(Note from the author: These are not my characters, my world, or my situations. They all belong to J. K. Rowling, and are protected by copyrights.)
(DISCLAIMER FOR THIS UPDATE AND THE LAST UPDATE: Some of the dialogue, scenes, and situations, etc., are taken from the Harry Potter books, written by J.K. Rowling. (Primarily "The Prisoner of Azkaban" and "The Order of the Phoenix.") I do NOT take credit for anything you may recognize, nor want a profit for their creations, and the above disclaimer and the disclaimer over this entire story is in use during the next chapter. Also, in the last chapter, "To Live," and this Epilogue, there were certain aspects from Steve Kloves' screenplay and Alfonso Cuaron's movie, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," taken and put to use. These rights are held by the respective holders and creators, primarily Mr. Kloves, Mrs. Rowling, Mr. Cuaron, and Warner Bros. I do not take any credit for their creations, and do not wish to make a profit from their creations. I only use them to help the story along for dramatic purposes, and wish not to take credit for ANYTHING you may recognize.)
(NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Thank you everyone. I have finally made it to the end of this saga. It has been about a year since I began it, and it has been a wonderful journey. Please check the review board for the special Reply to the Reviewers. Brace yourselves, the Epilogue is long. It equals out to about forty five pages when typed out. Also, you may take the liberty of reading a "sneak peek" at an upcoming fanfiction that I am writing and will post as soon as I can. It will be no where near the length of "Forever Alive," but it will tie into this story, and hopefully will be just as enjoyable. It won't be updated as "regularly" as this one was, and at the most will be thirty pages other than the seven hundred page whopper this one has become. But I think it stands on its own as an interesting take on another story we all wish to hear. Yes, it is a Snape fic. But don't worry, MWPP fans. I love those guys too much to dismiss them. So they'll still be there. And I swear you'll love Snape by the end. So take a look when you're done reading the Epilogue. Sadly, I will not be able to complete an analysis as of now. But I hope sometime in the future I may return and do that. Thank you again for this wonderful year, and I hope to see you all back on board for the next story!)
The sun of the present day shone through the cracked glass of an old window, and into a dust filled room. Onto the bed, it lit the covers of the dried tears and imprints of dead men. It illuminated the dirtied floor, and finally came to land on the limp figure of a sleeping man. All features of boyhood were gone from his stature or face, and the peaceful and content expression he wore told a spectator of this scene that he truly was having a beautiful dream. Under his arms, folded to support his head, lay a pile of assorted parchments. Ontop, written in red, were the all-too-familiar names of a day that had come and gone.
The red ink gleamed in the sunlight as they lay under the sleeping man. His hair was greyed by time and loss. His eyes were heavier. His skin was paler.
And yet, his jaw was clenched harder than it had been in the past.
His arms were stronger.
His spirit was braver.
The door opened quietly, and the figure of another man could be seen. One could recognize Alastor Moody from his eye, and not much else. His skin had been chopped in so many places. His nose was gone. And his face, too, was worn.
He now fashioned his old Bowler hat, and a cape that covered his wooden leg that had replaced an able and ready limb. He hunched when he walked, and any sign of youth had expired. He was meeting his end.
"Lupin," Moody said in a gruffer voice than years before, "Lupin, wake up, man."
Lupin stirred, and opened his eyes. It was morning. Sirius would be coming any moment up the steps ...
Then he remembered.
Sirius was dead.
He had gone to return to James last night. Sacrificing his life for Harry, Sirius had run into the fight, so alive with spirit. But those eyes, staring at Harry before they flickered out forever ...
He remembered the hours before Sirius had died. They had been sitting upstairs, playing wizard's chess. Speaking of random things that men usually spoke about when preoccupied with a pint of butterbeer or a game of cards. It had been then that Kreacher had come howling into the room, saying that Buckbeak was screeching. Sirius had run to his hippogriff's aid, and Lupin had fallen asleep in his chair upstairs. If only he had been awake ... If only he had been downstairs ...
"Lupin, it's already late morning," Moody growled as Remus raised his head, "We have an appointment. Now get up."
Remus was pulled out of the memories of last night, and ran a hand through his hair. It had been a long night. Dreams that even he couldn't remember now flashed before his eyes. An old music box. A house with a thousand rooms. Men in the park, draped in black. Murderers. Lovers. Brothers.
He was back in the room where he had begun.
They were dead. All dead once again.
All he had were their memories.
Lupin hadn't changed clothes since the battle last night. Moody saw this as he toyed with his walking cane by the front door of Grimmauld Place. He watched the man step down the staircase, each floorboard screaming as he did so.
Remus knew they were going somewhere. Somewhere important. Moody wouldn't have come so early in the day if it hadn't been important. He looked to his old teacher through eyes he hadn't been behind for ages. He no longer saw Mad Eye as a fellow Order Member, but as a teacher. He again was the student to this old Auror, awaiting to be taught.
He saw the figures of James and Peter and Sirius and Lily all standing with him in front of the chalkboard, all laughing and dancing in front of his gaze.
"Wonder what the great and all knowing Mad Eye will teach us today," Sirius barked, "Maybe how to escape from this prison!"
The irony was uncanny now.
"Lupin, come on, don't dawdle," Moody said, opening the door, "A Ministry car's already here."
Remus followed his teacher out of the door, and shut it behind him. He didn't know what clothes he had on, or what day it was, or even what year it was. He was drifting back into memories untouched for years. Memories he had shielded himself from. Memories that he never wanted to relive.
As the door shut behind him, he heard the welcoming voice of Sirius as they met once again outside Grimmauld Place only a year ago.
"Finally!" he said, embracing his friend, "Never thought you lot would come! Leave me alone in a hole like this for ages!"
"It's only been a week, Padfoot," Remus laughed, and Sirius shrugged.
"That long, huh?" he said, letting him inside.
Remus shook his head as the ghosts of the past continued to follow him down to the sidewalk, and into the Ministry car. Moody placed himself next to Remus in the back as an unknown driver shut their doors and pushed on the gas pedal. They sped away, just like that day when they had been driving to another Headquarters. A Headquarters that had been abandoned for many years and now housed a new family.
"You remember when I said that I hoped you'd be lucky enough to never put a name on that wall?" Moody said as Grimmauld Place disappeared behind a corner.
"Yes," Lupin said.
"Well, you're not that lucky," Moody sighed, and then turned his swiveling eye away from Remus, "You've been given the honors this time."
Lupin didn't say a word. He suspected that this would be true. His mind was off in a different place. In a different world.
One that he had been caged in oh so many years ago.
He remembered after James had died, and Lily had gone as well. And Peter had escaped. And Sirius was locked up in Azkaban. There was nothing more to do but forget. He remembered that stormy night when the wolf disappeared forever, never to be heard from again.
Every month, he would transform, and a part of the wolf would come back. He would try to revive himself. But Remus wasn't afraid any longer. He only held onto himself, trying to stay afloat in a current that he now had control over. But that didn't mean that he never slipped, and found himself falling back into an abyss. At least this abyss was not filled with the jeerings of an imaginary beast. With the fangs and claws of a forgotten enemy.
The years had rolled on. The media knew of the story the way it had been presented to them. Sirius was maddened after the fall of his master. He blew the street to bits. It was as simple and as easy as that. Peter had vanished into the past. The prophecy was never spoken of. And Remus ... the forgotten friend ... was never mentioned. Whenever he heard Professor McGonagall or Professor Flitwick speak of it amongst themselves in the corridors, after he had taken a job up at Hogwarts, it was always poor James Potter and Sirius Black. You remember those two, don't you? They always had a little gang of friends following them around. Lupin had just become a follower of the great Potter and Black duo. He would never be mentioned to Harry. He would never be recognized for his battles alongside them. And he would never be rewarded for the scars he had carried around for so many years.
Then again, as Moody had told them years before, real heroes are forgotten.
He had found work in odd places. Moved back in with his parents for a while, trying to make ends meet. Or more like his parents moved back in with him. But as everyone dies, so did they. And he was again alone.
He never met a girl he liked. He never had a fantasy fairy tale story like James had had. He never had a best friend like Sirius had had. He lived a normal and unsastisfying life. He was never asked to comment on the prisoner Black. He was never met with another urgent message in the middle of the night by Mad Eye. The Order had taken him, used him, and forgotten him. It was the way of the world.
Once, he had gotten a letter from Hagrid, asking for pictures of James and Lily for Harry. That had been only a few years before he met Harry again. But that was the only news from that world he had turned his back on.
He lived in his cabin, alone. If a neighbor needed to get rid of knomes in their gardens or a boggart in a closet upstairs, he would be willing to do the odd jobs for a price. If the Daily Prophet needed a clarification on the uses of dragon's blood or a sketch of a hinkypunk, they'd pay him a visit. He was unknown. Just a man who had a certain liking towards Dark creatures. And this is the way he made his money.
He wasn't unhappy. No, he was a strong man. Just as long as he had his forest and his sanity, he was content. Had he liked to see Harry? Oh, by God he had wanted to very much. It was on the lonliest nights that he would sit on his porch, whiddling away at a piece of wood, staring up at the clear night sky. And that night at the hospital would come back to him.
The dream he had had the night before. Of Harry's tenth birthday, and all of them crowded around his cake and singing and laughing. And the little boy, looking almost identical to James, sometimes identical to a masculine Lily, running up to him and throwing both arms around him. And calling him Uncle Remus.
And then he would shake himself from that reverie and realize that Harry, if still alive and well, didn't even know he existed. Oh, sometimes maybe in a dream a memory of Remus holding him and giving him a bottle would arise. But that Remus had died a long time ago. Now Remus's heart was stronger. His mind more agile. He was no longer a prisoner of his own hell. Harry wouldn't even recognize him today.
Once, when Remus was walking through London about two years before he joined the staff at Hogwarts, he thought he saw a glimpse of a boy who would have been around Harry's age. He was right behind a freckle faced girl with large glasses. He only saw the boy for a moment before he disappeared behind the girl. He had glasses on, just like James. And his hair was just like James. And to this day, Lupin didn't know if it had been Harry or not. His guess was no.
He hated to think of James. It pained him to have those memories of Hogwarts arise in front of his conscience. So he tried to forget after a few years. He tried to make his heart stone, like his expressionless face, and he tried to become stronger for it. But James continued to plague his nightmares. Sometimes his dreams.
One of the most vivid dreams he had had about a year after James's death was one of the two Potters, walking side by side by the lake at Hogwarts. They were young, almost seventeen. They were quietly strolling, not saying a word to each other, when all of a sudden, James turned around and smiled at Remus.
"Come on," he had said, waving him towards them, "We need to talk."
Remus, very skeptical, joined them. And Lily laughed and said, "You look thinner."
"I'm doing all right," he said.
"Harry's safe," James said, looking at his old friend, "And so is Sirius."
"I don't care about ..."
"You should," Lily said, taking his hand now, "You should."
It was after this dream that Remus had returned to the Order's records at the Ministry for the first time in a year. He found the Pensieve that Frank Longbottom had left endowed to filing only a week or so before he lost his sanity. It hurt even now to think of it.
Lupin had leaned over the Pensieve, and had watched the scene of Frank's interrogation of Sirius Black. He watched it with tears welling up in his eyes, and for the first time in a year, he cried. He saw Mad Eye slam Black against the iron bars. He saw Black cackle and scream out those hurtful words. Each syllable was a slap in the face. It was true. Sirius Black had really killed James.
Frank had then asked the question. And Black had answered yes.
He had heard about that moment from so many sources. But to see it for himself, he couldn't stand it. It had been then that he had quit his job at the Ministry, and his parents had moved back in. And Remus Lupin was just a name in a thousand of past employees of the Ministry of Magic.
When he finally had no where else to go, parents dead and money running short, it had been twelve long years of struggle. He had moved on, though. After the fifth year, he had begun teaching again. By the sixth year, he had a steady job at a day school. By the eighth year, he was fired. By the ninth, he decided to see the world and head out for the mainland. It was here he studied all sorts of creatures and bettered his education in the Defense Against the Dark Arts. But by the eleventh, he was again trapped inside his home with dwindling funds.
It was then that he had visited Hogwarts for the first time in twelve years.
Headmaster Dumbledore hadn't aged a single day since the last moment he laid eyes on his mentor. He stood in front of the old man, very desperate, yet never letting on. Dumbledore sat in his chair, as he had the first day he had met this young man.
Remus had grown to be thirty three. He was no longer a young man. He was no longer the eleven year old child who had shivered at the thought of the glowing moon. His jaw was set and firm. His hair neatly cut. His body somewhat starved of nutrients, yet healthy. His robes tattered and worn, but still in tact. It was the life story of Remus Lupin. To someone looking in on it, they may think that he was one straw away from losing his grip and falling. But to someone who knew the man, they would know that he was one of the most resilient and strongest souls alive.
It had not always been like this.
"Headmaster," Lupin had said, in a very mature and adult tone that Dumbledore had never heard before, "I am down to my last penny. I have studied in the defenses against the dark arts, and I know more than your best teacher at this school ever will know."
"We have been looking for an instructor in that field," Dumbledore said, looking over his papers, "No one seems to want the job after the Lockhart incident. And of course, you must have heard about Quirrel ..."
"I did," Lupin said.
"And you are willing to risk your sanity and life for this job?"
"Nothing I haven't done before," Lupin said, a small sign of a smile curling onto his upper lip.
Dumbledore, realizing what Lupin was referring to, smiled as well. He had not talked to his old student in over a decade. The lad had grown. Had learned to stand on his own without the help of his now dead and gone friends. He truly had fought his own monsters.
"Remus, I never got to honor you properly for your services to the ..."
"It was a job," Lupin cut him off before he said anything more, "It was a job you gave me. And now I am asking you for another sort of job."
Dumbledore nodded slowly, and then leaned back in his seat, "Of course, you use the Wolfsbane potion nowadays?"
"Of course," Lupin said.
"Well, then I believe there won't be any use for the Whomping Willow, then, will there?"
"No, there won't be."
"Well, then I must say welcome to Hogwarts, Professor Lupin," Dumbledore said, shaking his hand over the desk.
That's who he had become.
He remembered the morning he saw the news, telling the wizarding community that a convict had escaped from Azkaban prison. Lupin hadn't thought much about it before hearing the name of the convict. It didn't occur to him that no one had ever escaped from the prison before. That it was impossible.
"The convict's name has been released to us at this time," the reporter said then, "Sirius Black, You-Know-Who's top supporter during the Great War, has escaped. I repeat, Sirius Black has escaped. We go to Myrtle on the shores of Azkaban prison for more information."
Lupin watched in horror as they flashed Black's face for the audience to see. The numbers, X Y 390. The hair falling in his face as he paused between laughs. The hollowed eyes. He had not seen those eyes for twelve years.
