Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day

Remus hadn't eaten in what felt like three days, though he'd been caged in total darkness and couldn't be certain it hadn't been just one day, or as much as a week. The only hours he could be sure of were the twelve he'd spent as a monster.

It had been a mistake to answer the summons on the cusp of the full moon; it would have been a bigger mistake to ignore them. There was no winning scenario when it came to straddling the line between the light and the dark. Voldemort was still furious over the death of Severus Snape. The absence of Snape's recently-acquired replacement would have set him off beyond all reason.

Remus could still hear the voices that had trailed him as he was led away, a brute holding each arm firmly. Voices that spoke of tests and loyalty. At least one voice that he used to be able to trust. He wasn't a prisoner, oh no, not as one of Voldemort's followers. No, he was a guest, not a prisoner. They were going to observe how he could best serve his lord, not keep him captive to watch what the beast could do.

It was probably a blessing he couldn't remember a thing, if the blood all over him -- the blood that wasn't his own -- was any indication. A devastatingly high price to pay, but justifiable, he tried to tell himself, if the result of it was the end of the war.

At least he knew he hadn't eaten anything. Anyone.

Just a little further until he made it to Hogwarts, one foot in front of the other from the closest Apparition point to the gates of the castle. A few more minutes until he was in the safest place he knew. Which, these days, wasn't saying a lot.

No one was there to usher him inside, no one was even on the grounds to watch his slow, weary progress up the road. And the single pair of students he passed on the way to Dumbledore's office didn't give him more than a double take. Not a week, then. Not long enough to arouse suspicion.

Before he could utter a carefully-memorised password to the waiting gargoyle, the wall opened up and Dumbledore faced him solemnly from the bottom of the stairs. He looked brittle and lined and grey, and Remus thought that if the war had taken this kind of toll on the headmaster, what must it be doing to everyone else?

"It's good to have you back," Dumbledore said, and stepped aside so Remus could join him. "Shall we?"

Remus had too much pride to let an old man help him stay upright during the last few steps of his journey, but he did collapse into a chair the moment he was able. "How long?" he asked as Dumbledore took a seat at his desk. He couldn't meet his eyes, staring past at the jumble of knick-knacks on the shelves behind him.

"Two days, as always. Had we not received word from our source, we might not have thought anything amiss."

Remus scratched absently at a bloodstain on his robe, the worst of them hidden beneath it. They had begun to itch. "Well. I have little to report, I'm afraid. What I remember of the past two days is a lot of darkness and voices too distant for even me to hear."

"I take it you were unable to drink your Wolfsbane Potion before you departed."

Remus shook his head, the motion sending an ache through his shoulders and right down his back. "I'm fairly certain, though, that I was contained for the duration of the transformation." The blood, though. There was the blood. "And how is Severus recovering?"

"The same as the last time you inquired. The arm may be a loss after all, however. Even should we be able to regrow it, it may still bear the Dark Mark."

"But it may not," said Remus, a chill going through him as he thought of his own fresh Mark, writhing under his skin. "And at least he still lives."

"Well, I won't keep you any longer," said Dumbledore with a thoughtful nod of his head, his eyes picking up a little bit of light again. It changed little about his appearance. "Unless you have anything further to report."

"I did pass on the suggestion that the wards on the lake were our weak point," Remus informed him. "It didn't seem to surprise him, but then nothing does in the presence of his followers."

"Severus told him much the same, months ago," said Dumbledore. "It will reinforce your trustworthiness. Anything more?"

"I'm sorry," said Remus, lowering his eyes. "I was taken underground quite early on and did not participate in the rest of the gathering."

"Yes," said Dumbledore, "yes. We were informed of that as well. I've had the house elves bring a light meal to your quarters, but you may wish to visit the hospital first..." The suggestion was clearly that Remus had injuries to attend to. He did, but he had exhaustion to attend to first, if he was to teach his classes the next day

"Thank you," he said, rising awkwardly from his seat, muscles protesting every movement. "I think I'll retire for the remainder of the day. I'll be in my quarters should you need me."

"Believe me, Remus," said Dumbledore, rising to see him out, "the last thing I will be doing is calling on you before you've had a decent rest. Sleep well."

His quarters weren't far, but they did require him to climb a number of stairs, and any number of stairs higher than one was more than his body wanted to take. He stumbled into them after an impossibly long climb and at least had the presence of mind to reset the wards on the door before sprawling on his bed, fully clothed.

He was flat on his back with his eyes closed before he started to notice the little things: the smell of roasted meat wafting from the side of the bed, the crackle and warmth of a roaring fire, the sound of a chair rocking from the other side of the room.

While one part of him relaxed in the comfort of the room, another tensed right back up again at the evidence of an intruder. "Dumbledore mentioned only the food," he said aloud, forcing the words out sharply.

"That's because Dumbledore," said his intruder, "thinks that fires appear all by themselves. Like magic, or some nonsense like that."

