I may expand this epilogue at some point, because I did originally plan it to cover more stuff from book 7, but I'd like to go into those events in more detail than one chapter and I wanted this story to have a happy ending for the moment. :)
"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." ~ Winston Churchill
I make my way up the path to Dora's parents' house, my heart thudding nervously. I have sent no word or message at all since I walked out in the early hours of the morning several days ago, and I can only begin to imagine what has been going through her mind.
I knock, and after a few seconds I hear footsteps. Dora opens the door, letting out a gasp as she sees me and then rushing towards me. But the embrace is short lived, and when she draws away again, there is fury on her face. "Where the hell have you been?" she spits. "I've been out of my mind, I thought you might have been killed-"
I take her hand and pull her outside. I certainly don't want to have this conversation with her parents potentially listening. We walk a little further up the garden and sit down on the wooden bench that faces the pond before she rounds on me. Her eyes are still flashing dangerously, and her colourful hair is tinged with red in a way I have not seen it for a long time. "Where have you been?" she repeats.
I have no idea how I can even begin to explain the thousands of thoughts that have streamed through my mind in the past few hours, but I am going to have to try.
"I panicked," I begin. "I was scared."
She makes a derisive noise at the back of her throat but I look at her pleadingly.
"Not for me." There is absolutely no excuse for me running away, of course, but however cowardly I have since realised my actions were, she has to know that at the time, I honestly thought that by distancing myself from her, I would be protecting her. "I was scared for you. For the child. For your family. After what Bellatrix did..." I trail off, shutting my eyes as the fear wells up inside me again. "It's because of me that she's so determined to hunt you down," I say. "And I was so scared that by staying I was putting you in more danger."
"Please believe me." I have to make her understand this, because if she thinks that I was simply running away from the responsibility of a child then I doubt she will ever trust me again.
"I do believe you," she says impatiently. "But honestly, Remus what were you thinking? That if you left then we would be fine? Because let me tell you something, even without you, in the eyes of the Death Eaters this child," she puts her hand protectively on her stomach, "is the embodiment of everything they hate, everything they want to eliminate from this world - muggleborn and blood-traitor and freak! And you really thought that just because you weren't here that Bellatrix would leave us alone?"
"I know it was stupid!" I say miserably. "But I wasn't thinking properly. My mind was a mess!"
She still looks so angry, and with her colour returned to her appearance she is far more frightening to me than she has ever seemed before.
"This was my decision to make, Remus! I chose to marry you. Do you think I didn't know what the consequences were going to be from these pure-blood maniacs I have to call relatives? When are you going to get it in to your thick head that I've accepted you for who you are, no matter what? That isolating yourself and running away is only going to make everything worse?"
"I have," I insist. "I do know that now." But she doesn't seem to believe me, and why should she, when I have pushed her back and forth so many times over the last few months and when I have spent the last four days letting her think that I didn't care about her at all?
"You made a promise!" she bursts out, a break in her voice. "You promised you'd come back and I've spent four days thinking you wouldn't!"
"I'm sorry," I say. The words are as feeble as ever, but there is nothing else I can say to that, because she is right. I so nearly broke the promise I made to her, so nearly disobeyed one of the few direct orders my father ever gave me, and she has every right to have lost her trust in me, but this doesn't stop me feeling bitterly unhappy at the wary look that is still written over her face.
"How do I know that this won't happen again? That next time you get scared it won't be four weeks...or four months? How do I know you'll even come back?"
"Because I won't leave you at all." I reach out and take her hand, trying to impress the sincerity of my words, and although she doesn't pull it away, she looks like she is struggling with herself, wanting to believe me but not daring to, in case I hurt her again. I have to, somehow, make her understand what has changed, why my decision to come back was not just born out of guilt or duty, but out of the realisation that what I am truly doesn't matter, and that the only thing that would make me unworthy of having a family would be not standing by them in the first place.
"Dora, I have spent my whole life pushing everything away. Every chance I've ever had to be happy. I've never listened to what people have tried to tell me. I honestly thought, until today, that everyone would just be better off if I leave them alone."
"But I don't think that any more," I press on, as I see her open her mouth to protest. "I- I get it now. And finally everything people have been saying to me...it makes sense!"
I on the other hand, am not making any sense at all. All the thoughts that flowed so effortlessly through my mind are difficult to put into words, and I am struggling, stammering, and her touch on my hand is still halfhearted, and the doubt is still in her eyes.
"I mean to keep those promises I made," I tell her. "I'm not going to run away again. I am going to stay with you, and protect you, and care for you, and raise our child with you. Please, just give me one more chance to prove it."
Dora just looks at me and doesn't reply.
"Please," I say again, more insistently, hearing my own voice crack. "Because the thought that you won't scares me more than everything else put together."
I look away from her and take a shaky intake of breath as I stare into the calm water of the pond, despising myself for the tears I can feel pricking the back of my eyelids. I have no right to cry, not when I brought this on myself. But I truly mean what I have just said. The fear that she will turn me away, that I have finally pushed her too far, is nothing like what I felt when I learnt of her pregnancy, or even when we heard about Bellatrix's attack on her parents. That was a blind sort of panic, then a sickening feeling of horror, but this is an emotion like no other. A paralyzing dread that she will react only as I deserve her to react. A deep terror that she will tell me she can't trust me anymore and that I will have to live with the consequences of the worst decision I have ever made for the rest of my life.
The fear that it's too late.
Sirius did try and warn me, all those months ago in Grimmauld Place, how this would feel. Only now do I fully appreciate what he was saying, and as we sit in silence, the fear grows stronger, and I simply cannot bring myself to look at Dora, because I am too scared that her answer will be no.
"Remus," she breaths at last. Her voice is soft, and when I dare to look up her hair is no longer red and the anger and mistrust has left her face.
"Please." It is a whisper this time, one last desperate attempt to make her understand that I really have changed, that I am back for good and that I mean to stick with her no matter what other obstacles are thrown our way.
She gives a slight shake of her head and raises her arm, and for some reason I flinch, but she just gives a weary sigh and runs her hand gently through my hair.
"You're an idiot," she says, but she laughs, and I understand that she will give me what I have just asked of her. One final chance that is more than I deserve, but that I will make sure I honour, from this moment, until the very end.
"I shouldn't be forgiving you this easily," she says warningly, as her hand comes to rest on the back of my neck. "You know that, don't you?" And I nod, feeling like a schoolboy in trouble. She has every right to be furious, to punish me, to refuse to talk to me, to do to me what I have done to her. But we are at war, and every moment is precious. I have wasted enough time being foolish myself, of course, but Dora is much cleverer than me. She always has been, and in that moment I know that she will not waste time sulking and moping about something that I almost did. Gratitude to her overwhelms me, and I wonder how I had ever thought, even for a second, that I could leave her.
"I should still be angry," she repeats quietly, getting to her feet and stretching out her hand, and as I stand up too she puts her arms around my neck and kisses me. And as I feel that indescribable warmth spread through every inch of my body, I suddenly feel safer than I have ever felt in my life, safe in the arms that I will never pull away from again, safe in the knowledge that I'm home.
"But I'm just glad you're home."
- The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be -