The atmosphere in the Gryffindor common room later that evening, Harry reflected, hadn’t been so tense and gloomy since the mort-de-kai. Hermione, Angelina, and Ginny teased Fred and George about their failed entertainment enterprise and tried to console them over their misguided effort to cheer Professor Deveroux. Angelina, to Harry’s amazement, finally allowed that Fred and George could distribute some of their Wizard Wheezes in the common room this weekend, provided that the jokes and gags stayed in the common room and dorms and didn’t damage school property. Shortly thereafter, Fred and George retreated to their dorm, and Harry wondered if Angelina would end up regretting her decision before the weekend was out.
There had been no news about the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. At dinner, Professor McGonagall had announced that Deveroux was gravely ill, but was being cared for in a secluded part of the school, and that the students would be informed if her condition changed. Afterwards, curious students had pestered teachers, prefects and student heads with a barrage of questions, but all inquiries about Deveroux were met with curt and uninformative replies. Without mentioning his invisibility cloak, Harry had offered to sneak up to the hospital wing to see if he could find out anything. Angelina had overheard this and had squelched that idea firmly by telling the others that Deveroux wasn’t in the medical wing, and that students, even prefects, were strictly forbidden to know or even ask where she was.
Harry curled up in one of the overstuffed chairs, deep in thought. What he wouldn’t give for a time-turner, or a magic lamp, or something so that he could reverse the events of that March night! He would even gladly have served alternating detentions with Snape and Deveroux for the rest of the year if it would only undo what had happened.
Harry looked up to see Ron peering at him, uncertainly, the tight smile on his face obviously forced.
“Care for a game of chess?” Ron offered. “Fred and George have gone off somewhere, Dean and Seamus are busy reading their latest DC strategy guide, Ginny’s doing homework, and Hermione is nose-deep in the Hogwarts Handbook trying to think of a way to…er…find out more about Deveroux.”
“Well, gee, it’s nice to know that I’m now back at the top of your list of mates,” Harry snapped sarcastically, watching with a thrill of pleasure and a pang of guilt as Ron’s smile slid off his face. Admittedly, he missed Ron, wished they could sit down and talk like old times, wished that he still felt like playing chess and talking Quidditch, but…
Ron hadn’t been treating him right lately, and it was time Harry let him know about it! Besides, hurting Ron gave him a perverse sense of satisfaction.
“Don’t take it all out on me just because you’re feeling miserable!” Ron complained. “If people are avoiding you, maybe it’s because your company is about as depressing as a Pogrebin these days.”
“Oh, that’s clever, Ron, are you quoting Hermione now because you can’t think up your own insults?”
“Actually, it was Hermione’s idea that I try to forget the things you’ve been saying to me and try to cheer you up. I told her she was expecting miracles, and now I’m going to go tell her that I was right.”
“Fine. Go,” Harry snapped. “And tell her I don’t want to be cheered up. I want to be left alone.”
Ron stomped off in a huff, but moments later, Hermione stood in his place with a thoughtful, appraising frown on her face.
“Harry,” Hermione said sternly. “This is not your fault. If Deveroux is ill right now, it’s because she can’t let go. Like you.”
“Don’t start overanalyzing again, Hermione,” Harry grouched. “I don’t want to hear it.”
“Then what do you want?” Hermione retorted testily. “I only wanted to help you. So does Ron. But we don’t know how! You won’t talk to us anymore!”
“WELL THAT’S THE PROBLEM, ISN’T IT?” Harry exploded, causing heads to turn all over the common room. “You don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do! Nobody knows what to do! This is all our faults, and we should fix it, but we can’t!”
Hermione bit her lip and said nothing for several moments. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe there’s nothing we can do, Harry, except wait. We probably won’t hear anything before morning, at least. McGonagall has gone off somewhere, Dumbledore won’t even tell the prefects anything, and there’s no one else who could get us word. But at least we know she’s not getting worse.”
“How can you say that?” Harry shot back, outraged. “She’s been getting worse ever since…er…he left, or haven’t you noticed?”
“Well, maybe this is the turning point,” Hermione said, but with little conviction.
“I just wish I knew…something! I hate being kept in the dark!”
“Well we don’t even know where she is,” Seamus jumped in, as he gave both Harry and Hermione quizzical looks. “Deveroux might have been sent to St. Mungo’s for all we know. That’s what they do with the most serious cases. She was pretty bad off, wasn’t she?”
