Remus Lupin staggered upright. Around him was the rubble of a ruined ceiling and the echoing, far-off feeling shouts of the now-waning battle. He felt like the world had slowed down. A drop of blood rolled down his throat from the ragged scratches on his cheek. He looked down, first at his shaking, bloody hands, then at the corpse at his feet. Fenrir Greyback, the man who had made so many years of Remus's life a living hell, lay dead on the broken floor, his hair matted with blood, flesh torn, eyes glassy and blank. The sensation of being watched pricked the back of Remus's neck and he looked up. Standing at the top of what was left of the nearest staircase was Draco Malfoy, white-faced, staring at the gruesome scene of lycanthrocide below him. For a long, tense moment they stared at each other, then the towheaded young man turned and hastened away. For Remus, time returned to normal.
Early morning sun filtered through the clouds onto the ravaged hellscape that had only a day before been Hogwarts School and its grounds. The dead of both sides were lain out in the semi-demolished great hall, waiting to be identified so they could be returned to their families and put to rest. What still-breathing DeathEaters had surrendered after their leader's death sat in a guarded classroom awaiting formal arrest—those of their comrades that had neither perished nor surrendered lay bound and unconscious in the room next door. Madam Pomfrey and others under her direction flitted among the victorious survivors, tending to the injuries they had sustained.
“You going to let anyone fix that?” a growling voice asked as the voice's owner poked Remus's cheek just above the highest of his cuts.
Remus looked around distractedly. It took him a moment to take in his friend's appearance, then once he had, a pang of fear gripped his stomach. “Sirius, why are you covered in blood?”
“It's not mine.” Sirius dropped onto the scorched grass next to Remus with a tired huff. “One of the Weasley twins got a leg blown off—had to get the bleeding to stop before we could get him more or less outta harms way last night. They've taken him to St. Mungo's, word is he'll live.”
“Thank god.” Remus closed his eyes. “Too many of us are dead.”
“Yeah,” Sirius agreed gruffly. “Why are you covered in blood?”
“I—” He stopped, swallowed, and began again in a whisper. “I ripped Greyback's throat out.”
“Good. Serves him right. How are you taking it?”
Remus shook his head. “I don't know.”
“You'll be okay.”
“I hope you're right.”
“I know I'm right.” Sirius gave Remus a quick, inconspicuous kiss on the temple. “Go get somebody to fix your face.”
“Alright.” Remus returned the kiss, levered himself to his feet, and made for the nearest makeshift medical stand.
De facto nurses—many of them students—came and went, helping the injured to the stand to be checked out by whoever had some kind of medical training, or grabbing supplies—gauze, potions, bandages, balms—and hurrying off to tend to others away from the stand. Remus took a seat on the fallen column currently serving as an ad-hoc waiting room and watched Madam Hooch bark orders, apply salves, administer doses of potions, and bandage wounds. Across the stand, a head of dirty and matted but recognizably platinum hair caught his eye. Draco spotted him in turn, and made to get up and leave, but Madam Hooch scolded him, “Sit down, Malfoy, or do you want to make that leg of yours worse? I told you to wait there until Madam Pomfrey comes around and can mend that. If I trusted myself to not turn you into a cripple I'd do it myself, but I don't, so sit.”
Draco muttered a, “Yes, ma'am,” and looked pointedly at the ground.
“Are you alright?” Remus asked him.
“I fell,” he spat. “I'll be fine.”
“Sure, you'll be fine—once the ankle you've just about turned to dust is mended.” Madam Hooch dismissed the Hufflepuff girl whose minor burns she'd been seeing to. “I can't believe you walked here on that.”
“It didn't hurt,” Draco dismissed.
“Probably because you're in shock.” She rolled her amber eyes. “Come here, Remus, let me see.” She tutted. “Poppy'd have you fixed up with a flick of her wand, unfortunately I lack her talents and training—bear with me.” She set about cleaning his wound.
He grimaced at the sting of the antiseptic. “I'm glad it's nothing permanent.”
“Mind your own business, half-breed,” Draco sneered.
“Come back when you've thought of an insult I haven't heard a few thousand times over the past three decades.” It didn't take much effort for Remus to sound bored. Draco bristled but stayed silent. Madam Hooch bewitched a bottle of salve and a cotton swab, which proceeded to apply itself to Remus's cheek.
The bewitched salve had just finished up and Cho Chang had paused in her important nursing scurrying long enough to tape a gauze pad over it when a clearly exhausted but determined Madam Pomfrey bustled in, sleeves rolled up and hair falling down. Within moments, she'd taken stock of Draco's ankle and mended it. “Now stay off it for a few more minutes, just until things have all knit back together, or else you might just give yourself a permanent limp.”
“Poppy?” Remus asked before Madam Pomfrey could hurry off again. “I wish I could let the dust settle before bringing such things up, but I've a rather time sensitive issue at hand.”