"Thank you, Geoffrey," Myrtle said, "Sirius Black was charged and found guilty of twelve accounts of murder in the early 1980's. This included the mauling of Peter Pettigrew, a local hero who attempted in stopping the madman from causing anyone harm. Black was born in London, England, in the year 1960, to a wealthy family. He attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry between the ages of eleven and seventeen. After graduation, he spent four years working for the ministry under the direction of an Alastor Mad Eye Moody, one of the legendary Aurors that brought the destruction of Volde .... He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Alastor Moody was not available for comment."
Lupin watched in horror as Myrtle continued, showing Muggle footage of the street where Peter had died.
"He was said to be a very strong supporter of You-Know-Who, and possibly allied with some of the most famous Death Eaters of all time, including Antonin Dolohov."
Lupin's throat clenched at that name. No wonder Black had saved him that night at Dolohov's. He had known exactly where to go. He knew just how to stage a rescue for the Order so they wouldn't suspect him.
"When Harry Potter defeated You-Know-Who, Black was said to go raving mad, and caused an explosion on a city street, killing Muggles and wizards alike. It was earlier this morning that a guard realized that the prisoner was gone, and notified authorities immediately."
Lupin returned to Hogwarts the day that the first term started, had found a compartment on the student's train, and had slept. It had been a vigorous night. A full moon.
He had heard the sounds of children in his ear as he slept peacefully, thinking of what to do for the first class session after the weekend had ended. He thought possibly a boggart.
It had been the dementors crawling onto the train that had awoken him. A boy screaming on the ground, clawing at his head. A dark, shadowed figure flew over the boy, and lowered his hood, about to kiss him.
Lupin had stood up, and had forced the dementors out. He knew why they were here at the school. An old acquaintance had escaped from Azkaban days ago, and now they believed he was out to get Harry Potter, the remaining remnant of James. Lupin believed it wholeheartedly. Harry would be in school now. Dumbledore had said in Gryffindor House. Every day since his hiring Lupin had been looking forward to finally setting eyes on the child he had held in his arms as a young man. He wanted to see James again, in all his glory. Harry was said to be an amazing Quidditch player.
James wouldn't have been more proud.
But Sirius Black had escaped. And as the train continued into the gates of Hogsmeade, Lupin felt his mind swarm with old memories. Black, out to get Harry. Harry, here at school.
It was Harry who the dementors had attacked. He remembered the first time he had seen his face properly. A small girl with buck teeth and large hair had screamed, holding onto a red haired boy.
"He's dead!" she screamed as Harry grew still and cold on the compartment floor.
"Shh, here," Lupin said, giving her some chocolate, "He's not dead. He's just fainted, that's all."
"Professor Lupin ..."
Remus stopped at the name, and looked to the girl, "Yes? How did you know my name?"
"Your trunk," she said.
"Ah," he said, "And what might your name be?"
"Hermione," she whispered, still looking at Harry in fright.
"Don't be afraid," Remus said, taking Harry's head and placing it on his lap, "He'll be awake in no time. Just had a bit of a scare."
A few minutes later, he had seen Harry's eyes open. And the startling green brought Lily's kind face back to him.
"Harry Potter," he whispered, and he saw Hermione and the red haired boy rush to their friend to tend to him. They reminded him so much of the four of them. The way they cared about each other. The way it was them against the world.
And the days to come would prove this to be more true than he would have imagined.
He grew to know his students. He grew to know Harry. He taught Harry so much. How to handle a Patronus so he could continue to play Quidditch without being knocked out of the sky by dementors. He told Harry a little about James, and even less about Lily.
He wanted to tell Harry everything. But that would include the not-so great things about James. How James had jinxed about every single one of Harry's classmates' parents. How James had ridden the skies like he owned the world. And it would have also included the Animagus spells, what James had done for Remus ... how he had taken in a small little boy and had taught him to be a man. It would have included how he had a best friend who he trusted with his life, and how that best friend had killed him. James's life wasn't as picture perfect as Harry had wanted to see it. And why not let a boy dream of their father? Why not believe that he and Lily never had one argument? Never hated each other?
Remus Lupin was, after all, still a shadow in the entire story of the marauders. No longer a key role, but a nameless face of twenty thousand or more admirers of Potter and Black. So you could imagine Lupin's surprise when Harry asked him about Sirius Black.
"Well, if you knew my father then you must have known Black," he said, "They were best friends."
"Yes, I knew him," Lupin had said, still taken aback by the question. And then, in a softer tone, Lupin added, "Or I thought I did."
He then never said another word about Black to Harry. He knew Harry was in danger, but that boy continued to get himself into trouble. Lupin once found himself one night in the quarters of a fellow teacher, Professor Snivellus Snape. Snape was still Potions Master at the school, and he had held onto that job for a good long time. Snape hated him. Loathed him. Had accused him of helping Black into the castle on various occassions. He didn't trust Lupin more than he trusted Harry.
When Lupin had arrived through the fireplace, he had seen James's boy sitting there, in front of Snape. And Snape holding a very familiar looking object.
The Marauder's Map.
After that tizzy, Lupin had warned Harry never to leave school grounds again. He shouted at him. Told him that his parents had died for him. And this is the thanks that he gave his dead mother. All for a bag of sweets and jokes.
It had been the one time he had lost his temper with Harry. The one time he felt the anger well up inside of him so much that he had to let it go on someone. James had died for this boy, and all he could do is be exactly like his father. Going off and risking things that should never be risked for a thrill. And it hurt him to see James in Harry. It hurt him more than he could fathom.
After that, Snape had called him back into his office.
"Shut the door, wolf," Snape had snarled at him, and Lupin did as told. He sat in the chair that Harry had been sitting in previously. Snape had taken his seat as well, and had glared at the man.
"Mr. Moony," Snape looked to Lupin in the most hating sense imaginable, "That was your parchment," he said, "I'd recognize that handwriting anywhere. It was yours. And Black's. And Potter's. And Pettigrew's."
"You have a remarkably good memory," Lupin commented.
"Silence," Snape said, his pale face becoming red with anger, "And I remember those names you lot gave yourselves. The marauders. Moony. Wormtail. Padfoot. Prongs. I demand to know what that parchment was, or I shall report you to the Headmaster."
"It was a map," Lupin said.
"A ... a what?"
"It was a map," he repeated, "So we could go through the corridors at night without being caught. It was a map of the school. Here, I'll demonstrate," he took the rolled up parchment from his pocket and tapped it with his wand, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
The map, just as he remembered it, in Black's handwriting, scrolled onto the page. Snape looked at it, disappointed. As if he thought it to be something to help Black to the school. But there was no Sirius Black listed. That name was no where in sight.
"How did the boy find it," Snape demanded.
"I honestly don't have the slightest idea," Lupin said truthfully, "This map was confiscated in the seventh year."
"You think you're so clever, don't you, Lupin," Snape said, as Lupin wiped the map clean and placed it back in his pocket, "But you just did your old friend's boy in. Now I know that he truly was in Hogsmeade today. He used that ... that thing ... to get there. I don't know how, but he did."
"You have no proof, Severus," Lupin said, standing up, "It has my name written on it, therefore it belongs to me. Your evidence is gone. And when I leave Hogwarts, it will go with me. The Marauders are no more. They died out a long time ago."
"At least that's what you wish for us to believe," Snape snarled, "I know you're helping Black. I know it!"
Lupin sighed, and then showed himself out the door.
"Good night, Snivellus," he said.
It was later in that year that Lupin had sat down at his desk and had taken the map out once more to look at it. Possibly burn it. He unlocked it once more, and scanned the grounds to see who was out and about. He knew that Harry and his two friends would be off to see the execution of Buckbeak.
And sure enough, there were four little dots scattering away from the pumpkin patch where the dead bird now lay. Harry Potter. Ronald Weasley. Hermione Granger. And ...
Lupin almost fell out of his chair. He blinked, and shook his head. He rubbed his eyes, and looked again.
It was there.
And the map was never wrong.
Lupin leaned in closer. They couldn't possibly have his dead carcus running with them.
"Peter?" Lupin said to himself. Who else would be with those three?
Lupin caught a glimpse of another dot reading "Crookshanks" a few feet from where they were. Of course. A pet would be with them! Undetected ...
Harry's owl, no. And what sort of a pet did Ron have ...
Lupin howled, and jumped to his feet, staring at the map in complete and utter esctacy. He was alive! Peter was alive!
But another dot was crawling across the map, closer and closer to Ron. And this one made his heart clench. It was one of a name he wished never to read again.
He stuffed the map in his pocket, and ran for the door.
It had been a cold and tiring journey through the tunnel that he had relied on as a child. He heard his voice screaming through the dirt walls, screaming, "Let me die. Let me die."
It had been so long ago.
And as he got closer, he realized that the screaming was not his imagination, but the children ahead. He flew through the trap door, and into the hell that he had never forgotten. The Shrieking Shack. Up the stairs, where he could hear a low, hoarse voice trying to calm a screaming boy's. It was Harry. Harry was alive.
"WE'RE IN HERE!" Hermione's voice screamed, "IT'S SIRIUS BLACK! HELP US!"
Lupin ran down the hallway, and kicked the door open. There lay Ron on the bed, his leg obviously broken. Hermione staring at complete horror at Harry, who was holding a wand to an older man's throat. For a moment, the man turned to look at Lupin who had come rushing into the room. And it was in that moment that Lupin recognized him. Those hollowed eyes. Those lost eyes. Twelve years of aging and torture couldn't disguise Padfoot from Moony.
Thousands of memories passed before him in an instant. The handsome face of Sirius laughing about a prank they had just pulled on Snivellus. The hands that fidgetted with his collar the night of the Graduation Dance. The arms that had held Harry when he was born.
The Marauders were united.
Remus lived again.
"EXPELLIRAMUS!" Remus shouted, and Harry's wand went flying. The three children grew silent as Remus walked to the shell of a man and pointed his own wand to him. It was too good to be true.
"Where is he, Sirius," Remus had heard his voice command of the man now laying on the floor. Sirius pointed an aged finger at Ron, and Remus saw the rat poking out of his hands. It was true.
"But then ..." Remus whispered, "Why hasn't he shown himself until now ... unless ..."
He thought of the Pensieve. Of Frank asking that question.
How broad it had been. How Sirius was to be the Secret Keeper. How Sirius would have seen a flaw in the perfect plan, as always.
How Sirius had always used Peter.
How they hadn't trusted Remus at the given time.
And it all clicked.
"Unless ... HE was the one ... unless you switched ... without telling me ..."
Sirius's dark face, now a strange face, now one of an adult that Remus had never met, smiled. And he nodded. And they embraced. Once more, Moony and Padfoot were against the world. Once more, they were together.
They had explained everything to the children who had found their way into this mess up. They had told them everything, all except the horrors of the Order. They were not ready for those memories. Oh, no, but Remus told Harry all about his father. All about his father helping him through the horrible monthly trials.
And finally, they coaxed the children to give up the rat that Ron had taken in under the name of Scabbers. Sirius and Remus stood together, and watched as yet another marauder drifted into the room. Yet another old and scarred face of a man. The boy was gone. The memories of their twenty year old selves faded away as they looked at each other as now old men.
Peter had stood up on his shaky back legs, and had faced his jury of peers. The two men that he had killed inside. The two men that had suffered because of his betrayal. And they had turned to kill him, together. They would avenge James's death.
It was at this time that a peculiar thing had happened. James's son had taken pity on Peter. And had stood in the way of the two of them, telling them that he should be spared. Given a trial. And then sent to Azkaban.
And so they had made their way through the tunnel once more, to the outside world. And it was here that Lupin had stopped in the midst of the entrance.
He looked to the landscape that he had once looked out to as a child. Surrounded by his friends. By Peter and Sirius and James. By Lily.
And he smiled.
"R-Remus," Peter stammered, his voice growing quiet as if wanting to exclude Ron from the conversation. Ron was tied to his other side by the chains, "P-Please. We were always friends. You know that I would have n- never ... killed ... J-James by my own free will ..."
Lupin didn't answer.
"H-he ... he was cruel to us, Moony," Peter said, "Don't you remember James? Don't you remember how arrogant he was? How selfish he was?"
Lupin stared straight ahead.
"I can guess you haven't told little Harry about his father's ways, have you. You've led him on to believe James was a good person."
"He was twice the man you ever amounted to," Lupin broke, glaring at Peter.
And then the sky had cleared. Lupin had stopped, and looked to the moon above, now coming from behind a large black cloud. His eyes grew wide, and he felt his body become rigid.
A laughing was heard off in the shadows of the night. Lupin quickly turned to look to see who was there, lurking in the darkness. Laughing at him.
"Hello, Remus," a familiar voice sounded in his head. And he saw the figure of a wolf appear in front of him, bathed in the moonlight, "It's been a long time."
"No ..." he gasped, before the wolf lunged at him, and grabbed him by the neck. His neck writhed and twisted. And his body started convulsing.
He heard the screaming of the children. He heard Sirius's voice.
The wolf wouldn't let go. He was falling farther and farther away.
"REMUS!" Sirius said, shouting at him. Trying to keep him afloat in the hellish waters he had entered once again. Sirius turned into a dog, and stepped in front of Harry protectively.
A dog he remembered from so long ago.
But Remus couldn't remember. He couldn't remember anymore. Remus was dead. Remus was dying. There was nothing he could do.
"JE NE MOURRAI PAS, YOU STUPID FOOL!" the wolf guffawed as he possessed him and took over the boy, limb from limb, "YOU FOOL! YOU FOOL! I'LL KILL YOUR FRIEND! I'LL KILL HIM!"
He had seen the moon.
And he had died.
And the wolf had come back to haunt him.
He couldn't really remember what happened after that. The wolf had been biding his time all these years, waiting for Remus to stumble and forget the potion. Forget himself in the whirlwind of darkness once again. And the wolf turned him against his friends. Turned him against Sirius.
He remembered digging into the flesh of Padfoot, almost killing him. Almost murdering his only friend left in the world. Remus screamed out for mercy, just like he had when he was a boy. And the wolf laughed.
"Je ne mourrai pas!" the wolf sang as he joyfully went running into the woods, "You fool!"
That morning, he realized that Peter had escaped. And so had Sirius. His friends were once again gone from him. With a headache, he walked down to the Great Hall for breakfast. He took his seat a the High Table. Professor McGonagall saw him, and then smiled to herself.
"The Headmaster told me all about it," she said, laying a hand on his tired and dirtied arm, "About everything."
Remus looked away, realizing what she meant. Sirius must have told Dumbledore. Finally, after twenty two years, their secret had been found out.
"I'm sorry I betrayed your trust, Professor," he said, in the mentality of his old self. Of young Remus. Of a Remus who had been awakened last night in the body of this unknown person.