“Yeah,” Angelina said with a shudder. She had come over to see what Harry and Hermione were arguing about. “She looked horrible, like she hadn’t slept in weeks. This is going to sound completely mad, but…I wonder…I wonder if she was in love with Snape?”
The laughter, hoots, jeers and snerks of amusement and disbelief which greeted that statement persuaded Angelina to beat a hasty retreat. “Okay, I said it was completely mad! But why else would she be so upset and stay upset for so long?”
“Try reading the Underground Drummer once in a while,” Ron quipped with a note of sarcasm.
Katie Bell wiped her eyes. “I’m really sorry, Angelina, it’s not funny, but you know how some things make you laugh because you’re so tense you have to either burst out crying or laughing, and you can’t decide which? Well…anyway, I saw her too, and it was scary, the way she acted. Like she’d been cursed. My guess is that someone, maybe the You-Know-Whats, slipped her a poison, or a cursed artifact or something. I hope I never again see anyone look the way she did!”
Harry sank deeper in his chair. It was the helplessness and the lack of news that ate at him. That and knowing, knowing but being forbidden to tell. Angelina was closer to the truth than she or anyone suspected. Harry knew better than anyone else in this room, save Ron and Hermione, why Deveroux was cracking up, and he couldn’t tell them. He couldn’t tell anybody but Ron and Hermione…
And he didn’t want to talk to them, because it was their fault too…
Harry shot Hermione a long, accusing glare. Hermione suddenly looked very small and miserable, but right then, he didn’t care. Without another word to Harry, Ron, Ginny or anyone else in the room, the brown-haired girl turned away, grabbed her books, and made straight for the dorms.
Ron stared open-mouthed at her back then shot a questioning look across the room at Harry. Harry deliberately looked away. Ginny watched the whole exchange with a curious look, then followed Hermione.
Moments later, Neville came into the common room looking disappointed. Several heads turned his way, but Neville only shook his head and looked down. “Professor McGonagall’s still out,” he said, “and Madam Pomfrey. And the assistants wouldn’t tell me anything.”
Harry closed his eyes in frustration. If only there were someone else he could talk to right now…Sirius! But it would take time for Hedwig to…fire parchment! Harry remembered that he would have to send the note to Fletcher’s instead of the Deveroux Shack this time. Of course, he would have to wait until the common room was empty to send the note, and at the rate things were going it would be a very long wait. What could he do in the meantime, while he waited?
The teen suddenly sat bolt upright, his eyes wide.
“Dobby!” he exclaimed. “Dobby could find her!”
Most of the other Gryffindors exchanged puzzled looks, but Ron perked up. “Oy! That’s a great idea!” he said, looking at Harry with grudging respect.
“Who is Dobby?” Dean Thomas asked, looking up from his strategy guide while Harry received curious looks from Angelina and Katie.
“Is that your little…?” Seamus began, but Harry was already ahead of him.
“Dobby is one of the house-elves here at Hogwarts,” Harry said. “He started working here in the kitchens last year. And I’ll bet the restrictions on students don’t apply to house-elves. He would probably go just about anywhere in the castle if I asked him to. And he could nip into just about any place without being seen.”
“But how are you going to get him? You don’t plan to sneak down to the kitchen at this time of night!” Seamus wondered.
“It’s not past curfew yet,” Harry pointed out.
“But it will be by the time you get there. And you’ll never make it back without getting caught by Filch or security,” Ron warned.
“There might be another way…” Harry started to say, when he was interrupted by a loud pop. The students jumped a bit as they saw a smallish, funny-looking creature with a large nose and bat-like ears, wearing the Hogwarts turban on his head, mismatched socks on his feet and a large, bright tie around his neck.
“You wanted to see me, Harry Potter, sir?” Dobby squeaked with a small bow.
“Yes!” Harry said, grinning from ear to ear. “How did you know?”
“House-elves go wherever they is most needed, Harry Potter, sir,” Dobby said. “And you is needing Dobby right now. So Dobby is here to help.”
“I need a favor…and you may be the only one who can help me, Dobby,” Harry said.
“If I can, I will, Harry Potter, sir,” Dobby replied. “You is kind and generous wizard. Dobby is always glad to help you. Maybe you is wanting something from the kitchen? An extra plate of sweets or biscuits…?”
“Er, no, Dobby. I appreciate the offer, but that’s not what I had in…” Harry said.
“Oh, why not?” Ron interrupted. “He might as well stop by the pantry and nick some snacks while he’s at it!”
