PG, 1500 words
Summary: Remus has been in St Mungo's since Voldemort's defeat.
Notes: For omniocular's January challenge, where the prompts were Beatles song titles - hence the title of this. I've been meaning to write this for a really, really long time.
On November 2nd, 1981, Albus Dumbledore had one last task to perform. He broke into an unassuming flat on a quiet street, there to find a man collapsed on the kitchen floor, with eyes almost as glassy as death. With the help of Frank and Alice, he helped him to the outside, then half-carried him to St. Mungo’s.
It is mid-March and Remus is awake. He’s not sure how long he’s been asleep for, but the drowsiness is slow to lift. The ceiling swims into vision, speckled with plaster – a squeeze in his stomach prompts him to remember that the walls at home used to look like that; his dad never could be bothered to sort it out. He’s not sure why, but he’s pretty sure he doesn’t see those walls any more.
There are cracks in the ceiling, and memories drifting haphazardly through. Warm hands in a cold place, the swish of robes. Racing through a forest, a joyful laugh, the taste of custard. With a jolt, Remus’ drowsiness lifts – he remembers screams.
There’s mutterings from the hallway. Remus tries to sit up, but his head is woozy and he can only manage a moment of elevation before he sinks back into a pillow that is suddenly comforting. In that moment, he has seen other beds, other sheets, and other people. Other patients. Remus is in hospital, and he idly wonders why. Nothing hurts, so maybe he’s better. That’s good, he’d like to get out of here now.
He tries remembering again, but it seems there’s nothing more than fragmented moments with jagged edges, and Remus decides to leave it alone. His head slips to the side, to a bedside table with nothing on it. There’s a window just above it, with the sort of shutters that Remus is reasonably sure always irritate him, as with all the will in the world you can never adjust them to the right angle. The muttering has continued, and he could see the two people that were talking. One of them glanced in through the blinds for a moment. A woman, with blue eyes. Midway through a puzzled frown of cognition, Remus drifts back to sleep.
The next thing he is aware of, someone is adjusting the setting of a monitor by his bed – a small counter that hovers just out of an arm swat’s way, charmed to alert a doctor at any change in condition of the patient. It flickers a warm purple, and this has featured in many of Remus’ dreams. He never seems to dream of anything concrete, just colours, mainly. The purple-and-blue dreams are the nice ones, but Remus doesn’t like the green ones, he always wakes up already tired.
Remus aches in a strange way today, because oh how he remembers magic, magic that must still brim in his fingertips, but seems far away somehow. If he asks, maybe he could get his wand back.
Remus tries to say hello, but his tongue is heavy in his mouth, unresponsive to his efforts. After a moment, he makes a sound, and the orderly snaps his head around, and smiles.
Remus swallows a couple of times, trying to get his vocal chords to respond. It’s no good, and so he tries a smile. That works, but it feels strange, like stretching a newly discovered muscle.
‘Just keep trying. Won’t be long before you get your voice back, I’m sure.’ With an encouraging smile, the man moved away, and Remus sighed in frustration.
He’s going to need help, he decides. An hour or so later, and another doctor appears. Remus hastily tries to sit up, but it doesn’t go quite to plan and he ends up leaning against the headrest, a little disorientated.
The doctor laughed a little. ‘Now, don’t rush things, Remus. There’s plenty of time for everything.’
‘Okay,’ Remus manages to say, startling himself. More steadily this time, he grips the edges of the bed, sliding a little more upright. There, that’s better.
‘I’ll be back to check on you later,’ said the doctor, before marking something on his clipboard then moving on to the next bed.
‘Okay,’ Remus says again, and though the sound is rasping and unfamiliar in a way it shouldn’t be, he smiles for the second time.
Remus’ days become full of these rasping noises, which gradually relearn to make more and more words, and he’s slowly gaining strength, too, making it across the hall to the bathroom being a particular achievement. He knows he could remember, knows that it’s all there – the doctors say he won’t have any permanent memory loss – but it doesn’t seem urgent, somehow.
The knowledge is starting to come through anyway, though. And one day, when the woman with blue eyes is in the ward again, Remus realises it’s not going to be much longer before everything returns. She stops by his bed, and smiles at him the way they all do.
‘Do you know what happened to me?’ Remus asks, still relishing each sentence spoken.
She nods. ‘Yes, I do. Do you remember?’
‘I think I could,’ Remus explains slowly. ‘It’s bad, isn’t it?’
‘Yes. It will be painful. But there will be good memories too.’
‘That’s what I thought.’
So Remus tries to remember, but it seems there are a hundred brick walls in his way, and each time he comes to something that might be important, there’s just nothing.
‘The hospital garden is always at your disposal, of course,’ his doctor explains, and so Remus heads out, feeling strangely out of place amongst the other patients, with their bandages and scars. He’s checked in a mirror, and there’s nothing wrong with him that anyone can see.
‘Hello, Remus.’ The woman is back again.
Remus sits down on a bench, and she joins him. ‘I know you, don’t I?’
She nods, but looks sad. He frowns. ‘I’m sorry, I am trying. It’s-- well, it’s just slow, that’s all.’
‘Of course it is, don’t worry. It’s Emmeline, do you remember? We used to work together.’
And suddenly Remus does remember, flashes of a strong wand arm and a deathly glare. ‘We fought together, you mean,’ he says.
‘Yes. There was a war.’
‘Good.’ Another piece slots into place. ‘So where’s everyone else?’
‘Who?’ Emmeline asks, with a heavy tone that Remus really does recognise now.
‘Sir--’ Remus starts, then falters. He stares at Emmeline with wide, disbelieving eyes.
‘It really happened, then?’
‘Yes.’ She sighed. ‘Sirius. Sirius was the spy. He murdered Peter, betrayed James and Lily…’
‘But Harry survived. And defeated Voldemort.’
There’s a storm threatening to break in Remus’ mind. But it has been raging for months now, and Remus doesn’t want to be ill any more.
‘Okay,’ he says, staring at his feet. When he looks up, Emmeline’s eyes are glistening.
‘Oh, Remus,’ she says, emotion brimming over, and places a hand on his. ‘I am so sorry.’
The touch feels odd, misplaced somehow, but Remus doesn’t stop her. Through the sediment built up through all the months Remus has spent here, understanding is breaking through, and all he can really think is that he doesn’t want to be alone.
It gets colder, and a nurse comes and bustles them back inside. They haven’t spoken for over an hour, but Remus doesn’t need to ask her to stay, as she helps him up the stairs that still strain his legs in odd ways.
When Remus does talk again, it’s as though a dam has broken loose. He suddenly has this enormous need to immortalise his friends, to tell stories about them, and Emmeline smiles, and seems to pay attention to his every word. Remus can’t cut Sirius out of his stories, so he has to separate the boy he used to know from what he became, and somehow she seems to understand that.
But eventually Remus’ voice is as rasping as the day he first spoke again, and he lapses back into silence. It is well past visiting hours now, but no one has interrupted them. And now it is Emmeline’s turn to talk, with stories about the other members of the Order, and what they’re doing now in this time of peace. Remus drinks it all in, this tapestry of new life.
‘Look,’ she says after what could have been minutes or hours. ‘It’s morning now. Here comes the sun.’
The sun doesn’t have magical properties, it can’t reverse time nor heal all the sick in this building. But the staff know that somehow it helps, and so each window that they could has been aligned to catch the first rays of morning.
The light is better than darkness, that’s all.
‘Thank you,’ Emmeline says, and Remus frowns.
‘For coming back. If we’d lost you too--’
Remus wonders if that might not have been better, but he says nothing, just smiles then turns his head to face the rising sun, with warmth in its rays.