A/N: Many thanks to Sveltskye, for the finishing touches; Gryffinjack, for the encouragement, and keeping me on my toes; Alezandrian, for perspective; and the rest of the WWR pack for the support.
Disclaimer: I admire JK Rowling for the fabulous world her imagination has created; I have made no profit from playing in her vast backyard. The words that follow are mine, other than a few quoted lines from the final chapter of The Order of the Phoenix.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
One Day at a Time~ The Starting Point
Remus Lupin paused at the doorway of
Twelve Grimmauld Place, exhausted after yet another long day at the Ministry.
On only one other occasion had he felt so utterly drained. Tomorrow he would
return to the Ministry and the process would begin anew, explaining the events
of six days ago to a group of Aurors yet again. With the reactivation of the
Death Eaters and the return of Voldemort everyone over the past few days had
been interrogated several times by Aurors. This left precious little time to do
Order assignments. Staying busy was good in that it provided one with little
opportunity to think, and Remus didn't want to think about the events of the past
week just yet. Much to his dismay, this was proving to be difficult, since
every time he entered headquarters half a dozen people seemed compelled to ask
him how he was feeling.
Arthur Weasley came up behind Remus giving him a weak smile; the two of them entered together. Remus was sure that Arthur was hoping there would be several people at headquarters tonight. The other evening had been terribly uncomfortable since it was just Molly, Arthur and Remus. Arthur and Molly seemed to be walking on eggshells whenever they encountered Remus. In fact, last night, Molly had made note that Remus seemed to be very much his usual self with one exception- he was quieter than usual. Remus was heartened upon entering to realize there would be ten in total for dinner that evening. The idea of getting lost in the in the crowd was an attractive one.
"There you two are!" came the slightly too animated voice of Molly Weasley. "Well, we can all sit down to eat. I'm sure that everyone could use a nice, hot meal."
For a second, Remus considered stating he was not hungry, and then he realised it was just easier to sit and push the food about his plate than to argue. In any case, the din of the surrounding conversation would provide a welcome distraction. If he just kept busy enough until sleep overtook him, he would not have to think. His body was aching, telling him to retreat to bed, but Remus knew that, as exhausted as he was, he was still too alert. He would wait until much later to retire. Then, if he fell right to sleep, he wouldn't have to think. If he were especially fortunate, his dreams would be bland or nonexistent.
A low, feminine voice brought Remus back to the present. "Things still tense down at the Ministry, Arthur?" Emmeline Vance asked guardedly.
"Afraid it is, but considering the number of proven Death Eaters who were employed there, it's only to be expected," replied Arthur, sounding a bit more irritated than he probably intended. "There is a bit of over precaution concerning who is loyal to whom."
Kingsley Shaklebolt added in a resigned tone, "I wish I could do more to make your jobs easier, but now that I have been exposed as a member of the Order I'm afraid I spend my days answering the same questions over and over again! They just haven't a clue about what we all..." Kingsley's voice trailed off there, clearly suppressing the anger in his voice.
Serving himself from his personal hamper, Mad-Eye Moody gritted his teeth as he spoke. "If Fudge had been this bloody careful a year ago none of this would be necessary. If you want to talk about who's really to blame for-"
"Well, this stew is delicious, Molly," interrupted the merry voice of Nymphadora Tonks. " I missed your cooking this week at St. Mungo's." To Remus, Tonks appeared to be back to her usual self, having spent five out of the previous six days at St. Mungo's. Well, truth be told, there was a difference; she seemed to have acquired Molly's overly animated, positive tone.
Each of us has our ways of covering, thought Remus. Does she miss Sirius as
much as…Remus knocked over his wine goblet, causing a minor stir.
"Not to worry, not to worry," said Molly, as she cleaned up the ensuing mess. "Emmeline dear, could you lend a hand?"
Brilliant, just brilliant, could I possibly draw their attention any more?
Emmeline Vance looked compassionately at Remus as she refilled his goblet. There was a bitter and wounded tone in her voice. "Day after day you trudge back to those fools at the Ministry who understand everything and nothing. You must be beyond worn-out." She paused as though considering carefully her next statement; her pale blue eyes meeting his gray.