“Ignore him,” Harry said with a stern glare in Ron’s direction. “None of us are hungry.”
“What?!” Ron exclaimed.
“I need some information,” Harry said, “about Professor Deveroux. I want to know how she’s doing, if you can find out, that is. Is she still in the castle?”
Dobby shuffled his feet, looked up uncertainly at Harry. “Miss Deveroux, she is in the castle, but…” Dobby paused and looked down. “Dobby is not allowed to say where. Students is strictly forbidden to go there.”
“That’s all right, Dobby,” Harry said. “You don’t have to tell me where she is. I only want to know if Professor Deveroux is going to be okay.”
The house-elf shrugged and looked at Harry forlornly. “Dobby is hearing that Professor Deveroux is very sick. Professor Dumbledore is saying her heart is broken. I don’t understand, but I am thinking it is very serious.”
“Yes, it is very serious,” Harry said with a hint of impatience. “And that’s why I need to know. Do you know where they took her?”
Dobby nodded reluctantly. “Yes, I know where she is. But Dobby can’t…if Dobby tries…” and the house-elf suddenly broke off and began pounding a fist against his forehead.
“Stop, Dobby!” Harry commanded. “Stop it!” And the house-elf reluctantly obeyed. “Listen, I know you can’t tell us or show us,” Harry said quickly. “And I’m not asking you to. But you can go places where students can’t. You could go there, see how she’s doing, and then come back and tell us, couldn’t you?”
The house-elf’s eyes brightened. “Yes!” he squeaked. “Dobby can do that, Harry Potter sir! Dobby can come and go without being seen!”
“Yes! Okay, good,” Harry said. “Do it. And don’t be seen if you can help it. I think it would be best if they didn’t know you were there.”
Dobby nodded emphatically, his turban bobbing with the movement, and he disappeared with a loud pop, leaving the students to wait in silence. Perhaps a minute or two passed, and then…
Pop! Dobby reappeared, with a worried look on his face.
“Well?” Harry asked anxiously. “How is she?”
“Not good,” Dobby whispered with sadness in his large green eyes. “Miss Wendamer is with her now, but Professor Deveroux, she is very sick. Professor McGonagall is afraid for her. I heard that someone is coming in to help, someone from outside the school.”
“Someone from St. Mungo’s?” Harry wondered.
Dobby shrugged. “Dobby didn’t hear a name.”
“Who is Miss Wendamer?” Colin asked. “She’s not a teacher…”
“No, she’s one of the Healer apprentices,” Neville jumped in unexpectedly. “She’s very nice. She gave me lemon ices when I was sick with the flu earlier this year. She has an older sister Barnabii, who’s also an apprentice. Miss Barnabii is more like Madam Pomfrey; she’s pretty strict.”
“I don’t recall seeing them before,” Harry said.
“Yeah, and you should know,” Seamus quipped. “Since you’ve been up there more often than any of us.”
Harry gave Seamus an oh-button-it look. Seamus shrugged and said, “Well, it’s true.”
“I think they just started this year,” Neville commented. “Probably on account of…well…You-Know-Why.”
There were many nervous shudders as a sudden hush fell over the common room. Extra healers, extra security, teachers and family members vanishing without a trace... Nobody really believed the Daily Prophet and the Ministry’s reassurances anymore. But most everyone was afraid to believe the truth.
Harry just rolled his eyes and turned back to Dobby. “Check in from time to time, and keep me informed if you can,” Harry said. “I’ll be up for a while.”
Dobby nodded and bowed deeply. “Dobby will, Harry Potter, sir.” With that, the house-elf disappeared again.
"Professor McGonagall? A word with you, if you please!"
McGonagall turned to see Karkaroff approaching her and curling his goatee with his fingers. She had just left the teachers’ wing, after Wendamer had come in to watch Deveroux, and right now, Igor Karkaroff was the last person she wanted to have a word with.
"Has the condition of our Defense teacher improved at all?" Karkaroff inquired, the concern in his voice as false as the rest of him, McGonagall thought in contempt.
"She…will recover in a few days," the Deputy Headmistress said and turned away. She passed Karkaroff and strode rapidly down the hall away from him.
"Fnf!" Karkaroff sniffed derisively, as he gave chase. "She has seemed unwell ever since the first time I laid eyes on her. Rather a frail thing for such a grueling class, don't you think?"