"Professor," Professor McGonagall laughed, "I haven't heard you call me that for ages," she then took his hand and said, "You do realize what great danger those boys put themselves in for you, Mister Lupin?"
"Yes, I do," he said, feeling very guilty.
"They must have been great friends," she said, turning away from him, "Great friends, indeed."
Remus had then looked to his old teacher, and smiled broadly. For the first time since James's death.
A clatter of silverware from farther down the table came, and Snape stood.
"Again, Minerva, he weasles his way out of punishment!" he shouted. The Hall went dead silent. The students looked to where Snape was now walking towards the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, pointing a bony finger at Lupin.
"I told you that one day I'd tell them!" Snape howled, now taking Remus by the scruff of his torn robes, and shaking him, "I told you I'd tell them!"
"Severus, please sit down," Minerva had ordered him, "You're disturbing the children!"
"I WILL NOT SIT DOWN!" Snape shouted, "I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SILENCED! THREATENED! BEATEN! AND ACCUSED! AND THESE PUNKS GO FREE!"
"Did Professor Snape just say 'punks?'" A boy by the name of Lee Jordan laughed.
"Severus," Lupin said, very calm, "You will not harm me in any way by telling them the truth."
"Don't give me your passive responses, wolf," Snape sneered under his breath, and then looked to the rest of the Hall, "STUDENTS, YOUR BELOVED PROFESSOR LUPIN IS NONE OTHER THAN A WEREWOLF!"
A silence fell over the Great Hall, and Lupin looked out to his students who had trusted him and had befriended him. All of their faces were in shock. But Remus didn't falter. He stood tall, in front of the gawking audience, and excused himself from the table.
He had left that very day.
Another year in his cabin, trying to hold onto the new truth that he had discovered. Sirius was innocent. Peter was alive, and out there biding his time. Harry was healthy, happy, and well off.
It wouldn't be another year until he saw Sirius. It would be during a storm that his convict friend would show up on his doorstep.
It was an evening that was like every other evening. Remus had sat down on his one chair in his one main room to read a book. He couldn't remember what book it was now, but he remembered it was a book. Some story about a man and a monster, and how one truly was the man and the other truly was the monster. It was an odd book.
The knock had come at the door, and he had put the novel down and walked to the door. He opened it, and saw Sirius standing there, fumbling to keep afoot. His old friend smiled, exhausted, drenched ...
"Ah, Remus, you still ... you still live here?"
And then he had collapsed.
When Sirius came to, he found himself in Remus's bed, and Remus sitting on a chair he had pulled up to the side of the mattress. He smiled at his old friend, and then held his head in pain.
"What happened?" Sirius asked.
Remus shrugged, "I was about to ask the same thing to you. You look like a drowned rat."
"Well," he said, trying to hoist himself up to a sitting position, "If you hadn't had a decent meal in fourteen years, you wouldn't look too great yourself."
Remus gave a small smile, and stood, walking to the kitchen, "Well, we can remedy that."
"Prongs never died, Moony."
Remus had lost his concentration on eating his dinner, and looked to his old friend. He nodded, "Yes, Harry told me about his Patronus. It takes the shape of a stag."
"I don't care if it takes the shape of a cow!" Sirius said, laughing, "I wasn't talking about his Patronus."
Sirius had waited for Remus to ask something or reply to this, but he didn't. So he had just continued.
"His son looks astonishingly like him."
"Except for the eyes," Remus corrected.
"Yeah, the eyes," Sirius said, laughing, "Too bad the left one doesn't twitch."
They both laughed, and Sirius had given a tired sigh.
"Sometimes I think it's James, come back to us," he said in a hushed tone, "Sometimes I forget his name's even Harry."
"Well, it is," Remus said, now somewhat peeved, and took a drink from his mug, "And they are two very different people."
"Sometimes I don't think so."
"Harry's quieter. He doesn't continuously talk like someone else we knew."
"But he's a troublemaker."
"True," Remus said, a smile breaking through the worn mask, "Very true."
Sirius looked to that old mask, and then seemed to ponder for a moment before taking a bite of his dinner.
"What happened to you," he asked, and Remus looked to him for an explanation.
"What do you mean?"
Sirius shrugged, with the same mannerisms as he had had back at Hogwarts, "You're different. What happened after ... that night."
Remus and Sirius had never spoken of their twelve years. They had only told Harry of the good past, and of that night. But they had never spoken of Remus's years or Sirius's pain between each other.
"It was a long time ago," Remus stalled.
"Well, then it won't be painful to tell, now will it," Sirius said, sitting back in his seat.
Remus sighed, and took another stab at his potato.
"Come on, Moony," Sirius said.
"I worked for the Ministry for a while," Remus said, "Then went on to teaching up north. But not for very long periods of time. I couldn't. The Wolfsbane Potion hadn't come, and whenever anyone found me ..." he trailed off, and then gave a small laugh, "And then I thought I may open a shop somewhere. But I never did."
"Time went by. Twelve years."
Sirius laughed, and leaned back in his chair. Such a familiar stance that Remus thought he'd never see again, "Well, you are a really poor storyteller. Always were."
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"Don't you remember that time that you got pecked on the lips by Fergie Mattison? And all you could tell us is that she had ... what were the words you used ... I believe they were ... put her lips up to yours and made a puckering sound. Then she stepped back and turned a bright shade of orange?"
"Red," Remus corrected, taking another bite of food even though he wasn't hungry. Eating had become busy work for the two of them.
"So what happened, Moony? Did you meet anyone? Have any adventures? Anything? Did you do anything?"
"I tried to forget," he said, looking at Sirius quietly.
Sirius raised his brow, and nodded, "Well, then."
Remus didn't say anything, and stood to get seconds from the counter.
"Always better to run away from a situation, I guess," Sirius said coldly, coming down on all four of the chair's legs, "That's the noble thing to do. The Peter thing to do."
"I meant that I tried to forget you," Remus said, those words burning in him, "I hated you."
"Lovely," Sirius sighed.
"I never forgot James."
"Not an easy person to forget, wouldn't you say."
"And Harry," Remus said, faltering for the first time in his voice, "I always wondered where he had gone to."
"Well, give the wolf a biscuit," Sirius said, as Remus sat down again at the table.
"Sirius, they told me you had killed them," Remus said, exasperated, "Everyone was gone. They were all dead. You were in prison and a traitor. What else was I supposed to do? Dwell on memories?"
"That's what I did," Sirius said, pounding the table. His eyes had grown dark and hollow again, "I did it for twelve damn long years. Memories were the only things I had, Lupin."
Remus glared from behind his ever worn mask, "Well, I had freedom."
They didn't exchange a word for a while, and they continued their meal for a few minutes in a rapid angered pace, before Remus said, completely reserved:
"And what would you have done, Sirius?"
"I would have hunted the murderer down, even if they were in Azkaban. I would have killed them. I would have found Harry and taken him away from those Muggles. That's what I would have done," Sirius said.
"Well, we saw what hunting the murderer down did for everyone, now didn't we," Remus said, folding his hands calmly, "It landed you a decade in prison, and it let the killer get away. Harry grew up without a godfather. Without any of us."
"He would of anyway."
"Guess we'll never know, will we."
"Who are you to play saint, Remus?" Sirius said, his eyes growing darker, "You didn't live through what I did. You never got to see them laying there, dead in a heap. You never saw Peter after that night. You didn't go through what I went through! Don't you judge my actions, Lupin!"
Remus was quiet for a moment, and then saw something flicker in Sirius's eye. It hadn't been there before, all of those years ago when he had known the happy little boy. But it had been flickering in there, in that blackened pupil ever since his return from the grave.
This man had lost something. His light had dimmed a long time ago. Now the light was filled with hate and vengeance. But it was also filled with madness and fear.
Remus was no longer the monster. Sirius had now taken that role.
"And you've changed," Remus said simply.
Sirius stopped for a moment, unsure of his actions. He knew Remus was right.
The man's eyes softened, and then he had cleared his throat, "People change," was the only thing he said before returning to his plate.
It was later that night that Remus dreamed of Harry and James and Lily. They were all sitting around that lake at Hogwarts, laughing and talking in excited voices. Like they had never been separated.
He awoke to the fireplace's light and heat, the sound of the logs crackling and burning in the flames. He didn't remember making the fire. He never used that old thing, in fear it'd burn the house down.
But he understood when he saw the man sitting in his only chair, legs under him and his head resting in his hands. Sirius's eyes never left the fire. He just stared into the flames, his dark eyes as dead as their master's soul.
"Padfoot ..." Remus said quietly, and Sirius didn't respond. He only stared into the fire, the flames dancing in his blackened pupils. The red light shining on his long, greasy hair. Remus's clothes, which he had changed into hours before, were too big for him. And he looked like a skeleton wrapped in sheets, ready to enter the gates of Hell and facing the fires of his fate.
But unlike this scenario, this man had already entered his hell. He was already embracing his fate.
"I would have never survived my life without James Potter," Sirius said, in his cracked and worn voice, "I was destined for things. Horrible things. And this boy came from no where and changed the course of my fate. He built a new road for me. He showed me that there was something more to life than what my family had taught me."
Remus sat up in his bed, and looked to his old friend. But he didn't say a word.
"He was my brother. He was more than a brother. He was all I had," Sirius said, "He was the only one who ever understood me, or ever cared to try. When he would win a Quidditch game, I would feel his pride swell up inside of me. When he would score on one of Hall's exams, I would see that perfect mark on my paper. And when he ..." his voice cracked again, and he looked into the fire more intently than he had before, "When he ... met Lily, I fell in love with her as well. Even Harry ... I considered him my own son when he was born. And when he died ..." Sirius covered his face with his hands, and Remus looked away. He pretended not to hear Sirius's quiet, almost deaf tears.
It was a few moments before the defeated man could regain his strength and continue on, "When he died ... I died with him.
"I remember that night. Just as clear as when it happened. I played it over and over in my head for those horrible nights in Azkaban. The dementors saw to that, I assure you. They particularly liked the memory that caused me the most pain.
"I woke from a nightmare. I remember the feeling that came over me after I woke up. It told me something was wrong. Something had happened. So I went to my scheduled check up on Peter. Just like I did every few days. And I remember walking into that house of Pettigrew. And seeing everything in order, but no Peter. I searched the rooms. I looked and I looked ... but he wasn't there. He had left hours before then. It was then that I knew. I knew there was something wrong.
"I ran to the Potter's house. And ..." He faltered again, and his eyes glazed over. As if he was watching a scene play out far away from the fire's flames, and far away from Remus's wooden walls. He had gone back to a time that Remus had never seen. A nightmare that only lived in Sirius's heart and memories.
"The rubble was green. There wasn't a house there," he said, in a hoarse voice, "All of their things were scattered, just ... glowing ... green ... And ..." he trailed off again, and his eyes narrowed. His shoulders sagged, "And then there he was.
"When I saw James," he said, and Remus could feel his own tears fighting to come to his eyes, "I couldn't register anything. I held him in my arms. He ... he was so cold. And his eyes were staring at me. His lips were blue. I ... I just held him there, twisting his hair in my fist. Screaming and crying, trying to get him to wake up. But I had already failed him. I had let him die. I had breached the pact we made. I had let him go. And now I had to suffer. Now this was my punishment.
"I don't know how long I sat there, with his head in my lap. I can still see his dead grey skin, still glowing that green. And I can still see Lily's hair. And then ... and then they took Harry away from me ...
"Peter blew up the street," he said, "I thought he had killed himself. And ... and there was fire. There was a lot of fire. And screaming. And concrete flying. And sparks. And bodies ...
"Sirius," Remus said, the tears now rolling down his face silently.
"I don't really remember very much after that," Sirius said, ignoring Remus and becoming stronger in tone, "But I do remember everything that's important. I remember Frank. I remember my cousin walking past my cell. I remember the dreams I had about Harry. Those were good dreams. They kept me filled with hope, you know. They kept me going. I kept pretending that maybe one day he'd find out the truth. And then he'd come and get me from that place. Well, part of it happened.
"You're right Remus," Sirius said, never turning from the fire, "I have changed. When a man goes into the pit of Hell, there's no redeeming him. And I have seen Hell. The only thing that keeps me alive is that boy. Is Harry."
Remus didn't speak a word. And the two sat there for a long time, tears running down their faces but never crying out.
It was a while before Sirius gave a little laugh and said, "I'm not going to make it through this war, Remus."
Remus looked up yet again to the shadows dancing across his old friend's face, "Don't talk like that. Of course you are."
"No, I'm not," Sirius said, matter-of-factly, "You see, James steered me away from the fate that I was to have had. But in doing so, he steered me right in the direction of another," and for the first time during the conversation, he turned in his chair to look at Remus, "You remember that field that the centaurs built? The one we went and visited when we were in school?"
"Yes, I do," Remus said.
"James told me what you two found out about it," Sirius said, "How it's supposed to show your destiny or something like that."
"Something like that," Remus repeated.
"Well, I know what James saw," he said, looking back to the fire, now dying slowly, "He saw a white stag, glowing green. He saw his death."
There was a silence that flew over the cabin, and Remus shook his head slowly, "There's no such thing as fate."
"Do you want to know what I saw?" Sirius asked.
Remus didn't answer, believing he didn't have a choice.
"I saw a boy, draped in a black robe," Sirius said, "He was standing off in the distance, in the fields surrounding us. And this robe kept falling in front of him, like he was behind a sort of a ... a curtain? A drape? And he was screaming my name. Just screaming it. Over and over again. When it happened, I was sure that it was James who I was seeing. It looked too much like him. Identical to him. When I thought of it in prison, I thought it was foretelling his death. But now I realize that it wasn't James who was screaming."
"It was Harry," Remus finished.
"I will die, Remus," Sirius said, "And I won't ever see a world without Voldemort."
Remus sat there, on his bed, for a good hour, waiting for Sirius to say anything else. It was around midnight that the fire died out, and he realized that Sirius had fallen asleep in the chair.
He lay back down, and tried to forget all that Sirius had said.
"All right, let's see here," Padfoot said, sitting down on the porch with his list and quill, "The roster of the members of the Order of the Phoenix, as of 1980. We have to get all these people rounded up in how much time?"
"A month," Remus said, bringing his axe down on a piece of wood, "Dumbledore's orders."
Sirius nodded, and then sighed, "Well, no one ever said that Dumbledore understood time management, now did they."
"Who's the first one on the list?" Remus sighed, annoyed by Sirius's lip. But it was good to see some sort of a sign of the boy he once knew, instead of the man who he had housed last night.
"Well, it's in alphabetical order, of course," Sirius laughed, "This means that Black, Sirius is the first candidate. Well, bully for him. I believe he's still alive and kicking."
"That could be debated," Remus muttered under his breath.
