved through the motions: going to London, going to the hospital, listening as the Healer told her to wait in the corridor, waiting as her husband went to get them both coffees. She felt numb, except for that overwhelming fear that hung over her like a storm cloud. Every time she thought she was lucky, he would survive after all, she couldn’t help but wonder at what cost. The Healer had told her that he would suffer even more, every month. At every full moon. For the rest of his life.
Remus had always been an inquisitive boy, a trait he’d inherited from his Ravenclaw father, Rhea supposed. He’d learned to speak earlier than most children, and from then on she kept hearing him ask questions about everything. When she couldn’t give him a satisfactory answer, he’d run off to his father. If both of his parents failed, Remus could be found in his father’s ever-expanding library, holding books that looked too heavy for his small body, running out into the fields to discover some new animal or plant, or else in his room, meticulously tearing things apart to find out how they worked. He had his father’s Ravenclaw spirit from the start.
Rhea Lupin nee Kingston had been a Gryffindor, the house that had won acclaim due to their Head’s defeat of Grindelweld in 1945. She’d been a Muggle-born afraid to return home during the summers, back to the world of blackouts and air raids. And that had made her brave; the part of her that refused to give up despite the odds and pressures from parents who didn’t quite understand the world where she belonged. She’d left Hogwarts and married Silvanus Lupin shortly afterwards, and she’d fought to keep the man she loved despite pressure from his family to marry another pure-blood. Because she was courageous. Because she’d been a Gryffindor.
That courage seemed to have dissipated now, as her son lay pale and frightened in a hospital bed. She’d never been more frightened in her life, but it was his life that was ruined now, and she hated that knowledge that flooded her mind. He’d probably never go to Hogwarts, where he belonged, where his curious nature might be satiated. He’d spend his life ostracized from the wizarding community for all his days. His monthly torture would cause a daily one, as others went about their lives. He’d be worse off than a Squib, because they were at least tolerated. He’d be hated for something that wasn’t his fault. It was hers, because she was the one who hadn’t been careful, because she’d ignored her husband’s demands to keep him inside. Because she’d been reckless, which her husband had once said, was the worst trait of the Gryffindors.
“You can visit with him if you’d like, Mrs. Lupin. But I have to ask that you not stay long. He needs his rest.”
The voice came like a light in the fog, clearing her mind of all the guilt and fear she felt. It would never completely disappear, but she could put it aside for the moment. Rhea nodded at the Healer, and she stood and put her wand back into her pocket. She felt unreal as she entered the room and she saw her little boy. The bed he lay on seemed enormous, like it would swallow his tiny body whole, and when she neared the bed she thought he was asleep. His eyes opened as she looked down at him, and she smiled for him. Because she was brave. Because she’d been in Gryffindor.
She swallowed the lump in her throat when he returned the smile. There was already so much pain in his eyes she wasn’t sure she could bear it. She sat next to the bed, and she took his tiny hand in hers. It reminded her that he was still there, he hadn’t died, and she felt the smile on her face falter as the panic slipped away to relief. Tears started to spill down her face and she threw her arms around him. He was alive, he wasn’t the same, and he’d never be the same. But he’d survived, and that was what mattered.
“You’re hurting me, Mum… Mum?” His voice sounded strained and distant, and she heard the pain in it, but she never wanted to let him go. She knew she had to, though, so she pulled away from him and sat back in the chair, wiping her eyes.
“Mum, why do they keep acting oddly?” He looked at her with those questioning eyes. The ones she never wanted to deny anything. “They keep whispering, and I heard one calling me ‘Poor child’.”
She wanted to tell him the truth, to explain the monthly torment he would suffer, but she couldn’t. She wouldn’t be able to explain everything. She couldn’t answer the questions of how it would feel when the transformations would take over, and, although she’d give anything to take that pain away from him, she knew she couldn’t. But she would be brave. For him.
“Not right now, sweetheart,” she said, and she hoped her voice hadn’t trembled as much as she thought it did. “You need your rest. Here.” She took a goblet off the tray beside his bed, and she handed it to him. “The Healer said it will help you sleep.” She watched as he drank the potion, and immediately his eyes began to get heavy. “I love you, Remus,” she whispered, and she took his hand in hers again, and she stroked it gently.
“I love you, too, Mum…” he said as he drifted off into what she hoped would be a sleep free of any dreams about monstrous creatures attacking him.
She laid a tender kiss on his forehead, and she watched him as he slept until the Healer suggested she return home. She vowed that she’d do everything she possibly could to help him. She knew there wasn’t a cure just then, but she would do whatever she could until one could be found.
A month later, Rhea watched as her little boy was led to the shed they’d added to the side of the house. He’d said he understood what they told him about his lycanthropy, but neither Rhea nor her husband was, by any means, experts. Over the past few weeks, she’d found Remus in his father’s library reading everything he could about the subject. Even then she’d been impressed by his innate ability to try and comprehend subjects that left adults baffled. But she knew the books couldn’t tell him what it feel like, what would happen to him the night she’d been dreading since they’d taken him to the hospital. She hated that she couldn’t know. He was just a little boy; he didn’t deserve this fate.
But he didn’t really understand, she knew, as his father dragged him out to the shed. She listened as he shouted for her over and over until she couldn’t stand it anymore. She didn’t want to listen to his throat go dry because he thought she’d abandoned him. She ran out into the cool night, and she dashed to the shed as her husband magically secured the door. Silvanus opened his eyes wide when he saw her there.
“You shouldn’t be here. He could still break through and injure you.”
“I’m not going to leave him alone.” She blinked through the tears that were starting to form in her eyes.
“Rhea, he’s dangerous.” Always sensible, always clinical, always the Ravenclaw. At that moment, Rhea found herself hating her husband. How dare he be that calm.
“He’s still my son!” she shouted, and she heard Remus call her from the shed. The moon hadn’t completely risen yet. They had a few minutes left for her to reassure him. “I’m here, Remus.” She put her hand on the door. “I won’t leave you.”
“I’m scared, Mum,” she heard him say, and she felt a heavy feeling in her chest as more tears demanded to be released. “I want to be brave like you, but I’m scared.”
“I know, sweetheart,” she whispered. “I know.”
As the full moon rose in the sky, painting their yard ghostly silver, she listened as Remus cried out in fear and then pain. She sank to the ground as she heard the anguished cries of the werewolf - No! My son, damn it! – and she placed her head against the door. She didn’t understand his words, but in an echo only a mother could hear, she still heard her son’s voice.
“I’m scared, Mum. It hurts that bad. Don’t leave me alone, Mum.”
And, even though she wasn’t sure he could understand her, she replied, “I won’t leave you. I promise.”