McGonagall whirled on him, eyes flashing. "You, Professor Karkaroff, are a fine one to talk about teaching standards! Aurellia is one of the toughest, bravest souls I know, and one of the finest Defense teachers we have ever had! And you have no idea what all she has been through this year! The loss of a close family member, unsettling revelations about her past, and the sudden disappearance of...of someone she had grown close to. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you flee at the first sign of trouble a year ago?"
"I had very little choice in the matter!" Karkaroff retorted acidly. "I would be dead right now if I had not!"
McGonagall was less than sympathetic. "Nevertheless, the fact that it has taken her this long to break down shows how much pluck she has!" The witch was nearly nose to nose with Karkaroff at this point. "If you had been through half of what she's been through, you would be cowering in a hole right now! You have a lot of nerve to criticize her!"
"And if you had been through half of what I have been through this past year, perhaps you would be less inclined to criticize me!" Karkaroff replied angrily. "I may not have been a member of your much-vaunted Order, but I am hunted today because I betrayed my master and helped your side!"
“It was Azkaban, not remorse that persuaded you to do so, Professor Karkaroff,” McGonagall stated coolly. “And you would love to use the Defense Against the Dark Arts position as an excuse to teach your favorite subject, wouldn’t you?”
“I have no desire to invoke the Hogwarts Curse upon myself!” Karkaroff said stiffly. “I have had enough misfortune as it is without inviting more of it. And despite your accusations, I have abandoned the Dark Arts, as I have abandoned He-Who-Advocates-Their-Use.” And with that he stalked away in an angry huff, thinking that Severus had been right about the unending ingratitude, suspicion, and hostility of people in this place.
McGonagall continued to glare at his retreating figure until he was out of sight. What Karkaroff had left unsaid rang through the corridor in a silent counterpoint to his retreating footsteps.
"And there is not a day that passes, that I do not regret it!"
Hagrid paced near one of the secret entrances to Hogwarts later that evening, watching, waiting. Ah, there he is, Hagrid thought as he spied a thin figure approaching him—a very familiar figure carrying a familiar shabby suitcase in one hand and an owl cage in the other. The owl himself, a fine, proud barn owl, was flying low overhead on silent wings.
"Evening, Rubeus," Lupin called out softly. "I came as quickly as I could. Thankfully, the Ministry boys decided to take the night off from spying on my property. Don't know who they're spying on instead, and I really don't care. I'll take any break I can get these days."
"Evenin' Remus," the half-giant replied. "Glad yer here. Perfesser Deveroux's in a pretty bad way."
"The headmaster didn't give me a lot of details," Lupin said, frowning. "His note only said 'Come quickly, Aurellia needs you.' That was all, but it was enough. I knew he wouldn't call me here unless it were urgent."
The two wizards started walking into the castle through one of the dark, subterranean corridors. The owl gave a small shreee of displeasure, and turned back toward the cold night air. “Happy hunting, Gremlin!” Lupin called after him. “And tell your friends in the owlery hello for me!”
Hagrid held up a lantern, and light from it and the phosphorescent rocks cast eerie shadows of the two of them along the corridor. Hagrid was so big that he had to walk hunched over in order to fit inside the passage.
"So what's happened?" Lupin asked. “I never thought Ari would be one to crack under pressure, and I know she loves teaching.”
"Ain’t teaching that’s done it, Remus,” Hagrid replied. “It’s Perfesser Snape. Miss Deveroux hasn't been the same since Snape left."
“Snape? You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope. Wish I were, though. They were pretty close, those two, almost as close as me an' Olympe," and Hagrid blushed and looked bashful as he said this. Remus grinned at the big man's obvious infatuation with the lady half-giant and headmistress of Beauxbatons, but said nothing as Hagrid continued. "You could just see it in their eyes..." Hagrid started to tear up a bit at the memories. "They would'a made for an odd pair, but everyone on the staff thought it was sweet, if per'aps doomed. They were both kinda lonely, ya know? They had it bad for each other, but the blind fools din'ta realize it, neither one of 'em, 'til too late." Hagrid snuffled into his hanky. "Now he’s probably dead and she's just wastin' away with grief.
"Perfesser McGonagall went to Miss Deveroux's office this morning and found her babblin' nonsense and totally out of her head. I heard that the poor girl just snapped, over some well-meaning joke the Weasley twins pulled. An' it was somethin' she ordinarily woulda laughed at. Went clean out of her mind instead! One of the saddest things I ever heard."
"Merlin!" Lupin whispered, and he shook his head, and the two walked the rest of the way down the dark corridor in silence until they saw a light at the end.