"Bones, Edgar," he said.
"No, he died."
"A while ago," he said, "Don't you remember? He was that spy that went missing."
"Next up on the victims list ..." Sirius said, crossing off the name of Bones, "We have a lucky man named Caradoc Dearborn."
"Also dead," Remus said, bringing down the axe again.
"We have none other than a Diggle Dedalus. Yeah, he's still alive. Showing up at random bars at random times. I've seen him around. We'll head over to the Leaky Cauldron and see him after this list check, all right?"
"We have an Elphias Doge," Sirius laughed, "Ah, him. How I missed old Elphias."
"He's alive," Remus said, "He lives over in Cornwall now. We'll go see him after Diggle."
"And next is Dumbledore. Don't think he'll be wanting to join the Order," Sirius said sarcastically, and looked to the next name, "Aberforth Dumbledore."
"Never heard of him," Remus said, coming down with the axe again.
"Well, he's a Dumbledore. His relation'll probably take care of him."
"He got killed that night we went out to fight the giants," Remus said, shuddering, "I remember it very well."
"Yes, she's the one who watches Harry. His secret keeper," Remus said, readying another wood block to be chopped.
"Well, of course."
"Alice Longbottom," Sirius said, striking her name off, "And ... Frank ..."
Remus looked to Sirius, while he took the quill and scratched the name out.
"And I don't know about this next one," Sirius laughed, not commenting on the Longbottoms, "Always sort of struck me as a suspicious man. Might be a spy for Voldemort."
"Who?" Remus asked.
"Remus J. Lupin," Sirius said, his eyes flaring with that young spirit again, "Don't give me that look, Moony. You know I'm joshing you."
"Just keep reading the list."
Remus slowed his axe again, and shook his head, "She was killed."
"All right," Sirius said, detaching himself from those names that he had known and befriended, "Dorcas Meadows?"
"Dorcas died when they attacked Headquarters."
"Thank you for telling me, like I didn't already know," Sirius said, scratching her name out, "Alastor Moody," he laughed, "Hey, Moony, good ol' Moody."
"Yes, I know."
"You know, I saw him over at the school this year."
"Really? Did you now?"
"He didn't see me," Sirius said, leaning on the post of the porch, "Which was probably a good thing."
"Why so?" Remus took another wood block.
Sirius looked to the block, and then to the axe, "Why are you doing that?"
"Doing what?" Remus said, throwing the axe down on the block.
"Chopping wood," Sirius said, "We're trying to make a list here, and that's becoming very annoying."
"Just keep," Remus instructed him, and Sirius sighed, and sat back down on the step.
"Peter Petti ..."
"Why do you do that?" Remus snapped, throwing his axe down and glaring at Sirius.
Sirius looked surprised. His lower lip curled into a smile, "Do what?"
"You know damn well who's dead and who isn't, as well as I do," Remus said, marching over to him, "Why do you have to read every name?"
"You just told me to keep reading!" Sirius said, as Remus snatched the parchment, "And did you just say damn?"
"Here, let me go down the list for you," Remus said, "Gideon Prewett. Blown apart by Dolohov's men."
"Fabian Prewett," he continued over Sirius, "Died alongside his brother. Care for me to remind you of them? They were the ones who bought socks for Harry for his baptism. They toasted to Lily's pregnancy at the Christmas party. And they were to be said heroes. They died like heroes, they did."
"Just give me back the list," Sirius said, but Remus took his quill and scratched their names out.
"No, we're almost done with the list," Remus said, "And look who's next. Lily Potter. She died defending her son. You remember her, don't you Sirius?"
"Remus, what is wrong with you."
"SHE was the one who called YOU her child's godfather. SHE was the one YOU called Morgana."
Sirius's eyes hollowed, and he took back the list, "I'm aware, Lupin."
"Well, so am I," Remus said, shoving the list back at him.
Sirius's eyes narrowed dangerously, and then took the list from him, "James Potter," he said under his breath, and his quill poised above the name. Remus froze on his way back to the dead stump and the axe. He could hear the scratching of Sirius's ink on the parchment, and he knew that it was very true now.
James Potter was truly dead.
It was later that day that Kingsley Shacklebolt arrived at the cabin. Following him was Mundungus Fletcher. Ms. Figg. Elphias. Emmeline Vance.
They all looked older, and worn out from the world. Yet the light in their eyes were still there in the younger ones. They had made it through the war alive, without too many scars. Lupin, on the other hand, they were all very surprised to see how much he had changed.
Sirius, they weren't surprised at his shift in spirit. He had been through an ordeal unlike the rest of them. But Sirius, to his friend's surprise, was very good at covering up his pain in front of the general crowds. Yes, the pain was there. But he wanted no sympathy. He didn't want a, "Sorry about James, mate." He wanted to be left alone or laughed with. Nothing else.
When they all had arrived at the cabin, except for Dumbledore and Mad Eye Moody, it was apparent that they were going to need more recruits. And the recruits came. Remus now remembered one particular girl that he and Sirius had gone to see in private.
"Nymphadora Tonks," Remus read as she opened the door to her small flat.
"Tonks," the girl said, sporting the oddest hairstyle he had ever seen, "Just call me Tonks. I hate that stupid name my mum gave me."
Remus looked to Sirius, raised a brow, and then looked back to the punk rocker in front of them, "Well, she certainly takes after you," he muttered, before adding to the girl, "Tonks, right. May we come in? We are here with a message from an Albus Dumbledore."
"Ah, the Headmaster up at the school?" Tonks said, letting the two of them into her living room, "Yeah, me boss ain't too happy with his lot. Fudge says they're conspirin' against him and all that. I think it's bull, personally, but hey. What did I ever know? Oops!" A vase went clattering to the floor as she elbowed it in attempts to shut the large front door, "Don't mind that, I'll get it later," she said as Remus went to help clean it up, "Just take a seat, and I'll put on a pot of ... what do old men like you drink? Tea?"
Remus gave Sirius another look, and then nodded, "Tea is fine, thank you."
After Tonks had managed to murder three teapots, she finally brought out cola cans, and handed them to her two visitors.
"Cola, it's the wave of the future," she said, sipping hers, "Did they have cola when you lot were young?"
"Tonks, you have been chosen as a candidate for a resistance that is forming," Remus started, setting his can down. He tried to remember what Albus told him and the boys when they joined the Order. Nothing was coming to mind. All he could recall is shaking from the Crucio spell, trying not to show how much pain he truly was in. And then James had stood up and left. And Sirius had followed him. And then he had handed them his soul over for life. And here he was. Nothing else came to mind.
"Well, all business and no talk," Tonks said, looking at Lupin as if she had never quite seen something like him before, "I see. Well, then," she said, her purple hair quickly turning to a brown haired bun. Her young face contorted into an old school marm, and she began to resemble Professor McGonagall, "Yes, what can I do for you."
Lupin looked shocked to see this change take place, but Sirius, who hadn't said a word upon arriving, wasn't surprised at all. In fact, a small smile escaped onto his face.
"Your mother was right," he said in his cracked voice, "You really are a gifted child."
Tonks looked startled to Sirius, and the professor disappeared and was replaced by the punk rocker once more, "How do you know my mum?"
"Andromeda?" Sirius said, laughing, "She was the only one of my cousins I could stand."
Tonks froze, and then closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, she had taken on the look of the younger Sirius. Probably from a picture her mother had kept in an album. Remus stared at the girl, as if haunted by a past memory. Sirius was also startled.
"You're Cousin Sirius, aren't you," she said, her voice one of Sirius's young unworn one, "You're ... you're the murderer we've been looking for."
Her appearance changed to the crazed Sirius, the one who had been pictured on the Wanted posters. Sirius looked away, and nodded.
"Yes," he said, "I am."
Tonks stood, and pointed her wand to him, "Stay back! Both of you!"
"Now, Miss Tonks," Remus said, standing up to face her, "If you would let us explain ..."
"I don't need explaining, you are both under arrest," she said, turning back into herself, except this time looking very authoritative with blonde hair and a Ministry uniform, "For thirteen accounts of murder ..."
"Tonks," Sirius sighed, as if he had been through this scene a good few times by now, "Just sit down ..."
"If you knew the whole story ..."
"Don't come any closer! I'll call the Ministry, and my backup will be here in less than five seconds," she said, "Shacklebolt will be very pleased to know you've been caught ..."
"Shacklebolt's already here," Sirius said, putting his hands up, "He's the one who drove us here. He's downstairs if you need proof."
Tonks stopped, "You're bluffing."
"You are," Tonks said, raising her wand, "I may be young, but I'm not stupid."
"Your mother knows me, Tonks," Sirius said, his hands still up in retreat, "She knows I hated Voldemort."
"Don't say that name!"
"She knows me," he said, "If you had known me, you would have known that, too! I was blown off the map, just like your mother."
Tonks hesitated, and then narrowed her eyes, "I've seen the evidence. I've seen what Longbottom left the department in the files ..."
"It doesn't add up," Sirius said, "Think about it, Tonks. You're supposed to be the smart one of Andromeda's kids. Think about it, for God's sake! Peter was backed into a corner when he was the one going after me. Does that make sense, Tonks? Does it?"
Tonks thought for a moment, and then her eyes grew wide, "Oh my ..." her wand dropped, and her jaw fell, "I ... I ..."
Sirius, looking somewhat relieved, sat back down on the couch.
"Have you heard of the Order of the Phoenix?" Remus said, not wanting another interruption.
Tonks, still staring at Sirius in amazement, nodded her head slowly.
"We are regrouping," Remus said, taking his seat next to Sirius, "And we are recruiting. Albus would like you to join us. You have an amazing record with the Ministry, and your special ... capabilities ... could be a future asset to the Order."
And they had explained it all to this young girl, not so different from themselves when they had begun their journey through war. She listened with fascination, not saying a word. And when she finally did speak, she gave a little smile.
"Where do I sign up?"
The cabin was growing quite crowded now. A good fifty leaders from the growing Order were present, and they had bound ties with a good hundred others in the United Kingdom and beyond. It was nothing like it was in the first war, and Remus felt his heart lift. They had a chance. They may win this time, for good. And no one may die.
It was the day that Alastor Moody joined them that they had all been anxious for. It came sometime in June. He had been treated for the abuse he had been put through the past year, and Sirius could be seen pacing the porch outside the cramped cabin. Fifty people living out of a small one man abode. It wasn't easy to get privacy.
"Nervous?" Remus said, budging his way out of the door and shutting it behind him.
"Nah, not at all," Sirius said, crossing his arms and looking out to the woods, "Not the slightest bit."
"I saw Frank's Pensieve," Remus said, taking a seat in the chair, "I know what happened."
"Good, then you'd know why I've been pacing," Sirius said, leaning on the banister, "I haven't talked to the man for a good fourteen years. Excuse me if I wish it was longer."
"You reckon he's going to hex you?" Remus laughed.
Sirius shuddered, "No, I reckon he is going to do more than hex me."
Finally, the day came when the first Order meeting would take place. Chairs were pulled into Remus's front room, and the good half a hundred members crammed into the tight space, leaving room for their speaker to appear. Dumbledore was busy, securing other ties in other parts of the country, trying to run the school, etc. It would be Moody addressing them.
It was around noon that he apparated in Remus's kitchen.
"What's this!? I could apparate into the Order Headquarters! Did I not teach that boy anything about vigilance?! REMUS LUPIN!"
Remus sighed, and walked into the kitchen, "Good to see you again, too, Alastor."
Sirius, who was sitting on Remus's bed, braced himself for the beating of his life. He watched in discomfort as Moody and Remus came from the kitchen. Mad Eye looked furious.
"What is this? A sleepover?" he shouted at the members, "Did you lot not put one single hex or jinx to secure this place? Do I have to do everything for you!"
"We've only been here about a week," Elphias said, "Don't shout so, Alastor. We're not children."
"When one acts like a child, he will be treated like one!" Moody said, and then he took his place in front of the Order, "Now, I don't care who's here and who isn't here. I don't care what your stories are. And I really couldn't give a damn why you want to fight Voldemort. The important thing is that you are here. And that's all I want to know. Now, obviously the first line of business is where to set up Headquarters, since this woodpile isn't large enough to even hold a meeting in. Whose bright idea was it to meet here? Lupin?"
"It was Albus," Remus said from the back of the room.
"Well, he's a genius, but he's old," Moody said, and then swiveled his eye to look at his audience, "Anyone have any bright ideas on where to go? Anyone?"
The new members were taken back from his opening speech. Their first impression of Moody had hit them hard in the face. The returning members were quiet, not wanting to converse with the likes of Mad Eye at the moment. Remus remembered seeing Sirius look from person to person, and then to Moody. He was thinking to himself, contemplating things in his head.
"Well, isn't this a productive lot," Moody muttered, "Anyone? Any one of you have a thought to share with the class? Or should I just start pulling names out of a hat!"
"I've got a place."
Moody looked to the back of the room, where Sirius was standing, hands shoved in pockets. He had that look of complete arrogance on his face. Remus groaned, and looked away.
"Yes, Mr. Black," Moody said, his voice unfaltering, "Where do you propose?"
Sirius, with a quick look of surprise on his face, recovered himself and said, "My mum died a few years ago. I'm the only Black left, therefore my old childhood home is under my name. It's large, probably could be called a mansion ..."
"Where is it?"
"London," he said, "Number 12 Grimmauld Place. It would need a little cleaning, but ..."
"Perfect, London," Moody said, clasping his hands together, and turning to the rest of the room, "London it is. I will meet you all at this Grimmauld Place one week from today. I want the place sparkling and shining. And if I can apparate into the walls, you all will be waking up with a horrible Congestive jinx. Keep that in mind."
And he walked to the back of the room, back into the kitchen. Remus met him, and showed him to where he had come from. But Moody had stopped for a moment, after Emmeline had taken over the meeting, and he had doubled back to look at the room. At a certain man now sitting back on the bed. His face was expressionless, and he just looked at him for a moment before continuing into the next room with Remus.
"Nice place," Moody huffed before disapparating, and Remus quietly smiled to himself as he made his way back into the main room.
It had been a good two weeks later that they had met again. This time, it was at Grimmauld Place. That house that Sirius hated more than life itself. There was a conference room off to the left of the main staircase where they all met. This time, not all of the members were present. Only Sirius was living out of the Headquarters, since he had no where else to go. He had much rather liked it at Remus's place, Remus could tell.
It had been three days before the meeting that the Weasleys had moved their things from the Burrow and had made themselves at home in the mansion. Dumbledore had thought it better if they moved. Hermione Granger came with them.
It seemed as if Dumbledore expected great things from Ron Weasley, Hermione, and Harry. He pushed the three of them just like he had pushed Remus and Sirius and the others. Why else would two underage wizards be invited to Headquarters?