Diversionary tactics immediately
required; I am fooling no one. Breathe, breathe, that's it ...Harry...shift
Remus decided to tell the group about an idea that had occurred to him earlier that day, when he had overheard for the umpteenth time, "Wonder how young Potter is getting on?"
Remus slowly and carefully chose his words, regaining his controlled veneer. "I thought that I might meet the Hogwarts Express when it comes in tomorrow and see how Harry's faring. Perhaps a little chat with Harry's Aunt and Uncle when the train arrives tomorrow might be in order as well. Judging from what Harry, Ron, and Hermione have described, I believe that the Dursleys will need a little reminder regarding their duties. They seem to be a bunch not overly encumbered by the burden of intelligence. I assume the effects of Albus' Howler have more than worn off." Remus paused before asking hopefully, "So, is anyone up for assisting with the job?"
"Well, of course Molly and I are going to be there anyway with Fred and George," replied Arthur. "I daresay your fears are well founded, Remus. Their utter indifference and neglect towards Harry have been both a blessing and a curse. I think it quite wise to, as you suggested, issue a reminder."
"I would like to go too," said Bill, "but Emmeline and I have business to follow up on at Gringott's tomorrow. Be sure to give us a full report, though. If half of what Ron has said about the Dursley clan is true, then the sooner someone speaks to them the better."
Kingsley Shacklebolt, Dedalus Diggle, and Mundungus Fletcher also begged off, citing Ministry duties, surveillance, and a business arrangement.
"After everything Hermione and Ginny told me last summer, I'm in," stated Tonks. Her voice then acquired a sharper tone. "Don't look at me like that, Molly." Molly Weasley, her mother hen instincts working overtime, had clearly been about to tell Tonks that she needed her rest. " I am fine to go and meet the train; I need to...to...do something! You know, my father has always been fond of this Muggle saying 'Walk softly and carry a big stick'. The way I see it, the more the better."
"I'd be happy to look 'em in the eye and see that they know their place, as well as reiterate the consequences of their failing to comply. That kind does not respond to subtle hints," added Mad-Eye dryly. "In fact, according to Hagrid, if I turned one of them into a pig…"
"Well," said Remus, cutting him off, heartened to know he'd be in good company, "I don't know if anything that drastic is needed just yet, Mad-Eye. Although, the suggestion of swine might prove helpful," he added thoughtfully. Remus continued, now addressing the entire group. "The idea is to blend in with the Muggles while we wait, so no robes. Come attired in your Muggle best. Let's all meet here by say 10:00 A.M."
The rest of the evening Remus managed to
blend quietly into the background. The group eventually dispersed near
midnight, and Remus was able to retire that night not feeling as downtrodden as
he had the previous evenings. Sleep came almost at once with the images of
trains, comrades, and promises filling his head.
At 9:45 the following morning, a motley group assembled in the kitchen of Twelve Grimmauld Place. Remus was chatting with Arthur as Tonks, the last of the party, came through the door. She inhaled sharply as she viewed the others. The explosion of colour was quite overpowering even for her senses "Um,…just what is it that you all are wearing?"
"Why, we always dress like this to meet the train," said Molly as she buttoned her red and purple stripped knit jumper with the pom-poms at the cuffs. "Is there something wrong?"
"Er... of course not, Molly," replied Tonks brightly, still rapidly blinking her eyes. "I guess I'm just not used to you all in Muggle attire. Why don't you, Arthur, and the two leprechauns over there go ahead? The rest of us will catch up. Better not let the Muggles see this mob. We wouldn't want to attract too much attention."
Molly rolled her eyes as she herded her husband and sons out the door. "I told the twins those suits needed better shirts. The white shirts are just out of place…" Her voice faded as they left the room. Tonks and Remus shared a knowing look; they knew the twins' shirts were the least of their problems. Fighting Molly's fashion sense was a battle not to be won.
"All right, as Tonks said it's wise that we wait a few minutes before leaving," stated Remus as he watched the door close. "Two smaller groups are less noticeable. While we were awaiting your arrival, Tonks, we decided that Arthur should make the first contact with the Dursleys since he has met them before. The rest of us can then add our sentiments."