“Yes?” she asked, wiping her hands on her apron with a sigh.
“Severus is dead, I don't know who else has the proficiency in the art to make Wolfsbane Potion, and I have until day after tomorrow to come up with a week's supply.”
“Do you have to talk about that here?” Draco asked loudly with plain disgust.
“Yes, as a matter of fact he does,” Madam Pomfrey snapped. “As he just said—and as you well know—this is a matter best solved quickly. And you'd do well to learn to watch how you treat your fellows at some point, Malfoy.” She shook her head and turned her attention back to Lupin. “I'm sorry, Remus. Honestly, I'd suggest you ask Hermione Granger—she was able to brew Polyjuice as a second year.”
“I'll do that, then.” Remus gave a tight smile.
Madam Pomfrey nodded and shot a look at Draco. “Do you have everything you need?”
“If you'd let me walk,” he said icily, “I'd be fine. I can take care of myself.”
Remus gave Madam Pomfrey a curious glance, then gingerly inspected his bandaged cuts and went about his business. He returned to Sirius, shared a few words, then went off in search of Hermione, whom he found aiding in the efforts to clear the rubble of the north wing. He got her attention, they stepped to the side, and he explained the situation.
Hermione chewed her lip then reluctantly shook her head. “I'm sure I could work it out eventually, but in two days…. I don't know. Do you have any left? I mean, does it even keep?”
“It keeps for a couple months stored correctly, then it starts to go rancid. I have two doses, maybe three.”
“And you need seven?”
“At least six, preferably nine.”
She frowned. “Don't you take it for a week?”
“A week leading up, then there's three days of effective full moon most months. Sometimes it's only two.”
“I see.” She nodded. “I can't believe I've never read that.” She sighed. “If you went ahead and took what you have, I would have until the sixth, maybe the seventh, to brew the rest, but—and do correct me if I'm wrong—from what I saw a few years ago I gather that the last days' doses are the most important?”
“Yes. Failure to take it once can render the whole week's regimen useless.”
“I will try. I can't promise I'll have it for you but I will do what I can.”
“That's the most I could ask of you.”
“I hate to ask but, if I can't do it, do you have a plan B?”
“Plan B is the old plan A.” He shrugged.
She gave him a quizzical look. He nodded toward the Womping Willow. She rubbed a hand over her face. “Better than no plan, at least. Do you know where Sirius is?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Yes. Do you need him?”
“He's the nearest thing we have on hand to a search and rescue dog.”
“I'll send him your way.”
“Thank you, Lupin.”
They headed back toward the crowd.
“Get some sleep at some point.”
She smiled wearily. “I'll try. You do the same.”
When he found Sirius again, the ex-con had procured roast beef sandwiches from somewhere. “Here,” he said through a mouthful, holding a sandwich out to Remus, who took it without argument.
“Where did you get these?”
“The house elves've all decided that now the battle's over they'd best get back to their usual occupations.” He took another bite of sandwich. “I for one am not inclined to argue with them. Leave that to Hermione.”
“Speaking of Hermione.” Remus touched the waxing gibbous tattoo just visible through a tear in Sirius's shirt. “They could use a search and rescue dog over at the collapsed tower.”
“Search and rescue I'll gladly do.” Sirius sighed. “I'd rather not be a cadaver dog, though.”
“I know. Fifty one gone—it easily could have been more but it's still too many.”
“I can't believe Tonks—”
“This conversation needs to wait.”
Sirius nodded. “Alright.” He patted Remus's shoulder. “I'll go help dig out the rubble. You eat and then, I don't know, vanquish some dark creatures.”
Remus rolled his eyes but took a big bite of his sandwich while he watched Sirius walk away. Once he'd finished his sandwich, he spent much of the day commanding a small fleet of his former students in ridding the castle and grounds of red caps and other unsavory beasts either attracted by or left over from the battle. By evening, exhaustion was making him so unobservant as to be useless.
“Go sleep,” Luna Lovegood ordered him gently as she shoved him in the direction of the castle. “You look like you're about to just fall over any second now. And that could be bad, it would be a horrible irony to be bludgeoned to death in your sleep by red caps the day after the fall of the Dark Lord.”
“Yes, Luna, it would be. I'm going.”
“Sweet dreams, Professor,” she said airily, curtsied, and casually blasted what was either a particularly fat cardinal spider or a very young acromantula into oblivion as she skipped back to the rest of the group.
After laying in a perfectly comfortable and familiar bed for almost an hour with sleep unforthcoming, Remus got up to take a walk. Roaming Hogwarts at night had long since been soothing to him and if worse came to worst he could just nick a mild sleeping draught from the mostly undamaged dungeons.