"Who goes there?" Hagrid and Lupin heard a gruff, scratchy voice call out.
"It's just us, Argus," Hagrid called back. "Me 'n Remus."
"Remus is 'ere?" Filch called back, walking closer and holding his lantern up. "I'm glad teh hear that. Dumbledore's expectin' yeh. Perfesser Deveroux, she's in bad shape. Sir Nick tol' me she hasn't changed since this mornin', when Perfesser McGonagall found her. I asked him to peek in on her. Know it's bending the rules a bit, but we're all worried."
Hagrid and Lupin exchanged concerned looks and followed Filch down the rest of the tunnel. They saw Dumbledore at the end of the path. The headmaster looked relieved when he saw the former Defense teacher with Hagrid and Filch.
"Remus," Dumbledore said warmly, but even in the dim light, Lupin could detect worry in the old wizard's lined face. "I'm so very glad to see you."
“I hope I can help,” Lupin replied somberly, then added as soon as Filch was out of earshot, “If even old Argus is worried, it must be serious. So what happened? Hagrid said something about a practical joke that backfired, and that she’s upset over what happened to Snape?”
"Well, in a nutshell, Aurellia found out some rather unsettling things about Severus's past, and under very unfortunate circumstances," Dumbledore explained. "She found out that he was part of the Death Eater crowd that destroyed her village, and the other elf villages.”
“She found this out? When? Wait a minute, was this before or after he was ambushed by the Death Eaters?”
“It was the reason he was ambushed. When Aurellia learned the truth about what he had done to the elves, she went rather mad with fury, to say the least, and she said some terrible things to him that she later regretted. He left the school in a fit of fury himself, and he decided to challenge Voldemort single-handedly. Regrettably, he did not get very far once he had flown beyond the protection of the school grounds. It seems that the Death Eaters were waiting for him, almost as though they expected something like this to happen.”
“Oh, and one other thing, concerning Aurellia,” Dumbledore continued. “She also found out that Severus was the one who killed her four-year-old brother, Kiro."
"Brother?" Lupin exclaimed as he turned to the older wizard, a look of surprise on his face. “She had a brother?”
Dumbledore stared at Lupin. "Surely you knew about this? You’ve known the family for years…”
Lupin shook his head no. "I never knew she had a younger brother." Lupin sighed. "I've known Luk since I was about 25. But one thing you have to understand, Headmaster, is that although Luk was my best friend after James' death and Sirius' imprisonment, he rarely said anything about his past. Ari never did, and Luk would never discuss what had happened to their birth families when he was around her. He was always extremely protective of her. In fact, I didn't even know that they were adopted until I had known Luk for nearly five years. And it wasn't Luk who told me; it was Marie, their mother. She happened to let it slip one time while I was over there for dinner. I had been helping her in the kitchen. I remember my shock. I nearly dropped five pounds of potatoes on the floor!" Lupin chuckled softly at the memory.
"I remember their father, Justice Deveroux, telling me then how they had adopted Aurellia and Luk. The justice was on official business with the orphanage, and he was helping to settle another adoption. Both the justice and Marie were at the orphanage that day. Then old Deveroux said that they saw these two sweet blond waifs, a teen and a little girl, looking forlornly at them. They had no children of their own, and had never even considered adopting, I guess. But they took one look at Luk and Ari, and the justice said the next thing they knew, he and Marie were asking the orphanage officials for adoption papers."
Lupin paused. "Funny, that was about the only decent, civilized conversation I remember having with their father. We don’t get on well, Deveroux and I, but Luk and Aurellia had the heart to see past his faults."
He continued, "Anyway, it was another few months after finding out they were adopted before I could get this bit of shocking information out of Luk: that their families had been killed by Voldemort. And it was nearly a year later after that revelation that I found out, again by accident, that he and Ari were elves."
Dumbledore looked at the younger wizard. "Did Luk know that you’re a werewolf?"
Lupin gave a small, forced laugh. "Admittedly, no, not at first. Not until a few months after I found out about Luk's true ancestry. Perhaps that's why I was content to let so much remain secret. We both had much to hide, albeit for different reasons. Luk found out my secret by accident, too. I had managed to eke out a living by house-sitting for vacationing wizarding families. There was never much money, but it provided shelter, and a reasonably safe place to transform every month. After I graduated, I had learned how to...secure myself during the full moon so I couldn't escape. Well, one day, right after the full moon, Luk surprised me with a visit. He noticed how sick I was, and didn't buy my story that I had the Dragon Pox. I forgot I had used a similar story the month before. Then Luk saw the bruises and marks from the enchanted ropes on my wrists, saw the calendar and lunar charts and put two and two together. But like my old Hogwarts friends, he did not leave me. In fact, he was able to give me a great gift after I left Hogwarts two years ago—a permanent safe room where I could sleep through my transformations every month, thanks to old elven magic."