Lupin had greeted them at the door, Mrs. Weasley towing Ginny, the youngest of the children, behind her. She was growing up so fast now. She was to turn fourteen soon, and she looked almost like a younger Lily. Not as pretty, mind you. But there was a twinkle in her eye that reminded Remus of his lost friend. The red hair. The pale skin.
The two twins Frederick and George had come as well. Lupin hadn't gotten to know them as well as he could have when he was at Hogwarts. But their reputation preceded them. James would have gotten along fine with the two of them.
Then Charlie and Bill, who wouldn't be staying at Grimmauld Place, but had wanted to join the Order. Bill, working at Gringotts. Charlie, working with dragons.
Mr. Weasley shook Remus's hand as they made their way into the front hall, "Good morning, Mr. Lupin," he said very pleasantly, "I hope we didn't wake you."
"No, not at all," he said, showing them in, "And call me Remus."
"Arthur," he said, shaking his hand again, "And this is my wife, Molly. I believe you've met our children."
"With pleasure," Lupin said, nodding towards Ron. Ron dropped his bags, and ran to him.
"Professor Lupin!" he said, and Hermione who was halfway up the stairs outside with her suitcase ran into the entrance hall and grabbed him in a hug.
"Professor!" she said, "You're okay!" and he gave out a small laugh.
"I'm not a professor anymore," he said, pushing the young lady off of him, "I haven't been for a while now."
"Bloody hell," Ron said, "You're in the Order?"
"Good to meet you, Remus," Molly said, shaking hands with him while trying to balance twelve bags and a moaning Ginny, "Is Harry here, yet?"
"No," Remus said, and then looked to Ron and Hermione, "And you are not allowed to write to him yet, is that understood?"
"What?" Ron said, "Why not?"
"Don't you ask questions, Ronald Weasley," Molly said, shoving her family up the stairs, "The man said you couldn't, so you can't!"
"I'll show you to your rooms," Remus said, following behind the parade of red hair.
When they reached the next landing, he opened the first door, and led Hermione and Ginny inside, "This is your room, Miss Granger and Miss Weasley. There is some parchment there for you to write a letter to your parents if you want to, Hermione. We have owls you may use. Lunch will be ready in about an hour or so."
"Thank you," the two girls said politely, and shut their door.
"Next, Fred, George, Ron, here is your room," Lupin said, and then continued on as the boys jumped into their large bedroom, "And here is yours, Arthur and Molly. Anyone else that we need to accommodate for?"
Molly's face broke for a moment, but she regained her bubbly persona before she could be questioned, and shook her head, "No. That's the whole ... that's the whole ..."
"That's the whole family," Arthur said darkly, and led his wife into the room, "Thank you, Remus."
"Much obliged," Remus said, and the door shut in his face. He sighed, and made his way down the hall and down the stairs once more. He had to ready the house for the meeting.
It was a large table, circular, and with twenty or so chairs. Much more concealed than the living room of Moody. The first meeting took place on a dark and cold night. Molly and Arthur with their two eldest sons were the first to arrive in the room. Then came Sirius, followed by Remus. Then Professor McGonagall, Severus, and Mundungus. Then Figg, Sturgis Podmore, Tonks, and Kingsley. Others slowly filed in until almost all of the chairs were filled. Finally, Dumbledore and Moody arrived, and took their respective seats.
There were still four seats empty. And they would remain empty throughout the entire summer. Moody looked to those chairs, sitting in a pretty little row, and then turned away. He would never look at them again.
"Good evening, my fellow wizards and witches," Dumbledore said, standing to address the members, "And welcome to the second official meeting of the Order of the Phoenix. I would like to begin this by taking a moment of silence for those who are not with us today. Those who gave their lives fourteen years ago to a cause greater than any of us," he looked to the four chairs. Frank. Alice. James. Lily. Remus followed his glance, and then gave out another sigh. He didn't want to be reminded of who wasn't there any longer. When did that pain go away?, "And also for those who will give their lives in the days to come. Please join me in silence."
There was a dead wave that passed over the room as everyone hung their head in respect for those who had fallen. Sirius was the quietest one of them all.
"Thank you," Albus said, and then looked to his fellow members, "Now, onto business. For the past month, many of us have been working to great lengths to find what Voldemort may be planning. We know more than he believes us to know, and this is always a very positive thing indeed."
"There is a great weapon," Moody said, "A weapon that could be the downfall of our world. And of people held close to the heart of the Order."
"Now," Albus said, "Before we go any further, I wish you all to understand that any word that is muttered in this room is not taken from these walls. Molly, your children are not to know of these things. Sirius, Harry only needs to know enough to keep him out of trouble, is that understood?"
Sirius came to a start, and looked at the Headmaster in complete shock, "What? You're not going to tell Harry any of this?"
"Why would we," Moody said.
"It's all about him, isn't it?" Sirius said, growing stiff, "The prophecy?"
"Sirius," Albus said slowly, "Harry knows nothing of the prophecy."
Sirius froze, and he looked at the Headmaster in disbelief, "He ... he doesn't know?"
"I have tried to keep him safe," Albus said, "And I have told him as little as he needs to know. He is aware that his parents died. He is aware that Voldemort killed them, and because of his mother's love Voldemort could not kill him. There is nothing else he needs to be aware of at the present time."
"So he knows nothing of the Order," Sirius said, "He doesn't know about what the prophecy said. He doesn't know any of that."
"No," Albus said, "He doesn't."
"What the hell have you been telling him for the past fourteen years!" Sirius said, slamming his hand on the table and standing up, "That he was a freak accident?! No wonder he's so oblivious to everything! First you leave him thinking he's a Muggle for ten years, and then when you finally do bring him back, you don't tell him anything!"
"Nothing has changed, has it, Black," Snape said snidely from his seat opposite of him, "Still unable to control your anger."
"Sirius, just sit down," Remus said, tugging him back to his seat as Sirius glared knives at Severus.
"I love that boy as much as you do, Sirius," Dumbledore said, his eyes saddened, "And I have tried my best to protect him."
"You can't protect him," Sirius said, "The most evil wizard to ever walk this earth is out there, waiting to kill him, and you don't tell him why."
"He has met with Tom on three different occassions now," Albus said, "He is perfectly capable of defending himself. He is not a little boy, Sirius. He has come face to face with death itself, and is still alive to tell us about it. Now if we can continue on with the meeting," he said, taking his focus off of Sirius, "We believe we know what Voldemort is after. As Mr. Black just mentioned, the prophecy. For those of you who do not know what this prophecy is that we speak of, it was a foretelling of the events that took place on October 31st, 1981. The death of Lily and James Potter, and the end of Voldemort's reign. The prophecy also told how Voldemort could kill Harry, and that is what he is after.
"The prophecy is recorded in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic," Albus said, tapping his wand to the air. A revolving map appeared, hovering above the table, "In the Department of Mysteries. The only persons who may retrieve a prophecy are those who the prophecy pertains to. In this case, Harry or Voldemort."
"But Volde ... I mean, You-Know-Who couldn't go waltzing into the Ministry," Arthur said, "It would be suicide."
"Precisely," Albus said, tapping his wand to the map again, "That is why he must use another to do his work for him, as he is prone to do."
The map shifted into the young face of a boy with black hair and glasses. On his forehead was a scar. Sirius looked sick.
"Harry, the only other soul allowed to retrieve his prophecy," Dumbledore said, "I have realized for quite some time now that Harry has a special connection to Tom. He is a Parselmouth, his scar hurts when Voldemort is near or when he has a heightened emotion. The two of them are connected, and have been connected since the death of his parents."
"Are you to say that Harry and Voldemort are bonded?" Kingsley said, in fascination as if this was a very good lecture.
"Precisely," Albus said, and the face of Harry grew smaller to reveal Voldemort's next to his, "These two souls were welded together upon Voldemort's trying to kill the boy. And from that day forward, they have never been apart. Harry has discovered this. But Tom ..."
He broke off, and looked to the two faces now revolving in front of him, "Tom Riddle was always a resourceful young man. Even as a child, I knew that he could fix any problem. And he will find a way to fix this one he is in now. He already has returned to his natural body. He already has his closest followers around him once again. It is just a matter of time until he realizes that he has this connection to Harry. And then, he will have his most faithful servant of all."
"What do you mean?" Remus asked.
Dumbledore's eyes grew dark, and he waved his wand. The two faces came together, and welded into one.
"He will control Harry," he said, "And when that happens, he will be able to take over his mind and lead him to the Department of Mysteries. Harry will hand deliver the prophecy to him. And then all will be lost."
"This is bullcock," Sirius said, fear rising in his face, "Harry's too smart for that."
"It has already started to happen," Dumbledore said, very gravely, "That is why we cannot tell him any more than he needs to know. I do not want to frighten him. We just need to make sure that he is healthy and alive. That is the best thing for him now. Harry also posseses a great weapon that Voldemort will never have. And that is love."
"Ouch! Get off my foot, George!"
The Order turned around, and all looked to the door. Moody's eye swiveled to look through the oak wood, and he gave out a roar.
"WEASLEYS!" he howled, and jumped over the table and slammed the door open.
There stood Fred and George, with a new invention of theirs. It looked like long ears on elastic string, and they were knelt outside the door, the inventions stuck to it. They backed away, screaming when Moody towered over them, and Molly screeched.
"FRED! GEORGE! GET UP TO YOUR ROOM NOW!"
"We didn't hear anything, Mum!" Fred whined, scrambling to his feet, "I swear. They don't work properly!"
"We still need to get a few kinks out, you know," George said.
"NOW! UP! ROOM! NOW! GEORGE! FRED! ROOM! UP! NOW!"
The twins scurried up the stairs, and Moody glared at Arthur.
"You better watch your children closer," he said, grumbling and shutting the doors again, "Or else you'll be two sons short. I swear ..."
"We will meet again in a week's time," Dumbledore said, "Severus, will you have a report by then?"
"Yes, Albus," Snape said, and with that, the Order stood to leave.
"Remus, Sirius, may I speak to you in private?" Dumbledore said, and Sirius looked to Lupin, inquisitively. Remus couldn't look him in the eyes.
The two of them, Moody, and Albus were the only ones left in the room after a while, and as soon as the last man had seen himself out, Dumbledore had looked to Sirius.
"Sirius, I understand that you have been through more than most of us can imagine," he said, "Partially due to the failure of this Order."
"I don't want your sympathies, Headmaster," Sirius said, "We should be taking care of Harry right now. You should have men out there surrounding that house ..."
"And I do," Dumbledore said.
"You keep talking about progress and how everyone's been working so hard," Sirius said accusingly, "But all I've done since I got here was sit in this house and ..."
"Precisely," Dumbledore said.
Sirius stopped, and looked at him, "What do you mean by that?"
"Sirius," Remus said, folding his hands, "I told Albus about the centaur's field."
Sirius grew still, and his dark cold eyes bore into Remus. Traitor, they said.
"Premonitions should not be taken lightly," Dumbledore plowed on, "As you saw with your friend James."
"Don't talk about James," Sirius snapped.
"It is not just this news of foreshadowing that Remus alerted us to," he said, ignoring Sirius's anger, "But of the ... let us call it spontenaiety ... that you displayed here in this room today."
Sirius didn't say anything, but just continued to glare at Remus.
"You are right, Sirius," Dumbledore said, "The best thing right now is what is best for Harry. Now, Harry has come to regard you as a brother and a father. You are the closest parental figure he has ever encountered. And we need to continue to give him that figure. Therefore, your assignment will be to watch over Headquarters while the Order is ..."
Sirius's face dropped from one of hate to one of pure fear. His eyes grew wide, and he stood straight up in his chair, "What?!" he exclaimed, "No, no, please, Dumbledore. Please no ..."
"I will have to ask you to not leave the premises," he continued, "For your sake, and for Harry's. We need you here."
"No, please, no!" Sirius said, losing all strength. He grew pale. It seemed as if Dumbledore was taking him back to Azkaban for another twelve years, "No, anything but that. I'll do anything but that! I hate this house ... I ... no ... I ... can't ..."
"Stop blubbering, Mr. Black," Moody said.
"Everyone has admitted a change in you since your return," Albus added, "It is not safe to entrust you with the same duties that I would entrust to Remus at this given time. Possibly in a year or so ..."
"A YEAR!" Sirius barked, "I can't stay in this house for a YEAR! Albus, you don't understand!"
"Sirius, calm down," Remus said, and Sirius glared at him.
"You, you always have to go telling things to people when it's none of their ... I can't ... I ..." he said, breaking, his forehead gleaming with sweat, "I ..."
"It is for your own good," Dumbledore said, and then rose, "Now I really must be off. Remember, no one must tell Harry of the danger he is in."
"Still acting just like an arrogant teenager," Moody muttered as Remus showed him and Dumbledore out the door, "Hasn't grown up from the last time I saw him."
"He is not a man," Dumbledore said to Moody, "He was very young when imprisoned. Remember all of the tragedy that struck him."
"We all have tragedy," Moody snarled, and then tipped his hat to Remus, "See you soon, Lupin."
"Goodbye, Remus," Dumbledore said, and Remus shut the door behind them.
He looked back to the conference room, and saw Sirius standing there, glaring at him.
"So what," he said, daring him, "You think I'm a crazed madman now as well?"
"No, Padfoot," Remus said, "I just believe that you need to sort a few things out."
Sirius glared at him, and then gave out a howl. He pushed a vase in the main hall off of its perch, and it went crashing to the ground.
"They don't know what it's like!" Sirius barked, his voice echoing through the halls, "They don't know what it's like to have a house full of nightmares! And then have to be locked up inside! I'm a soldier! I should be out there, defending Harry! But instead I'm in here! In this ... hellhole ..."
"I think you need to calm down," Remus said, taking out his wand and pointing it at the vase. The vase pieced itself back together and flew back onto the pedestal, "The best thing for Harry is for you to be alive and well."
"I won't be alive long if they keep me in here like a prisoner!"
"The only one who is keeping you prisoner is yourself, Sirius," Remus said, and then calmly left the room to help Molly with dinner.
Sirius gave out another howl, and ran up the stairs to his room to sit with Buckbeak. He wouldn't come down to eat.
A week went by, and Sirius got an urgent message from Harry. Dementors had attacked him on the streets. Dumbledore had returned from Hogwarts, and had come flying in the door in a fury. No one had seen him like that. So angered. He searched for Mundungus and found him hiding in an upper room, cowering like a coward.
"YOUR JOB IS TO KEEP HARRY ALIVE!" Dumbledore shouted. Even Remus was taken aback at the old man's rage, "AND YOU LEFT HIM TO DEFEND HIMSELF FOR STOLEN GOODS! YOU THIEF! YOU ..."