Remus couldn't help that the sound of that voice made his heart pound in panic, made him flash back to the fateful gathering of Death Eaters. He had to force himself back into the here and now before he could open his eyes, face those solemn grey ones staring back. Any hint of amusement of his voice was not reflected in his gaze.

"I couldn't stop them," said Draco. "I couldn't even try."

"I know," said Remus, exhaustion making his head pound, his limbs feel like lead. "I'm going to go to sleep now."

"No," said Draco, up out of his seat before Remus could stop him. "Don't be foolish; you know if you don't eat now your stomach will wake you in an hour. Try the venison."

"You needn't have gone to any trouble," said Remus, eyes drooping shut as he nodded his head, a silent agreement to something he wished were not true. "You could have fed me table scraps. I wouldn't have known the difference."

"Have you every tried to get a house elf to feed you table scraps?" said Draco, lifting a perfectly sculpted, incredulous eyebrow. "They would be even more appalled than I would be to ask." He sat on the edge of the bed and lifted a piece of meat off the plate with his fingers, holding it close to Remus's mouth. "Eat."

Remus let Draco feed him that first bite, then pulled himself up into a sitting position again. "You would never have ordered me around like that when you were a student," he said, groping for his fork, careful not to simply wrap a fist around it.

"Then we should be thankful I haven't been your student in years," he said simply, sucking off his own fingers as Remus started to slowly feed himself. "There would've been broken dishes by now and I would be yelling. Is that wine?"

"Enjoy," said Remus around a mouthful of potato. "I won't be touching it. Albus has strange ideas about what a 'light meal' entails."

"I will, thank you," said Draco, but he didn't reach for the glass.

Remus ate in silence for a few minutes, the food disappearing faster than he would've thought he could manage. Hunger was a strong motivator. Draco just sat there, eyes on him the whole time, looking sad and older than Remus thought he should.

"Can you answer me something?" Remus asked finally, when the last of the food, save some unrecognisable vegetable, was gone.

"If I can."

Wincing at the awkward muscle movement, he shrugged the robes off his shoulders. His bare skin was still bloodied underneath. "Did I kill?" he asked, bluntness his only defence against the horror of the question. "Or did I... turn?"

Draco very obviously didn't want to answer the question; Remus had known that particular look for years. But he did. "It was a shopkeeper from a nearby village," Draco told him, with strangely comforting matter-of-factness. "He lived. Though when the next full moon comes he may wish he hadn't."

God knows Remus had thought that very thing a good many times during his life. He squeezed his eyes shut again, but he couldn't stop his body from reacting to the news. "Well," he got out finally. "At least I know why he was so eager to have me, now. A few months from now he'll have changed himself an army."

There was no comfort anyone could offer him, not even if there had been anyone left who remembered the type of comfort he had once known, but Draco offered him a hand anyway, and after a few moments of hesitation Remus took it.

"What did he offer you?" Draco asked. "What did he offer you that might've made you choose his side?"

"A cure," Remus confessed. "An end to this."

"Did you believe him?"

If there was anyone Remus could talk to about this, it was the young man beside him. Someone who'd once viewed him with fear and hatred. A man who bore a matching Mark to his own, who fought the same darkness, inside and out.

"Even knowing everything I know about Voldemort," he said finally, "I wanted to believe him. But there is only one man I think capable of discovering that cure, and Severus Snape fights for our side."

"Oh," said Draco, and fell silent again.

"What did he offer you?" Remus asked after a few more moments slipped by.

Draco swallowed audibly. "My father back."

Oh. "And did you believe him?"

"I did," said Draco, obviously too easily for his own comfort. "Voldemort came back, after all. He followed through on many of the things he promised his minions. Until I discovered the truth about how my father died."

"I'm sorry you had to see it."

"I'm not," said Draco, lifting his chin, his eyes grown harder. "Even knowing... it was still a close thing." He rubbed the Mark on his arm. "If I hadn't found out, I would have been lost for sure."

Draco Malfoy had changed over the years, grown up and changed in some very profound ways, but Remus didn't fool himself that Draco didn't still cling to some of the beliefs he'd held dear since childhood. His reasons for joining Dumbledore, for joining all the people who fought against Voldemort, had been very personal indeed.

"It's easy to believe someone who offers everything you want," said Remus. "It's harder to simply fight for what you have."

He closed his eyes again and this time couldn't summon the energy to blink them back open again. There was a momentary still in the air, then he felt Draco carefully pulling his robes from his body, laying them out for the house elves to take care of. Letting Remus slump over onto the pillows and finding another blanket to cover him with.

"Don't go."

Remus didn't mean to blurt that out, but the darkness was around him again, the darkness he'd escaped in body if not in his head. A moment later he felt Draco's weight settle onto the end of the bed again.

"We're not alone in this," Draco told him.

And that was just enough to let Remus finally sleep.

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19oct04. heidi: "want a true challenge? lupin/draco, height of the war, and lupin is a spy"