"Speaking of Luk, it has occurred to me...” Dumbledore trailed off for a moment, then queried, “Aurellia has never truly had a chance to grieve for him, has she?"
Lupin shook his head. "She was never the type to open up much to anyone, and given her family history, it's no wonder. Her birth parents were killed when she was a young child, and her adoptive parents…well…Marie is all right, I suppose. She's sweet enough, if a bit distant. And she makes the best lasagna you've ever tasted. But her father, Justice Jeorges Deveroux, is a tight-fisted, authoritarian, mean-spirited workaholic with a narrow mind and little patience!
"But I digress. No, she never had a chance to grieve. First she was hospitalized, simply trying to survive. Then, we approached her about working here the day she was discharged from the hospital, and then she was training night and day. And then, as you know, she came here and had to cope with students and classes and adjusting to the wizarding world...and Snape." Lupin trailed off suddenly, the corners of his lips curling into a frown, and his eyes crinkling with sadness.
"And how are you handling it?" Dumbledore asked gently, realizing that Aurellia was not the only one suffering from Luk’s loss.
"Day by day, Headmaster," Lupin replied, and he folded his arms across his chest. "Day by day. I've been so busy myself since the Dark Lord’s return, and with the Ministry poking around, asking questions. I’ve never have had much time to think about it. But sometimes, in the dead of night, I’ll awaken, and it all comes back to me in a rush. I'll never forget going in there, to see Ari lying on the floor, cold, lifeless...and Luk standing over her, this horrible, haunted but...strangely empty...expression on his face. 'I did it,' he said when he saw me come in. 'I killed her.' Then he...he stabbed himself with his wand, before I could stop him. He stabbed himself with his own wand. There was nothing I could do. He was beyond recovery before the Healers arrived. I couldn't save him, and to this day, I blame myself. I know I shouldn’t. No one could survive such an injury, not even a high elf. Yet I feel...I let him down. I honestly don't know how Ari survived. The only thing I can figure is that Luk pulled back at the last moment with whatever he cast."
By this time, the two wizards had arrived at the teacher's wing. At Deveroux's door Dumbledore reached out a hand to knock when the Fat Friar and Gray Lady floated out from the wall, just to their right. They gasped and looked guiltily at Dumbledore and Lupin. The ghosts generally were not allowed in the teachers’ private quarters without permission, and Deveroux was in no state to grant such permission.
Dumbledore cocked an eyebrow and regarded the two ghosts with a stern, questioning look, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
"We...we were just checking to see how she’s doing," the Fat Friar said.
"Mr. Filch and some of the others asked us to give them regular updates on her condition, since we can pop in and out without getting in the way," the Gray Lady added.
"Well, since you've already just looked in, how is she?" Dumbledore asked the two errant ghosts.
The ghosts looked very mournful. "Still not well," the Fat Friar said. "She's in bed, but she won't sleep. Miss Wendamer has been trying all night to get her to rest. We...we are sorry, but, to tell you the truth, we were worried too."
Dumbledore brushed the apology aside. "I'm not angry with you, and I think Miss Deveroux will understand when and if she recovers. But go now, and no more visits tonight."
The ghosts beat a hasty retreat through the opposite wall as the two wizards stepped inside.
They saw Wendamer Clagg emerge from Deveroux's bedroom. The apprentice was a slightly built young witch with long brown hair done in a loose bun and large brown eyes. She saw the two wizards and arched her thin eyebrows.
"Headmaster, you of course, are allowed here, but please! Miss Deveroux cannot have...."
"Wendamer, my dear, it is quite all right," Dumbledore said as he raised a hand to cut off the young apprentice's words. "Remus Lupin is here at my invitation. He's an old friend, and I think he can help her where magic and medicine has failed."
"Remus Lupin? Say, didn't you teach here a couple of years ago?" Wendamer asked.