"Actually, before we go... Remus," interrupted Tonks trying, but failing, to sound diplomatic. "We need to make a few changes with your attire, starting with that awful jumper. Where on earth did you get it? And Mad-Eye, that attire was popular in the 90's, but the 1890's not in 1990's! I know I nearly failed stealth, but you two clearly must have never taken Muggle Studies at Hogwarts. Whereas I am intentionally unique, you two and the Weasley clan are merely haphazard!"
"Why, what's wrong with this jumper?" said Remus, sounding a bit wounded. "Molly gave it to me for Christmas the year I taught Ron. The trousers and the overcoat I've had forever. I don't really have anything else." He didn't want to attract undue attention at the station, but he didn't want to be late either.
"Well, I think we can get by with minor changes," suggested Tonks, who now sounded guilty for hurting his feelings. "Perhaps if it is not too uncomfortable, you could wear the sweater backwards so that the orange RL is not showing, and next time Remus, navy blue shirts and black trousers should not be put together. I think the coat hides things mostly."
Tonks now turned her attention to Mad-Eye
and suppressed a giggle. She and Mad-Eye had fought this battle before. Attempting an exasperated tone, she said, "Mad-Eye, the
plumed hat must go, as should that staff. Really, it's as if you walked in from
one of those costume dramas my father is fond of watching on the Muggle
telly. Right now you look like a combination Moses and D'Artagnan."
Mad-Eye and Remus just gave Tonks blank looks as her reference flew past them.
" Never mind, I think I spied a bowler hat on the rack as I came in. I suppose
that would be an improvement."
Mad-Eye dug in his heels, "I'll give you the hat, missy. The staff stays; it was your idea in the first place! Remember, walk softly and carry a big stick?" Remus had to chuckle to himself; this verbal spar was proving to be the only unforced, lighthearted exchange he had witnessed in days. He was finding the mirth somewhat comforting. All that was left was to Apparate to the train station.
The train was just pulling in upon their arrival. Soon the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione was walking towards them down the platform, followed closely by Ginny.
"Ron, Ginny!" called Molly, she hurried forward hugging all of them. "Oh Harry dear--how are you?" Harry winced into Molly's embrace.
Remus stepped forward, seeing instantly that Harry detested having yet another person ask, "How are you?" as much as he did.
"Hello, Harry." said Remus quietly, trying to sound as normal as possible.
I wonder if my presence reminds him of our last meeting. Does he
associate me with Sirius falling behind the v...No, we can't have images like
that or I will not be able to continue.
"Hi." said Harry. "I didn't expect…what are you all doing here?"
"Well," said Remus with a slight smile, "We thought we might have a little chat with your Aunt and Uncle before letting them take you home." As the rest of the group approached the Dursleys, Remus hung back and stood close to Harry as a protective force. As agreed, he allowed Arthur take the lead. He would not be hesitant to speak if necessary, but for now he was certain that Arthur, Tonks, and Mad-Eye would be intimidating enough without him. Harry needed him where he was.
Vernon Dursley was a stubborn man; however, the group did seem to be making a dent into that thickheaded, and pompous skull. Arthur, Tonks, and Mad-Eye were making quite an impression. Remus knew that Vernon Dursley, like all bullies, would eventually back down when outnumbered.
Tonks' voice cut through the air, "…The point is if we find out you've been horrible to Harry-"
Remus, from the rear, could not resist adding pleasantly, "-and make no mistake we'll hear about it." The words were simple but pointed. Their implication could not have been clearer. Remus was a bit taken aback by the feeling that was coming over him. For the first time in days he had taken control over something; he had managed to accomplish a worthy endeavour.
As the group concluded its business, Remus looked into the green eyes of Harry that unsurprisingly still held the pain of recent days. He put a firm but gentle hand on Harry's shoulder as he said quietly, but still in control as he felt the emotion rise within him. "Take care, Harry. Keep in touch."
Remus stood alone, not taking his eyes off the son and godson of his dearest friends, as Harry departed with the Dursleys. He couldn't in honesty say that his pain had retreated, or that his sense of loss had abated. What he could say; however, was that he had made a difference, and that given, the tragic events of the last week, that was something. Yes, small though the gesture was, it was indeed something.
With newly found resolve Remus joined Tonks, Mad-Eye and the others.
One day at a time. If I think about Harry's future I can go on, one day at a time.