Sirius scribbled a note to Harry, and sent it off. So did Arthur. And then Dumbledore, after regaining his sanity, had sent a Howler to Lily's sister. It had been a while later that Moody had arrived at Headquarters, and had called Lupin to him. They had taken off in the midst of the night with Tonks, Kingsley, Elphias, Emmeline, and assorted others, and had found Harry alive and well in his uncle's house.
As soon as Harry arrived at Headquarters, safe, everyone could breathe again. They held another meeting, and had reminded a very excited Sirius that nothing was to be said to Harry about Voldemort. Yet after the formalities had been finished at the dinner table, Sirius set his goblet down and looked to his godson. He had invited Harry to ask any questions of him about Voldemort and the Order.
And this had sparked the fuse. Lupin had seen it growing in Molly's eyes for a long time. He knew that the Weasleys cared dearly for Harry, and had taken him in on occasion, just as James's family had to Sirius. And all of a sudden, another man had stepped into the boy's life. A godfather. Someone who had custody over him.
Molly had taken it upon herself to stomp Sirius into the ground in front of Harry. Sirius, not one to give up in a fight, shouted right back. Harry sat there, staring at them for a time before Lupin made the peace and invited Harry to ask whatever he wished. Sirius was content telling Harry parts that he was allowed to tell, and Molly was content on Sirius not telling Harry parts he was not allowed to tell. Harry went to bed, having a better idea of what was going on in his life. But the war had only begun.
"You do not patronize me in front of my godson!" Sirius said, storming into the kitchen after the children had been put to sleep. Molly and Remus were washing dishes, and Molly looked fit to burst into tears, "Harry is my responsibility by law! His father left him to me! It is MY job to protect him and to inform him of ..."
"His father is dead!" Molly said, slamming a plate down, "For the past fifteen years, he hasn't had anyone there for him! Arthur and I have watched over him! We've given him a home! A warm bed! Home cooked meals! Other than us, he had no one!"
"HE HAS ME!" Sirius barked, "HE'S HAD ME!"
"It's awfully hard to be a godfather when you're in prison, now isn't it," Molly said tersely, going back to the dishes.
Sirius's eyes hollowed, and Remus looked to the floor. Here he goes again, he thought.
"You leave my past out of this, Molly," Sirius said, on the verge of exploding, "I am trying to do my best for the boy. He ..."
"Sirius," Remus said, interrupting him before he could go too far, "Just stop. For one moment, both of you stop bickering."
Sirius looked at him, wide eyed. How dare he interrupt him!
"Now," Remus continued, "You both love Harry very much. You both feel responsible for him. Now this is understandable from both sides. Molly, you have become very close to him through your children. You opened your house to him when no one else would. Now, Sirius," he said, turning to his friend, "Yes, he is James's son. We both feel a sort of obligation towards him just for that fact. And I know you were closer to James than I, and one of his final requests was that you took care of Harry. I know. But you must realize that James wasn't planning on you being ... away ... for such a long time. Yes, you do hold legal rights to him and what he does. Yes, he reveres you. But you must realize that he has had a life before you that did not include us. I am not blaming this on your actions after James's death. I am not blaming anyone. I am just honestly saying that there are more people in the world that care about Harry than just you."
"Do you?" Sirius said, accusingly, "You seem to just brush him aside like the other three."
"This isn't about me, Sirius," Remus said.
"You're damn right I care about him!" Sirius said, "I'd die without him! I'm going on Dumbledore's damn orders for his sake!"
"You didn't go on them tonight too well," Molly huffed.
"Now Molly," Remus said, turning to Molly, "You must realize that there is a life Harry has that you are not a part of. Yes, Harry had a father. And a mother. And we knew them. We were the family he was to have had. And James did turn over the rights of a guardian to Sirius many years ago, even before Harry was born. You must realize that Sirius has all the right to say what he pleases to his godson by law. It does not mean that he should," Remus said, eyeing Sirius, "But he can."
Molly looked to Sirius, who was now silent from what Remus had said. She sighed, and set the dishes down in the sink.
"Sirius, I do apologize for my behavior this evening," she said, extending her hand, "But you must understand that I care for Harry as well. He's like a son to me. He's my son's best friend."
"Well," Sirius said, glaring at her hand, "He's my best friend's son."
And he walked out of the room.
A year had passed. The children had gone to school, the Order had continued to function. They started working on blueprints for a new plan. They put themselves to good use. And all the while, Sirius stayed inside, away from the world. Whenever Lupin would come visit him, he would become cheery for that instant, and invite him to play cards, chess, anything. When anyone stepped in the door, he leapt for joy. During Christmas, he was happy again, singing carols and hanging garland on the stairway. But then it was back to dreary old Padfoot, flomping around the house like the dead.
It was a year after they had arrived at Grimmauld Place that their worst fears came true. Remus remembered it well.
He had fallen asleep after a chess game with Sirius. Sirius was upstairs, tending to one of Buckbeak's wings. Somehow the bird had injured itself. He had been in the middle of a dream about chess pieces and house elfs when Snape's voice echoed through the room.
Remus opened his eyes, and saw Snape's head floating there above him, illuminated in red.
"Hello, Severus," Remus yawned, "What's wrong?"
"Is Black with you?" Snape hissed.
"No, he's upstairs tending to Buckbeak," he said, "Why? What's happened?"
"Are you positively sure he's upstairs?"
Remus eyed the floating head, "To my knowledge, I'm sure."
"Potter believes him to be at the Department of Mysteries," Snape said, "He was just telling me how 'Padfoot' was in trouble."
"What? Why would Sirius be ..."
"Supposedly Voldemort has him prisoner," Snape said, "And is going to kill him."
Remus thought for a moment, and then ran for the door. He swung it open, and threw himself into the hall and up the stairs. The head of Snape followed him as he ran to Sirius's mother's bedroom, where he could hear Buckbeak inside.
He pounded his fist on the door, "Sirius! Are you in there?"
"I said I'd be down in a minute!" Sirius's voice came from inside, "Something did a nice little number on his right wing ..."
"Sirius, it's Harry!" Remus said, grabbing the doorknob and shaking it. But no need. With the name Harry, Sirius threw the door wide open and ran into the hallway.
"What. What happened to Harry. Where is he," he said.
"No one quite knows," Snape's head sounded. Sirius looked over Remus's shoulder to Snape, and he glared.
"What's he doing here," he barked, "What have you done with Harry?"
"I've done nothing with him," Snape coughed, "He's done it himself. That Umbridge found him in her office, hysterical. All he could tell me before she went sweeping off to the forest was that you were in trouble at the Department of Mysteries."
"It's just like Dumbledore said it would be," Remus said calmly, trying to sort it all out, "It's finally happened."
"That is what I have concluded," Snape said, not looking too pleased with his agreeing with Mr. Moony, "Voldemort has discovered the bind between him and the boy. He has gone and made him see another vision."
"If I know Harry, he'll be finding a way to get to the Ministry of Magic as soon as he can," Remus said, taking off down the hall and back to the stairs, "We have to get going. Voldemort or his supporters will be there, waiting for him."
"Who all is in Headquarters?" Snape asked, following him down the staircase. Sirius pursued them, looking quite pale.
"Tonks, Kingsley, Moody, and myself," Remus said, heading for the second floor, "We'll get right on it."
"You have me, too," Sirius said, speaking up.
"No, Sirius," Remus said, looking behind him as he started on the next staircase, "No, we don't."
"Harry's out to save me. I have to ..."
"I request that you stay behind, Black," Snape said, in all seriousness. All schoolboy grudges were put aside in his mind. But not in Sirius's.
"And why?" Sirius snapped at the floating head, "So you can gloat over how I was a coward? I think not."
"Sirius, this is a little more important than your ego," Remus said, jumping onto the first floor.
"No, that is not why," Snape said, ignoring Remus, "I request you stay behind so that you may tell Albus what happened when he arrives at Headquarters. He is on his way."
"Mad Eye!" Remus shouted, leaving Snape and Sirius at the foot of the stairs, "Get everyone together! Harry's in trouble!"
As the Headquarters became alive, Sirius grew even more pale. He watched the others grab their cloaks and head for the front door. All of them, talking in worried voices about what was happening, what had happened.
"Remember," Moody said, "This is the first true battle of many to come. Let us all hope we live to see others."
"We have to hurry," Remus said, opening the door, "Who knows where those children are."
Sirius grew even more pale.
"Remember, tell Dumbledore all that I've told you," Snape said to him as the door shut behind Remus, "I am going to go scour the forests for the little brats. If I find him, I will contact you immediately. And do not, under any circumstances, leave this house."
Snape disappeared. And Sirius was alone again.
The streets of London outside of the Ministry's entrance were dismal. It was dark, and Moody led the way to the entrance the Aurors used. An old dumpster in a nearby alleyway. It looked oddly familiar.
It was the dumpster that James and Remus had passed on their Christmas stroll. Oh the irony.
"The most important thing is to find Harry," Moody said, "Now Voldemort may be down there. We have to be ready for that. Keep your wands out and your eyes alert. Now follow me."
He jumped into the dumpster, and disappeared in a matter of moments. Kingsley followed him, and then Tonks. Remus took a breath, and set his hands on the side of the metal bin.
"Something messes with one of us, it messes with all of us," he whispered to himself, before jumping in.
"You're damn right it does!" a voice from above sounded.
Remus, looking up seconds before he disappeared into the trash, saw a horrific sight that made him gasp and breathe in a good breath of garbage. He choked as he flew farther and farther into the Ministry headquarters.
He appeared in the main lobby, choking. Tonks grabbed him and helped him to his feet.
"Yeah, I never got used to that thing, either," she said.
"Sirius!" he choked, and then he heard a thud from behind him. He turned around, furious, to see Sirius Black picking himself up off the floor of the lobby, and brushing himself off.
"We told you to stay behind!" he shouted, "You're going to get yourself killed!"
"Dumbledore picked me for the Order for one thing, and one thing only," Sirius said, brandishing his wand and walking to the group of Aurors, "I never knew what it was until now."
"Come on," Moody said, running across the lobby. Kingsley followed, and Tonks did as well. Sirius ran after them, eyes straight ahead, and his shoulders held high.
"It's because I was the darkest one in the bunch," he said over his shoulder to Remus, "And I'll do anything for a fight."
Remus followed the rest of them into the lift, and Moody touched his wand to the side of the contraption.
"Harry Potter," he hissed, and the lift began to move down.
"How long has it been since Snape contacted us?" Kingsley asked, and Remus said hurriedly, "Too long. Can't this thing go any faster?"
"I'm trying, Lupin," Moody snarled, "You want to take a go at it, be my guest. I've been telling Fudge for years that we need to get these things replaced. For emergencies like this. But what does Mad Eye know? Crazy washed up Alastor doesn't know a wand from a whizbee in their minds ..."
"Department of Mysteries," the lift's voice sounded, and all five of the Aurors piled out into the long dark hall they had been guarding for a year now. Down the tunnel, past the torches, and to a black door.
"All right," Moody said as the door opened, and they stepped into the circular room, "His trail must be fresh. So ..."
The lights spun around them, and Tonks almost lost her footing as she stared at the doors whizzing by. Moody groaned, and then looked to Lupin, "This is what they call a security precaution. Spinning doors. I don't know where I was when they designed this stupid department ..."
"Harry Potter," Kingsley said, holding his wand to the air. The room stopped spinning, and a door ahead of them opened.
"There," Sirius said, charging forward. They followed him into the new room, and Sirius came to a halt.
"Oh, hello, Sirius!"
A large room with a tub set in the middle of it. The brains that the Ministry had been studying for quite some time. One of them was wrapped around Ron Weasley, who sat there, in a daze. Lupin ran into the room, behind his friend, and looked at the sight.
Ginny Weasley, Hermione, and another blonde girl were all knocked unconscious, and were sprawled out on the floor.
"It's that group Harry put together," Sirius said, staring at Ron as he struggled with the brains, "They're all here."
"All of them?" Lupin said, trying not to sound frantic as he helped Ron out of the bonds, "Where are the others?"
"I dunno," Ron laughed, "I have no clue. Harry went off with those Death Eaters, and then ... Ha! Professor Lupin! You should have seen Malfoy's face when ..."
"Malfoy!" Sirius started, jumping back. He had to find a way out of here. He had to ...
Doors surrounded them. More than in the last room.
"Come on, Harry," Sirius said, his teeth gritted, "Come on, where are you. Come on, kid. Where'd you go."
Kingsley's wand shot to a door to their right, "In here!" he shouted, rushing to the door, "They were here a few seconds ago! They have to be close!"
Sirius and Remus ran after the other three. They had to save Harry.
Remus could see the turmoil on Sirius's face. He had once let James slip from him. He had once held that boy in his arms and had seen him cold and frozen, icy with death. He knew that Sirius could not handle seeing that sight again. That the reason why he came was not for his ego. Not to show Snape and him up. It was because of Harry.
Sirius was quite aware that he may not make it out alive. He took that risk stepping foot out of Headquarters. But he loved Harry.
Maybe even more than he had loved James.
The five of them froze, and then lunged towards the door.
"DON'T GIVE IT TO THEM! DON'T GIVE IT TO THEM, HARRY!"
Moody looked ill as he recognized that voice. It sounded almost identical to another's that he had once known.
"Longbottom's in there," he said, "Open the door, Kingsley."
"I can't," Kingsley said, throwing his shoulder into the door, "It's stuck. I can't!"
"Well you need to!" Sirius growled, pushing him out of the way, and throwing his own weight to the entrance, "HARRY! WE'RE COMING!"
"That was just a taster!" a voice came from inside as the Longbottom boy screamed.
Sirius perked up, and he glared. The voice. He recognized it. Lupin had as well.
"Bellatrix," he growled, and he thrust himself on the door, "HARRY!"
Lupin pushed Kingsley back, and went to helping Sirius try to budge the wedged door open, "Come on!" he shouted, and the two men hopelessly pounded on the thick metal.
"Now, Potter, either give us the prophecy, or watch your little friend die the hard way!" Bellatrix's cackling sounded in their ears.
"NOOOOO!" Sirius howled, and charged the door one last time.
It opened, and he went charging into the room. The room that was feared by all. The one room that outdid all of Azkaban's nightmares.
The veil stood there, in front of them on its platform. Remus had heard stories about this room. It was used to execute people. And things.
And that veil was the way in which they did it.
And there, on the platform, was Harry.
Death Eaters, everywhere. Lupin raised his wand, and aimed a spell at Bellatrix.
"No! She's mine!" Sirius shouted, and jumped down into the room, "I have some family business to take care of!"
A spell hit Lupin in the back of the neck, and he went sprawling onto the floor. He flew back to his feet, and threw a stunning spell at his attacker. The Death Eater fell to the ground, and Remus ran after Sirius.