Remus nodded. "Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"I remember you! You're one of the few to survive the position with full possession of your mental faculties! I thought you looked somewhat familiar, but I thought you were a bit youn...er, ah." Wendamer paused, then seemed to change her mind about continuing her line of thought. "At any rate, I'm so glad you are here. The castle ghosts and several of the house-elves have been sneaking in and out all day, despite my repeated entreaties for them not to. Especially Sir Nick, Winky and Dobby. They aren't supposed to be here."
"I've talked to two of them, Wendamer," Dumbledore said. "The ghosts won't visit again tonight. I'll talk to Winky and Dobby later."
"I can't get her to rest," Wendamer continued, with a pitying glance over her shoulder towards the Defense teacher's bedroom. "Also, about two hours ago, she started running a fever. If at all possible, Headmaster, she shouldn't be disturbed until tomorrow, and Madam Pomfrey recommends complete quiet and rest for at least two days."
"Easily arranged, I had already planned for that," Dumbledore replied gently.
Lupin, meanwhile, had started walking over towards Deveroux's bedroom. He paled at what he saw inside.
Deveroux was sitting on the left edge of the bed, dressed in her white nightrobe. Her head was resting on her knees, and her arms were wrapped tightly around her legs. She was rocking back and forth, muttering...no, singing something Lupin couldn't quite make out at first.
"She's been babbling like that for the past hour," Wendamer said, her eyes misting. "None of the sleeping potions have worked."
Lupin walked over to where Deveroux sat, rocking and singing softly. He listened intently to the words.
Zhuke, phanar, remii, dol
Ehne betrekhe toh nhukmore
Toh nhukmor, griizha mehnee.
"It's not babble," he said. "It's druidish. Her first language. And I know what she is singing, for I've heard her sing it before."
"You have?" Wendamer asked with wide brown eyes.
"Yes. It's the called the Elfin Comfort Song, a lullaby her birth mother taught her when she was a child," Lupin replied with a slight nod. "I heard her sing it when she was 15. Luk, Aurellia, and I were at her parents’ house after school let out. Luk had made a light supper, for her parents weren't home yet, and he had asked me to go and tell her that supper was almost ready. I went to her room, and I heard her singing this song. She was upset at the time, having just broke up with her first crush, and she told me that the song had always been a great comfort to her. Of course, I thought it was just some foreign language that I was unfamiliar with. I didn't realize that it was Druidish until some time later, when I found out they were elves."
Lupin walked over to Aurellia and sat next to her.
"Ari?" he greeted gently as he put his arm around the elf. "Ari? Can you hear me? It's Remus, luv."
Aurellia turned her blue eyes towards Lupin and stared into his face. Or, Lupin thought with a shudder, stared through him. She had almost the same haunted, empty look Luk had worn when he thought he had killed his beloved cousin. Aurellia gazed at him thus for several long moments, then suddenly broke down and sobbed.
Remus held her close and rocked her gently. Then he started to sing the lullaby she had been singing, in English, using the translation Luk had taught him.
Little one, if I could give you
Any wish within this world,
I would capture and lock up the evils
All of the evils in this world.
Greed and famine, grief and pain
Never more would these things be.
Yes, I would capture and lock up the evils,
Lock away the evils, destroy the key.
Lupin was a terrible singer, but his voice seemed to have the desired effect on the elf, whose sobs had quieted to soft sniffles. She leaned her head into the werewolf's shoulder as he continued:
If I could grant my heart's desire,
This is what my wish would be
There'd be no death from strife or war,
If only the power was within me.
Greed and famine, grief and pain
Never more would these things be.
Yes, I would capture and lock up the evils,
Lock them up and destroy the key.
Aurellia started to close her eyes, and Lupin continued to sing softly.
The pain of the unsealed Grecian box
If I had knowledge to undo,
Then I would capture and lock up the evils,
So no more harm could come to you.
Greed and famine, grief and pain
Never more would trouble you,
If I could capture and lock up the evils,
This is what I'd vow to do.
By now, Aurellia was quiet, and her breathing slow and regular. She had finally fallen asleep. Remus laid her down gently on the pillows.
My poor, poor Ari, he thought sadly as he covered her with a blanket. I should have never talked you into coming here. But I only wanted to protect you, to try to help you forget what happened to you...and to your cousin. I only wanted to keep you safe, like Luk would have wished. But coming here has only brought you more pain. I am so sorry, Ari.
Lupin gently ran a hand through her curly hair and against her pale face. I am so sorry, he thought again. He stared at her a moment more, then walked quietly out of the bedroom. Dumbledore and Wendamer were waiting in the living room.
