Remus Lupin sank wearily into a chair at the table in the kitchen of Number 12 Grimmauld Place. He couldn't remember ever feeling so drained. The house was unusually quiet. Harry had been Portkey-d away and the other members of the Order were escorting the captured Death Eaters to Azkaban. Now that the Dementors had abruptly switched loyalties, the Ministry was in a hurry to find new, more trustworthy guards. Unfortunately, werewolves weren't one of them. Rather than cause a scene, Remus had bit his tongue as he usually did and retreated back to HQ to await the others. Now that he was there, he wished he had insisted on staying. Even arguing for werewolf rights had to be better than the grave-like stillness of the house.
As much as he tried to suppress it, memories of Sirius' death floated through his mind. One minute his body had been floating lazily backwards from the force of the hex, his face a mingled expression of surprise and fear. The next, it had drifted beyond the veil and out of his reach forever. The moment had seemed hours long then but in reality it had all happened in a few seconds. Remus had been too busy dragging Harry away from the whispering veil and later, rounding up the Death Eaters, to think about his own pain. Now the full force of it hit him like a kick in the stomach and he couldn't breathe, clutching at his face and hair as if to hold back the tidal wave of memories now assailing him.
A faint step alerted him to another presence but he didn't move, couldn't move. Even the once-a-month transformation into the werewolf didn't hurt as much as the gnawing pain growing steadily inside of him.
Remus lifted his aching head long enough to glance at the pale face of Severus Snape. He looked as though he'd flown there in great hurry, his greasy hair whipped untidily around his face and his robes, normally kept with a cat-like cleanliness, in disarray. Snape must have mistaken the hollow look in his eyes for he leaned over the table, clutching the back of a chair with a white-knuckled grip.
"Potter?" His voice was flat.
Remus belatedly remembered that Snape hadn't been permitted to go on the rescue mission. The risk that one of the Enemy should spot him was too great.
"No," he finally replied, a strange catch in his throat. "Harry's fine; physically that is," he amended, remembering Harry's face, contorted with fury, as he rushed to confront Bellatrix Lestrange. "Dumbledore gave him a Portkey back to Hogwarts."
Snape didn't reply but his hands stopped gripping the chair so hard. He glanced around the kitchen, bereft for once of Molly Weasley, bustling about making sandwiches and endless supplies of tea. Snape turned back to look at Remus, his eyes narrowing when Remus offered no explanation for the intense grief still evident in his prematurely lined face.
Remus looked up and Snape was startled to see a glistening trail down the werewolf's cheek.
Snape stared at Remus in disbelief as the former professor searched his shabby robes for a handkerchief. Sirius Black, dead?
"Impossible," he bit out. The thought of Sirius with death's cold sheen on his face was too incongruous to the mania Black usually displayed when they had the unfortunate chance to be in the same room together. The idea would be laughable if not for the empty tone of Lupin's voice and the haunted look in the gray eyes.
Lupin managed a sad smile in response to Snape's declaration.
"I wish it were, Severus." Every word seemed to be wrung with pain. Snape, uncomfortable with such a raw display of emotion, looked away.
"I'm sorry, Severus." The voice came again after a moment of silence, tired and guilt-filled.
Snape looked sharply back at Lupin. Why was he apologizing? Lupin stood stiffly, as if he had to concentrate on the action before performing it, and walked to a cupboard.
Lupin retrieved a chipped tea set and waved his wand over it; immediately, the pot began to steam and the fragrant scent of tea wafted through the air. Lupin poured a cup, stirred in some sugar, and offered it to Snape who took it automatically but did not drink. The werewolf sank back down in the chair and sipped halfheartedly at his own cup.
"Harry told us about what he saw in your Pensieve."
Snape's hand clenched his cup tight enough that it emitted a shrill squeak of pain.
"He reminded me of what prats we all were at fifteen," Lupin continued, staring into the dark liquid as if it would somehow absorb the guilt and shame that had taken up residence beside the ache in his heart. "I was prefect and yet I allowed incidents like that to happen; turning a blind eye to James and… Sirius."
"I noticed," Snape spat out, trying to rein in his simmering temper. Hadn't he told the boy specifically not to tell anyone? The same arrogant, unfeeling---
"Perhaps if I had interfered… Sirius would not have…." He trailed off, voice growing husky again.
Snape cleared his throat. As much as he still despised the memory of James and Sirius, some lingering respect for the recently dead made him swallow the other accusatory words rising up like bile in his mouth.
"What happened?" Snape asked instead.
Lupin started jerkily of how they had arrived at the mysteriously emtpy Ministry and then in a smoother voice as he went on how they had arrived just in time, running faster as they heard the Longbottom boy scream from the effects of the Cruciatus Curse.
Snape sat down abruptly. "What was Longbottom doing there?" he asked, his voice sharp. "I thought--"
Lupin shrugged. "I don't know that we ever asked but I assume that Harry's friends wouldn't let him go 'rescue' Sirius without them. Besides Neville, Ginny Weasley, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Luna Lovegood were there with him…. Anyway, we fought a dozen or so Death Eaters…" He talked on, how Neville had accidentally broken the prophecy--
"That boy breaks anything of glass within a ten mile radius," growled Snape.
--and how Dumbledore had arrived, causing panic in the Death Eater ranks and new hope for the tiring Aurors. But Sirius was still dueling with Bellatrix Lestrange.
"He was taunting her. Just like he used to taunt you," Lupin recalled, eyes staring back into memory. "I remember a particularly nasty day just before Christmas break our 4th year when you and Sirius had got at it outside. I never told anyone of course, but I always felt that your retaliation-wasn't it a Opera-Voice Hex?-was warranted." Lupin's mouth curved in a smile as he remembered. "He was singing Italian arias for a week; in a horrible falsetto too."
"What happened?" Snape pressed, the edge of his mouth quirking impatiently.
"She hit him with another spell… I think it was a Stunner although I can't be sure. And he… went beyond the veil."
Snape sat back, frowning. It wasn't like Lupin to start spouting philosophical euphemisms for death.
"You mean he died," he stated bluntly. Lupin flinched.
"He went beyond the veil," Lupin repeated. "Literally. It was the Death Chamber. He fell through the arch and didn't come back out."
Snape sat still in his chair, looking at the far wall in though, but turned back when he heard Lupin mutter something. "What was that?" he asked.
Lupin smiled twistedly. "James died first. Peter is dead too as far I'm concerned. And now Padfoot…" He raised his eyes suddenly to meet Snape's. "I'm the last one. The last marauder."
Authors Notes - I thought I was done with writing fanfic but after reading OotP, I was inspired to write this. Remus, Snape, and anything else from JK Rowling's world belongs to her. I merely wanted to explore a bit. Thanks JKR for giving us so much to imagine.