A charge of white light flew in front of him, towards Harry. The floor cracked, and the entire room shook. He looked over his shoulder to see where it had come from. There was a familiar face, pointing his wand directly at him.
"How long has it been, wolf?" Dolohov laughed, "A good decade, I'm sure."
Lupin ran towards him, and raised his wand, "Expelliramus!" he shouted, and Dolohov dodged the spell as easily as Lupin had delivered it.
"Ah, I see the wolf is back," he snarled, "So nice of you to join us again."
"Where is he," Lupin demanded, pointing his wand directly at Dolohov, "Where is Voldemort."
"You say it so sure of yourself," Dolohov laughed in that thick accent, "Like you've acquired some amazing power since the last time we met."
"Protego!" Lupin shouted, and Dolohov blocked the spell again.
"You've changed, wolf," Dolohov said, smiling slyly, "Last time I saw you, you were crying on my floor, begging for mercy."
"People change," Lupin snarled, and his eyes narrowed, "Cruci ..."
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Dolohov shouted, throwing his wand in the direction of Lupin.
"NO!" Moody shouted, jumping off of the stairs and landing on Dolohov. The spell missed Remus, and bounced off of a wall.
"Ah, the great and merciful Alastor," Dolohov said, striking Moody in the head with his fist, "How I have missed you."
Dolohov took his wand, and struck Moody across the face with it. Lupin ran to help him, but another Death Eater hit him from behind and threw him to the ground.
"As I always say when we meet, Alastor," Dolohov laughed, "You should have killed me when you had the chance."
Moody's eye went rolling out of his head. The older man tried to regain his strength. Tried to raise himself off of the floor. But he couldn't. He was too old.
Dolohov smiled to himself as he looked to the other side of the bloody body of Moody. There was Harry.
"Sirius!" Lupin shouted as he struggled with his Death Eater, "Sirius! Harry!"
Sirius turned from his duel, and saw Dolohov striding towards the boy. His hands became fists as he threw himself into Dolohov, and Dolohov fell to the floor. He had time to look at Harry, who was holding an orb.
The prophecy. The record of James's prophecy.
"Petrificus Totalus!" Harry screamed, and Sirius heard a thud behind him as Dolohov fell to the ground. The man's arm was raised as if he was going to kill Sirius from behind.
He smiled to himself, and then looked to the boy, "Nice one," and then he grabbed him and threw him to the ground.
"Now I want you to get out of ..."
Avada Kedevra flew towards them, and Sirius once again threw Harry to the ground. They needed to get out of there. They all needed to get out.
Sirius looked above them, to where his cousin had fell. There was Bellatrix. He glared, and headed for her. He had business to settle to.
"HARRY, TAKE THE PROPHECY, GRAB NEVILLE, AND RUN!" Sirius shouted over his shoulder.
Lupin watched as his friend ran up the stairs to meet his cousin. Harry grabbed Neville, and they started up the steps. Sirius and Bellatrix, still caught up in their duel, jumped onto the platform in front of the veil.
"IMPEDIMENTA!" Harry's voice sounded, and Lupin turned his attention back to him. Why was he fighting? Why did he have to be so much like James? Why couldn't he just leave?
Malfoy was gaining on them, and Lupin felt his heart jump. He raced to their aid, watching Lucius raise his wand high in the air.
He leapt in front of Harry at the last moment, and pushed him back towards the door, "HARRY, ROUND UP THE OTHERS AND GO!"
Harry ran as Remus faced his old schoolmate. Lucius laughed for a moment, and then raised his wand again.
"Lovely reunion our lot is having, isn't it," Lucius snarled, "Just like old times. The true wizards against the half breeds. But you aren't even that, are you, Lupin."
"STUPEFY!" Lupin shouted, and they were locked in combat again.
"You really think you can outbeat me?" Lucius laughed, sending sparks to him.
"You are under arrest ..." Lupin shouted, right before a searing pain cut through his arm, "AARRRGH!"
He fell to the ground, clutching his bleeding arm as Lucius stood above him, triumphant. He had the largest grin on his face.
"You fool," Lucius laughed, "The Dark Lord has always prevailed! And he will again!"
He raised his wand to strike Remus. This was the end. He would die here tonight. How foolish he was to think he was invincible. He would see Lily again. He would ...
Lucius froze,and looked past Lupin. His eyes grew wide, and his wand lowered. And he went running.
Lupin weakly looked behind him, and saw the greatest sight that he could possibly imagine. Albus Dumbledore, rushing down the stairs to the Death Eaters, pulling them every which way, keeping them at bay. Kingsley stopped as well, and Lupin rose to his feet. All was finished. Dumbledore had arrived.
His arm seared with pain as he walked down the stairs to meet the Headmaster. Only one more Death Eater dueled with Sirius, and that was Bellatrix. They were so caught up in their fight that they hadn't even noticed what had happened.
Sirius was crazed. Laughing. Laughing that laugh that Remus had heard a hundred times. He was scared out of his mind, Sirius was. But he had waited so long to fight this witch. He had waited so long ...
"COME ON! YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT!" he laughed, and Bellatrix glared.
"Yes, I can," she hissed, so only Sirius could hear. And it was then that the spell hit him.
It him him in the chest. Sirius froze as he felt his body fly backwards, farther and farther away from the world. He was still laughing, laughing inside at this great joke that life had played on him. This wonderful joke that the supposed God James had believed in had decided he'd find amusing. He fell back, farther, and farther.
Remus watched in horror, as he saw where Sirius was falling to. The veil. The portal to the dead.
NO! Remus thought silently, trying to scream. But his mask had been worn so long, that he couldn't make a sound. He was paralyzed, helpless, as Sirius fell. Back, back, back ...
Sirius's eyes had then looked to Harry. He had looked to Harry.
Oh, beautiful Harry. Sirius remembered the moment in which he had held that child in his arms. The moment when Harry had come into the world, and he had stood there with his mother and father and had held him. He had been so little. So innocent. So untouched by anything.
And then he remembered Harry. The first time he saw him after he escaped. The boy had been waiting for the Knight Bus to take him to Diagon Alley. And Sirius had caught a glimpse of him. How he looked like his father. How perfect he was in every way.
And it was then that Remus saw the shock and horror fade away from Sirius's eyes. If he had not known Sirius for so long, he wouldn't have recognized it. Just a little glint of hope. That little light that had once dimmed and flickered out now rekindled. The darkness faded away and was revisited by that spirit that Sirius had once possessed as a young child. The voice of reason that had kept the team of boys going from the first day they all had met at the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room. The one that would always find the good in any plan. The one who would smile even when the world was crumbling around him.
That Sirius returned.
Right before he passed into the valley of death, disappearing behind the curtain forever, Remus saw that glint of hope find its way back into his old friend's eyes. The darkness no longer held Padfoot captive. He was no longer a prisoner.
He had looked at Harry, and in doing so, had found his light once again.
And then he was gone. Forever. He had gone back to his brother. And his sister.
He had gone home.
"SIRIUS!" Harry screamed, breaking Remus's thought, "SIRIUS!"
He saw Harry run towards the veil. He was going to try to pull Sirius back out! He was going to die, just like him ...
Remus jumped off his stair, and flew to Harry. He grabbed the boy around the waist, and pulled him away.
"There's nothing you can do, Harry," Remus said, trying to keep his voice calm. He couldn't cry. He wouldn't cry. He just had to keep Harry away from that veil.
"Get him! Save him!" Harry screamed, as panicked as Remus felt inside, "He's only just gone through!"
"It's too late, Harry ..." Remus tried to explain as the boy struggled in his arms.
"We can still reach him!"
"There's nothing you can do Harry!" Remus said, trying to stay strong. But Harry was putting up a fight. Remus couldn't take his eyes off of that veil. If only Sirius would reappear from behind it, "Nothing ..." he said, weaker, "He's ... he's gone."
"He hasn't gone!" Harry shouted, kicking and screaming, "SIRIUS! SIRIUS!"
"HE CAN'T COME BACK, HARRY!" Remus said, louder than he meant to. He was breaking. His mask was slowly peeling off, "He can't come back," he said, feeling the tears come to his face, "He can't come back because he's dead ..."
"HE IS NOT DEAD!" Harry cried, but Remus didn't let go, "SIRIUS!"
Remus grabbed Harry and forced him off of the platform.
"Harry, he is gone," Remus whispered, "He's gone. He's ..."
But he knew Harry couldn't hear him. Harry was just staring at the veil, in complete shock. Harry wasn't listening to anything around him. He grew limp in Remus's arms, and Remus carried him to the stairs.
Neville Longbottom, the boy who had fought so heroically that night, ran to their aid. He took Harry from Remus, but Remus still held onto Harry's arm. He wasn't going to let him go. No, he had already lost Sirius. He would not lose Harry. Neville set Harry down. He whispered something to him, and Harry nodded weakly.
Remus looked back at the veil. Kingsley and Bellatrix were still fighting. Bellatrix was still alive.
"I tried to forget," his voice echoed in his head.
"Ah, well," Sirius had said, "That's the heroic thing to do. The Peter thing to do."
Those words stung now as he tried not to give into his tears. He would be strong. For Harry. He would not cry.
"Something messes with one of us, it messes with all of us," Sirius's voice whispered.
"Here," Remus said, trying not to think about what just happened. Neville needed taking care of, "Finite." Neville stood.
"You want me to come?" Sirius said.
"I'd kill you."
"You two are just like you were the day I met you!" his words rang in his mind. They had been at the Leaky Cauldron, and James and Sirius blinked, and then looked back at him in awe.
"Well, yeah," Sirius laughed, "I'll be taking that one as a compliment. And what's wrong with you lately? You're more . . . how do I put it . . . willing to jump down our backs?"
"Let's find the others," Lupin said, shaking the memory from his thoughts, "Where are they all, Neville?"
Neville started to talk. But Lupin couldn't think. He couldn't concentrate.
"Look, Remus. Both you and I know that I can't change what I saw," Sirius's voice came back, "I wish I could, but I can't. You want to truth, Lupin? I'm scared to death of that thing I saw that night. I can't lie. I'm scared. Yeah, that's right. Sirius Black is scared of something. But you gotta show me up. You have to prove to me that I'm wrong. You can't walk away from us like this."
His grip loosened, and he felt Harry fall out of his hand. He snapped to attention, and saw Harry bounding up the steps, after Bellatrix.
He was going to go after her.
He was going to try to kill her.
"Harry! No!" Lupin shouted.
"SHE KILLED SIRIUS!" Harry screamed, "SHE KILLED HIM! I'LL KILL HER!"
Lupin ran towards him, but Dumbledore ran in front of him and held out a hand.
"There are monsters that one must battle themselves," he said quietly, looking into his old student's eyes, "Let him go."
Remus collapsed, the pain in his arm coming back to him. He couldn't think. He couldn't see straight. His only friend in this world, dead.
He had lost James once. And that had hurt him to this day.
But to lose Sirius.
It was more than he could bear.
When he looked up again, Dumbledore was gone. He heard an explosion upstairs. He knew Voldemort had returned. He knew Harry was up there. He had to save him. He had to ...
He struggled to get to his feet. For Sirius. He had to do it for Sirius. He had to save ... Harry ...
He fell back onto the stairs, his arm searing with pain. He had to let Harry fight this one for himself.
The world was going black. He fell onto the concrete stairs, and heard the ceiling shake. There was a horrific scene in the Atrium. He knew that. But all he could do was listen. All he could do was lay there. Listening to Harry's cries. Listening to the laughter of Voldemort.
He could do no more.
It seemed like a lifetime later that the Aurors ran into the room, a dozen or so of them, ready to collect the Death Eaters. They had found Lupin, sprawled out on the step, and had helped him to his feet. His mask was set back on his face, and he quietly told them where to find the children. What had happened. The entire time, his eyes did not leave that veil.
The prophecy in the field. The fate of Sirius Black.
And he shut the world out. He couldn't take it anymore. He shut it out, and tended to Mad Eye, who was profusely bleeding from the head but had come to with the Auror's arrival.
The two of them sat in silence on the platform, only inches away from where his dear friend had met his end. Student and teacher, once again, they sat in silence.
"Heroes, Remus," Moody said, still woozy from the loss of blood, "Heroes are every day ordinary people. They live, touch a life ... maybe a few ... and then they fade away. They disappear. Either into time, decaying until they are awakened again and must fight one last battle. Or into the next stage of existence. Death."
"Real heroes are forgotten," Remus whispered, and Moody nodded.
"Right you are," Moody said, "But they never die."
Remus looked to Moody, his eye socket empty and vacant. It winked at him, and then Moody smiled, "Never truly do they die. That's the one lesson that I could never teach you, Remus. The one that Albus or Minerva, or even James and Sirius couldn't. It's one that comes with time and age."
"What lesson is that?" Remus asked.
"You still don't see it, do you?" Moody said, looking back to the veil behind them, "You still don't see it."
"I think you lost a lot of blood, Mad Eye," Remus said.
"The ones who lived, who truly lived," Moody said, ignoring Remus's remark, "They make an imprint on our lives. They leave their mark in our hearts. They change the course of our fates and our destinies. Those are the real heroes, Lupin. The ones who cared enough for a human being that they rewrote their futures."
He took a swig from his hip flask, and then looked to Remus once again with one eye, "You probably wouldn't remember the pact you and your little friends made all those years ago. I believe you were out cold when they took the oath."
Remus looked to him, confused.
"It was that night that you and Dolohov had that run in," Moody said, "Oh, you were young. Probably not a day over eighteen. But Sirius ... that man put his life on the line to save you. All of them did. When you arrived back at Headquarters with us, they stayed the entire night by your side. I have never seen a more dedicated group of friends.
"Minerva and I watched from the doorway that night," he continued, "And we saw Black make everyone promise that they would always stick together. Always be there for each other."
"I remember," Remus said quietly, "They told me about it later on. But what good has it done."
"What good has it done?" Moody said, "Lupin, come now! It saved a boy tonight! It bound you and Black so tightly together that it brought you back to us! It gave Black enough courage to come here and fight alongside us tonight! It gave Evans enough strength to save her son when she faced death! It gave James the power to stand in front of Voldemort and protect his family from that danger. That's what it's done! That's what good it's done! That pact still binds Harry to his mother! That pact saved Harry's life tonight!"
Remus was quiet, and Moody took another swig from his hip flask.
"Those children who made that oath to each other," Moody said, "Now those were real heroes. They were scared out of their minds. They had been thrown into a world that they wanted nothing to do with. War surrounded them from all ends, and what did they do? They stuck together. They held onto each other. Their pact was love, Remus. Your pact was love."
Remus still didn't say anything. His eyes were burning. He wanted to cry. But he wouldn't. He never would.