There were a few other people about—Hogwarts staff, ministry officials, Madam Pomfrey speaking intensely to a pair of witches in the bright green of the St. Mungo's uniform, Harry and Padfoot asleep together in an alcove only half under the invisibility cloak. Remus decided against waking them but did drape the cloak more fully over them before continuing his walk. He'd just about made up his mind to go raid the potions closet when he spotted Draco Malfoy—wanner and paler than ever—staring out at the lake from the miraculously still standing breezeway. Unnoticed, he studied his former student. If he were mistaken in his assumptions, he could easily make an ass of himself. Maybe he was too tired to care, maybe it was instinct, but he decided he was right.
Remus sidled up casually and leaned on the railing across from the silver-blond boy. “How long's it been?”
“What are you talking about?” Draco made an insolent show of rolling his eyes.
“How long has it been since Fenrir Greyback bit you?” Remus repeated, clearly.
Draco bristled. “Shut up.”
“There's no one here to overhear us.” Remus slipped his hands into his pockets. “It's been thirty five years for me. I know it's been less than four for you.”
Draco fumed silently before spitting out, “It's been two.”
Remus nodded. “I'm sorry.”
“I don't need your pity,” Draco spat.
“I do not pity you. I've no more incentive to pity you than I've to pity myself. I sympathize, and I am sorry.”
Draco clenched and unclenched his fists a few times. “I saw what you did to Greyback.”
“I know.” Remus looked down. “That was…one of the very few times the wolf has ever risen to the surface in me on an ordinary night. I don't regret his death, he's the sort of monster that gives the rest of us a bad name, but I am not proud of my actions.”
“Oh, so tragic.” The blond snorted.
Remus shrugged. “Just one more reason I could easily spend the rest of my life in therapy. Everyone here tonight probably could.”
“I do not need—” Draco began.
Remus laughed, interrupting him. “You needed therapy four years ago, you certainly aren't any less screwed up after all that's happened since then. You're screwed up, I'm screwed up, Sirius is really screwed up, Harry is almost as screwed up as Sirius. We've all lived through a war or two, screwed up is par for the course. In my life I've only ever known three people who'd gone past screwed up to actually, dangerously crazy and they all died yesterday, no one left alive is completely okay, so all that's left is screwed up wankers.”
Draco stared at him incredulously.
“We're all sick in the head, we've all been through hell, but we haven't got much choice but to keep going. Sure, you could pitch yourself over the railing into the lake, let the giant squid have its way with you, but I've always come to the conclusion that suicide is a dick move, hurts everyone you know and leaves them to clean up your mess. Believe me, I've thought about it.”
“You've gone mental.”
“I haven't slept in nearly two days, fifty one of my friends and students are dead, and I killed a man with my bare hands, is it really any surprise?”
Draco didn't answer.
Remus sighed. “What are you doing up here by yourself? Where are your friends?”
Draco made a derisive sound in his throat. “What friends?”
“Those two blokes you hang around with—Crabbe and Goyle? And your girlfriend?”
He glared at Remus. “How do you know about Pansy?”
“The same reason I've had to quit or been fired from every job I've ever had: the wizarding community is small and gossip spreads like wildfire.”
“Oh.” Draco ducked his head. “Well Pansy and I broke up, I haven't got a clue where Goyle is and I can't say I care, Crabbe's dead—doubt there's enough left of him for a funeral and I'm frighteningly unfazed by that.”
“You're probably in shock.”
Draco rolled his eyes.
“What about your parents?”
“Hauled off for questioning along with everyone else who's got the bloody Mark branded into them. Guess I'll be going home alone.”
Remus considered him a moment. “Your home is going to be under investigation. It was the Death Eaters' headquarters for quite some time, magical law enforcement is liable to turn the place upside down collecting evidence for the trials. I'd understand if you'd prefer to not stay there.”
“It's not like I have anywhere else to go.” Draco scuffed his shoe against the floor. “I'm a turncoat—no one likes me.”
“You do have a bit of a reputation for being unpleasant, which you certainly earned fairly.” Remus crossed his arms. “As I do share my home I can't simply offer for you to stay without consulting my housemates and I predict few of them would welcome you with open arms. That said, I doubt they'd challenge it if I were to offer you a room, say, three nights a month, a safe place to be, away from the intrusive presence of law enforcement while you're not feeling quite yourself—but that would require informing them of your condition.”
“You expect me to tell them?”
“I don't expect anything. I'm just saying what would be necessary were you to take my offer.”
“As if I need to give them any more reason to hate me.”
“Given that they live with me, they're clearly not so horribly prejudiced against werewolves.” Remus held out his hands. “Look, do you feel guilty for being a mean little shit, would-be assassin, and so on?”
Draco gave him an incredulous look. “Yes.”
“I'm handing you an opportunity to let people see you as something other than the grade school bully and the nefarious criminal. Do with it what you will.” Remus shrugged and walked away.