"She's finally asleep," Lupin announced in a weary, melancholy voice.
Dumbledore sighed in relief. "That is reassuring. I expected that your presence would help her, and would be a great comfort to her. But I think she will need your help for some time in order to recover fully. Remus, will you stay the night here? I can provide you with anything you need."
"Of course," Lupin replied as he held up his shabby suitcase. "I came prepared. I don’t think Aurellia will mind if I just curl up on the couch here tonight. The full moon isn't for another two weeks."
"Good. Wendamer, you may go now, if you wish."
"Thank you, sir," the young witch replied. "And thank you, Mr. Lupin." She gave the werewolf a shy smile and left the room.
No sooner had she left when Dumbledore and Lupin were startled by two squeaky voices behind them.
"Is she okay?" said Winky.
"Prof ... Mr. Lupin! What is you doing back here? You is worried about Miss Deveroux too?" asked Dobby.
"Good evening, you two," Dumbledore said, trying to look stern, but failing miserably. "I hear you, along with some of our ghosts, have been haunting Professor Deveroux's room."
"No, Professor Dumbledore, sir," Dobby said, shaking his head so hard that it looked as if it might roll right off. "Not haunting. Just checking."
"I see," Dumbledore said, a slight smile crossing his lips. "Winky, will you stay and help Remus, if he requires anything? And Dobby, please go, and don't come back until you are invited. Madam Pomfrey will give me ten kinds of grief for all of the 'uninvited visitors' tonight. Wendamer already gave me an earful. And yes, you can report to Harry and his friends, Dobby, that Miss Deveroux will be okay, and that Lupin is here. Because I know that even if Harry didn't send you, you have been reporting back to him and the other students."
Dobby grinned sheepishly. "There is no fooling you, Headmaster, sir. No fooling you!" And Dobby disappeared in the blink of an eye.
"I have to get back to work," Dumbledore said to Lupin. "Other duties call. But don't hesitate to contact me if you need anything. And here." He handed Lupin a couple of pieces of light grey paper. Fire parchment. "Send me a note, if you need anything or if she gets worse again. Her fireplace is still lit. Or you can send Winky to me instead.”
"And thank you for coming, Remus."
Lupin nodded as Dumbledore walked out of the room. Then he regarded the house-elf with an amused expression as he went to the couch and sat down. Winky followed.
"Is Mr. Lupin hungry, sir?" Winky asked.
Lupin laughed. "Admittedly, I wouldn't say 'no' to a couple of sandwiches and some pumpkin juice."
Winky was gone in a fraction of a second. She reappeared moments later with a golden platter loaded with ham sandwiches and a huge goblet of pumpkin juice. House-elves did have a tendency to go overboard, Lupin thought with a wry grin, but he accepted the food gratefully. He picked up one of the half sandwiches and ate voraciously. He held out another sandwich to Winky.
"Would you like one? There's plenty here," Lupin offered.
Winky's eyes teared up, and she started bawling.
"Shhhhh! !!" Lupin hissed, with an alarmed look towards Deveroux's bedroom. Ari was a light sleeper even under the best of circumstances.
Winky hiccuped. "I is sorry, Mr. Lupin, sir, but you...you is so kind to offer me something like that! I don't deserve it!"
"Don't say that, of course you do," Lupin said, trying not to be irritated. He had forgotten about the eccentricities of house-elves. He placed the sandwich next to the still sniffling house-elf, who, after a moment's hesitation, took up the sandwich and nibbled at it cautiously.
Lupin ate three sandwiches and downed two goblets of pumpkin juice, then stared into the flames, lost in thought.
"Mr. Lupin? Sir?"
Lupin sighed miserably and turned toward the house-elf. "Yes?"
"Is you wanting anything else?”
Lupin shook his head. "No, nothing else for me, thank you. But if you can keep an eye on Ari...Professor Deveroux...for a bit, I would appreciate it. I think I'm going to retire in a few moments. But rouse me the minute she wakes up, will you?"
Winkey nodded and disappeared.
Lupin lay down on the couch and stared into the fireplace. Despite the long and dangerous journey, his thoughts were too troubled for sleep.
Ari, he thought mournfully. My poor Little Sis. You were right so many months ago, and I should have listened to you. Bringing you into all of this was a mistake. I have only brought more grief on you by talking you into coming here.
He tried to remember a happier time, before Voldemort's return, before Luk's death and Snape's disappearance, before the long shadow of darkness had fallen over the world.
End of Chapter 49