"Love can't die," Moody said, looking back at the curtain, "And that's why the people who instilled it in your heart can't die, either. They always will be there, a part of them. A part of them ... what was that wording that he used," he thought for a moment, and then nodded to himself, "Ah, yes. Forever alive."
That had only been last night.
Remus had gone home, and had been overtaken by the memories. By dreams. By sorrow. And now he sat in the Ministry car, the rain falling outside. Pounding on the window.
He stared straight ahead, still seeing Sirius's eyes before he died. Still seeing the light ...
"Lupin!" Moody growled, now standing outside the car. It had stopped, and they were now outside the Ministry of Magic, again. It seemed as if they had been sitting there for a while.
"Come on, man," Moody said, opening the door and helping him out, "Let's get this over with."
Remus followed Moody outside and through the dumpster entrance. They landed in the Atrium lobby, and Remus stopped abruptly. The fountain that had stood intact just last night was ruined, and the scene was covered with Aurors and authorities. The Daily Prophet writers were scouring the room, looking for anyone who may give them answers as to what had happened.
No one he recognized was on the scene.
"Come on," Moody pushed him along, "It's this way."
The Memorial had been moved from its original spot behind the Auror offices to a large room off of the Atrium. A small golden door with the inscription, "The Drums of War Beat Loudly Through Time" stood in front of them. And Remus felt his knees buckle.
This was the moment that he had feared for so long. To enter that room again.
"You saw Potter put his parents' names on the wall," Moody said, taking a seat on a nearby bench, "It's as easy as that. Now I'll be waiting out here for you. Say your goodbyes. No one will be listening."
Remus nodded, knowing what Moody meant. He opened the door, and stepped into the bright room once again.
All around him, the walls were filled with small names etched into the surface of the marble. They were the names of civilians, Order members, Aurors, and even Death Eaters who had all died in the first war so many years ago. Remus knew that this Memorial would be visited so many more times before the end of Voldemort. Maybe not by him, but by many others. The names would grow smaller, leaving room alphabetically for the new victims of hatred and fear. And then there would be more than thousands of names, but hundreds of thousands. Maybe even millions. He didn't know what the future held.
He looked above him, to the inscription that they had all read more than a decade ago.
TO THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES
DURING THE GREAT WAR
THEY WILL LIVE ON IN FREEDOM'S SPIRIT
And now below it, newly added just last night:
TO THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES
DURING THE SECOND GREAT WAR
THEY WILL LIVE ON IN FREEDOM'S SPIRIT
"Could have gotten a little more original," Remus said, a small smile cracking onto his face. He then turned to the wall, and looked to the names that fell in front of him.
There it was.
There they were. The two names, sandwiched in between James's parents. Those names were no bigger than the others. There was no story to go along with them. No explanation of how they had come to be there. No picture. Nothing. Just icy cold names engraved in marble.
Remus turned from the names, and went to another wall. B.
He had been a Death Eater, and had been killed by his own side. Remus had never met him personally. He knew him. But he had never said a word to him. He wondered why he had died. What story was behind Sirius's little brother?
He would never know.
He raised his wand, and pointed it at the name. Sirius would file in right behind Regulus. Remus opened his mouth to speak, but he couldn't. The words wouldn't come out.
He dropped his wand to his side, and stared at the space on the wall. His face reflected in the shining marble, and he saw an unfamiliar man.
When did I get old, he thought to himself.
Any trace of the boy who had known these people was gone. He had been killed with the wolf. The only one who remained was Professor Lupin, great confidant for all. He had grown in the past fifteen years. He had become who he was. And the Remus that James had known ... that Remus was no where to be found in his heart.
"I never forgot you," he said, his voice echoing throughout the cold and lifeless room. He knew no one could hear him. He knew he was alone. But he said those words anyway. Maybe for his own benefit. Maybe for the benefit of some Auror outside that just happened to walk by and listen to him. But he said those words for whoever may be listening.
"I never forgot you," he said again, looking to where Sirius's name would lay in a matter of minutes, "I told you I did, but I didn't. There were times when I forgot myself. Times when I forgot how it was to laugh. But I never forgot you."
No answer came from the cold wall in front of him. No ghosts would visit him now. No pranks. No games. This was real life.
"I remember when we were younger," Remus said, standing straighter, "And there was this one match that James was playing. Just a regular match, like every other one. But you were so busy to get to it. You said we were late. You said I took too long to get ready. That I was meticulous in everything that I did and it didn't ... didn't take a person that long to pick out a robe," he smiled to himself, "I haven't remembered that for years. I don't even know what year we were in. But ... it's just a small thing that one holds on to when they have nothing else to hold on to," he hesitated, feeling the tears well up again. But he wouldn't cry. Not again, "You were right, Sirius. I have changed. I've become a cold, heartless person. But I'm alive ... I'm ..."
He saw those eyes again. Those lightened eyes, looking at Harry.
"You left us," he said, suddenly angered, "You left Harry. You had just gotten back. You were going to take Harry in. And you had to go and play hero. Just like old times. Well, it wasn't a game, Sirius! You died! You ... died ..."
He bit his lip, and he felt the grip on his wand tighten, "I always tried to protect you four. I always tried to warn you, tried to keep you out of trouble. But I guess that I wasn't as strong as you two were. I was never as brave as you, Sirius," he looked to the wall that sported the Potters' names, "Or you ... James ...
He felt his feet carry him to James's name once more. He stared at it, for such a long time. He didn't say a word. His mouth formed a firm line, and his brow creased. His breathing became shallow, and he grew very still.
That face, with the black glasses and the brown eyes. The hair that continuously was being mussed. That cocky grin. That strut. It all came back to him.
"Moody was right," Remus said, a sound of realization to his tone, "You've been gone for over ten years. I haven't seen you since that night at Sirius's flat. But ... you've been with me all this time. You never really ... went away ..."
Remus looked back to the wall where Regulus's name stood, "You never left me," he said, his voice so quiet now that not even he himself knew if he was truly speaking, "Even when I turned into that monster. Even when I turned my back on you ... you never gave up on me."
He thought for a moment, and then with a look that one wears when they are seeing a scene only they can see, added, "That's the only reason why I'm still here."
He walked to the wall that sported the B names, and raised his wand once again, "Real heroes are forgotten," he said to the wall, "But you were more than heroes."
He readied his wand, and said quietly, "Well, Sirius, you're to go next to your brother on the wall. Moody's orders."
He felt the wand raise high in the air, and he heard his voice speak the name of Sirius Black.
The letters spilled out of his wand in a frenzy of light and wind. They floated to Regulus's name, and hung in mid air. Then, Remus couldn't believe what he saw.
The letters slowly turned away from the spot where they were supposed to have resided. Away from Regulus, and past Remus. They hovered in the middle of the room for a moment, before slowly flying to the wall opposite of the B's.
And it was there that the letters spun around each other, one flying in front of the other, until they had spelled the name "Sirius Black." Slowly, they lowered themselves into the marble, and the names around them shuffled out of their way. And the engraving fell into place. It glowed for a moment, illuminating the room in a bright yellow light, before growing dim once more, and settling itself there on the wall.
Remus slowly made his way to the wall where the name of his friend now lay. Had he done something wrong? Sirius was supposed to be on the other end of the Memorial ...
And then he saw it. Where the name had wedged itself.
Remus smiled to himself, as if only he and the room shared a secret between themselves. He nodded, still looking at those names.
And without another word, he headed for the door.
As the man shut the heavy gold door behind him, two boys stood next to the names newly arranged on the wall. Remus had not seen them. No one could. And if someone could have, they would have thought themselves going mad.
They were probably around eleven years of age, not much older than twelve. They stood, shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed, and looking to the man who had just left them alone.
The first was a little taller than the other boy, with longer black hair and a glowing expression on his face. Bright black eyes shone out, showing the world the beautiful spirit that lived inside this unbroken body. His companion was scraggly, with messy jet black hair and a pale complexion. His larger nose held his black glasses on his face, and his robes were brand new. He moved his hand to muss his hair as he grinned wisely to where the door had shut.
"Do you think he'll make it, Padfoot?" he said, eyes still intent on where that old man had stood just moments before. That man was so alien to him. He was so worn out from the world and the wars within himself and within others. This boy couldn't remember ever feeling pain like that.
Padfoot smiled a broad and honest smile. Only the kind of smile that an innocent child could posses. He nodded his head, still watching the door.
"He already has," he said, "He already has."
And then, as quick as they had come, the ghosts of the boys come and gone disappeared. Forever to watch the loved ones they had left behind. Forever to see the shadows of their happiest memories.
To Tiffany: For helping me through some of the hardest scenes, and for giving Sirius a heart.
To Alex: My oldest brother, who told me to begin this story in the first place. Without your idea, this story would have never been started, let alone have a title.
To Joanne K. Rowling: For making a beautiful world filled with suspense, mystery, adventure, horror, and most of all, love.SEE WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE AUTHOR OF "FOREVER ALIVE" COMING SOON!
"Pride and Fear"
A sneak peek of the new fanfiction by Mordred
Coming soon to fanfiction.net August, 2004
"The ones who lived, who truly lived, they make an imprint on our lives. They leave their mark in our hearts. They change the course of our fates and our destinies. Those are the real heroes. The ones who cared enough for a human being that they rewrote their futures." Alastor Moody, "Forever Alive"
The alleyway was dark. It must have been the dead of the night in London. But he feared nothing. He was the dead of the night. He had the protecting of two forces behind him now. One force was wanted, the other was an obligation.
Severus thought to himself what had happened that night that he and Albus had met again. It had been playing in his mind for so many months now, spinning around and around in his head. The fire. Lucius. Dolohov. The laughing.
He shook his head, and gave out a deep breath. How long would he have to sit here, waiting for them to show up? It was just like them, thinking they could play their games with their little mouse. Their little prisoner. Moody hadn't liked him from the beginning, he knew. But at least he had been civil to him last time. He hated meeting with Frank.
After their last encounter, he didn't want to ever see that man again.
"Come on," he said, his breath coming out in cold icy breaths, "Come on, you stupid git."
And right on cue, came Longbottom strolling down the alleyway.
"You're an hour late," Severus spat, walking to meet the Auror. Frank didn't look too worried with his promptness. He had the look on his face that resembled sour milk. He knew what that look meant.
"I will show up when I want to show up, is that understood?" Frank snarled, pointing a finger at Severus, "We're not running on your schedule here."
"You are if you want my help," he snarled back, and then he leaned up against the wall of the alleyway, "Now, something very important came to attention at the meeting we had tonight."
"What was it," Frank asked.
"I need to tell Albus myself."
"Well, you can't do that. He doesn't want to see you."
"Oh, I believe he does," Severus said, his eyes narrowing, "I'm very sure that he does."
Frank knew he couldn't strike him down. He knew that Severus was untouchable. But it was an Auror's instinct to attack a slimy Death Eater like him, no matter how reformed he was to have become. Severus knew this.
Good, he thought, Let me toy with them for a while. Let them be my mouse.
"Tell me what was discussed, and then I'll decide whether or not you get to see Dumbledore," Frank said.
"Oh, couldn't you say please?" Severus said, a small grin falling onto his face. This Frank Longbottom reminded Severus so much of Potter it made him sick. He wondered if Longbottom was going to hex him next.
"Listen, Snape," Frank said, grabbing the boy's collar and dragging him close, "I don't play your games. I know how you operate. And I'm not about to fall for it. Now you either tell me what's up or I'll make you."
Severus glared at Frank. But Frank didn't look in his eyes. Not directly. No one ever did. They knew what would happen if they did.
"Let go of me now," Severus hissed.
It was a moment of complete hatred before Frank set him down and Severus brushed himself off. He looked to the Auror for a moment, and then back to his arm. Frank couldn't see it, but under that cloth, the mark was still there. Burning into his heart.
He had never wanted to fight for Dumbledore. He had never wanted to become a turncoat. What would Klien say if he knew what he had done?
But looking at Frank, he knew there was no escaping his fate. Albus had bonded himself and Severus together that night, and there was nothing he could do. He was left, between sides, not even knowing what he was fighting for anymore. What sort of man was that? Who didn't even know what he was risking his life for?
"Now what did you find out," Frank pressed.
Snape glared, and said, "Headquarters were broken into tonight, weren't they."
"Yes, they were," Frank said.
"Do you know how?"
"No, we don't know ..."
"A piece of parchment was given to Voldemort," Severus said, "A parchment that held the secret to your little hideout. One that may have been given to a recruit, no doubt?"
"Yes, we give our recruits slips to read so they know where Headquarters are," Frank said, eyeing him.
"Well," Severus said, "Do you make sure to collect them when they're finished reading them? You know, it could be a very dangerous thing leaving important information lying out and about like that," he pulled the slip of paper from his pocket, and handed it to Frank. Frank grew pale.
"I ..." his jaw grew hard, "Diggle. That ... that idiot ... that ..."
"Alastor believed that it was one of the recruits of the year 1978, didn't he?" Severus said, "The spy? The same year I graduated?"
"Yes," Frank said, "He did."
"Well," the boy went on, "He wasn't too far from the truth. The only way that the traitor, whoever he may be ... and I have not the slightest idea of who it could be, mind you," he added sarcastically, "could have known those certain facts about Potter and his family is if he was very close to him. A recruit that is close to James. Well, that only fits three men, now doesn't it."
"Why is this important," Frank said.
"It is important, because your dear heroic martyr James Potter is in trouble," Severus said, "The Dark Lord spoke of him and his son tonight. He is planning on using this traitor to lead him directly to Potter, and there will be no small talk this time, Longbottom. No Dumbledore to save him from the great powers of Tom Riddle. Oh, no," Snape's eyes grew darker, "This time, he has a plan that will make sure Harry Potter doesn't live to see the age of two."
Frank grew quiet for a moment, before heading back out to the street.
"Where are you going?" Severus said.
"To tell Albus," Frank said, "James is at St. Mungo's ..."
"I will be coming with you," Severus started to follow Frank out of the alleyway, but Frank turned around, and stared him right in the eyes. Snape was taken aback.
"I'm warning you, Snape," he said tersely, "One wrong move, and I'll blow you to bits. Do you understand?"
"Perfectly," Severus said, with the upmost loathing for this man, and followed him out to the streetlight.
Snape. The evil boy who had bullied James Potter and his gaggle of friends all the way through school. Now brought to the "right" side of things not by his own free will. All of his life, he had been pushed about by men like Frank. And while others, like that idiot James, sat down and cried, only protected by his bigger and stronger lapdog ... well, Severus didn't want a lapdog. He wasn't a lapdog. Not even to Dumbledore.
All that he had known and was taught ... all of his beliefs ... were opposite to Frank. And because Frank did not believe in them, the people who did were considered evil and wrong.
There are a lot of wrongs in the world, Longbottom, Severus thought to himself, And I still haven't come across one right.