A/N: This is it, everyone. We've reached the last chapter of the story. It has been one fantastic journey, and I'm so glad that all of you were there to take it with me. All of your reviews have made me smile or made me think, and they've all helped to make this story better. I've loved reading your insights. You've spotted things I never even realized I had written, and your suggestions have definitely shaped my writing. I'd like to give special thanks to LogicalRaven, who has literally been with me since Day One of Before Harry: The Marauders' Tale.
I'm not going to do an epilogue as I had initially thought, because I really like the way this chapter ends. I think it draws the story to a good close. However, I'm definitely not ready to let these characters go, so . . .
I'm already working on my next story! I'm still working on the outline and the prologue, but my plan is to set a story about these adult characters during Harry's fifth and sixth years. My very realistic goal is to have the first chapter posted by September 1.
Thank you again for all your support. I love you all, and I'm so glad that you've followed my characters for so long. Thank you! Michelle
I don't own Harry Potter.
The Strength to Persevere
"… I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere … in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
- Christopher Reeve
The next morning again found Remus awaking on Olivia's couch. He was alone this time; Dana had tucked Olivia into bed when they had returned from James and Lily's house. Dana had stayed with Remus for awhile, then had gone home to be with her mother and daughter. Unwilling to leave Olivia alone, Remus had slept on her couch for the second night in a row. As he pulled himself into a sitting position with some difficulty, he wondered how many more nights would be spent this way.
He looked up at the sound of Olivia's voice. She was standing in the archway between the living room and the hall that led to the bedrooms, still dressed in her pajamas, looking at him in confusion. She reached up to run a hand through her bedraggled hair.
"Good morning," he said, standing up.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
Remus smiled at her bluntness. "I didn't want to leave you alone – not after what happened yesterday."
Olivia sighed as she walked into the room, dropping into a cushy armchair. "I'm sorry I fell to pieces like that."
"It's all right," Remus replied. "You've been through a horrible ordeal, Liv. You're allowed to grieve. You're allowed to fall apart."
"You never do," she said, looking up at him. "You're going through the same hell I am, but you've managed to stay together."
Remus shook his head. "We both lost three of our best friends, Liv, but in addition to that, I only lost another friend. You lost your fiancé, and, if I may be so bold, the love of your life. There's no comparison between the two."
She ran her hands through her hair. "Still . . . you amaze me. Really, you do. How do you do it, Remus? How do you stay so in control?"
He smiled sadly. "Too many years of dealing, I suppose." He touched her shoulder as he walked past her chair. "I'll go make us some breakfast."
"Is Dana still here?" Olivia called after him as he walked into the kitchen.
"No," he called back, waving his wand to hold the door open. "She went home last night after you fell asleep."
Olivia got up from her chair while he was speaking and made her way to the kitchen. She leaned on the open door, watching him work.
"You could have gone home, too, you know," she said at last. "You didn't have to stay."
"I know," he said, turning to look at her. "I wanted to stay."
"Remus, you don't have to keep babysitting me if you don't want to," she insisted. "I'm a big girl, and I can take care of myself. I promise, I'm not about to do anything stupid, and I'm not going to do anything to hurt myself." She sighed, and ran her hands through her hair, pausing to hold it back from her face for a minute. "Sirius isn't worth that. Not if this is the person he really is."
Remus smiled sadly again. "Liv, did it ever occur to you that I'm here as much for me as I am for you?"
She looked at him quizzically. He sighed.
"Olivia, believe me, I'm feeling most of what you are. And I'd far rather wake up in the morning and make breakfast for the two of us than wake up alone in my empty house."
"I never thought . . ."
He smiled sadly. "You know, when Laura died, I almost couldn't see the point of getting out of bed. Why bother, when it was just me in the house? But then Lily started coming to visit – you know, she came over every day with Harry. And I was horrible to her, Liv. I barely even spoke to her. All I would do was play with Harry. But she kept coming, and she kept bringing Harry with her. It hit the point when I knew to expect her. I knew when she would come, and I knew what she would do when she got to my house. I knew what Harry would want to play with, and when he'd want a snack. I knew when Lily would leave to take him home for his nap.
"And, after a few weeks, the most amazing thing happened," he continued. "I started to look forward to their visits. I started to see the point of getting out of bed, because I was excited to play with Harry. I was excited to see if he had learned any new words or any new skills. I even started talking to Lily more. Not about Laura, of course, but about stupid little things that didn't mean anything to anyone. It wasn't what we talked about, it was that we talked. The human contact, the friendship – that was what brought me back when I lost Laura."
He smiled slightly. "I'm trying to do that for both of us now, Liv. I'm trying to make sure that neither of us slides down into despair so far that it takes an almost heroic effort to bring us back."
Olivia swallowed hard. "You're the best friend I could ever ask for, Remus."
He smiled, and blew her a kiss. "I hope you still think that after you've tasted my cooking. And I warn you, I am going to insist that we eat today. Yesterday was horrible, so we're excused. But we can't go two days in a row without eating."
"All right," Olivia agreed, taking the plate that Remus offered her. "I'll just keep quiet if I don't like it."
Remus smiled. "That's my girl."
Remus again went home for a shower and change of clothes after breakfast. He was beginning to think that he should just keep an overnight bag at Olivia's flat. It would be easier than this constant commuting between their two houses. But even as the thought went through his head, he banished it. This was not a permanent arrangement; it was only a method of comfort until the worst of the heartbreak was past.
Showered and dressed in clean clothes, Remus wandered into his kitchen, trying to remember if he had any food that was on the verge of spoiling. If he did, he should take it to Olivia's to use for lunch or dinner. As he walked into the small room, he noticed a new envelope sitting on the table. Frowning slightly, he stepped forward to pick it up.
The envelope bore his name in purple letters. He was sure that it had not been there when he had arrived home. Tearing it open, he pulled out the letter inside. His stomach turned to stone as he recognized the delicate, ornate script of Mrs. Pettigrew on the page. He lowered himself into a chair and forced himself to read the short missive.
"Firstly, please let me tell you how terribly sorry I am about all that's happened. I've lost my Peter, but I know that you and your friends are suffering just as much as I am. I'd like for you to be with me when we bid farewell to Peter. His body was never recovered from the explosion, but they were able to find a finger that has been identified as his. I'm going to hold a short service this evening to honor his memory. I'd like you to come to my house at seven for the memorial. I know this is short notice, but the Minister of Magic wants to be there, and this is the only time that she could come.
"Please do try to come, Remus. It would have meant so much to Peter, and it will mean so much to me if you can come. He always said that you were one of the best friends he had ever had, I know that he would be happy to know that you had come to say goodbye.
"I hope to see you this evening.
Remus had just finished reading the letter when a pop sounded. He looked up to see Olivia standing in his kitchen.
"Did you get the letter from Peter's mum?" she asked.
"I just read it," he replied.
She nodded. "So, seven, then?"
"Seven it is," Remus sighed. He looked out the window for a moment, then looked back at his friend. "I really, really, really don't want to do this, Olivia."
"I know," she replied. "Neither do I. But we have to. We have to be there for Peter."
Remus nodded. "Seven."
The fireplace burst to life, and Dana's head appeared in the flames. "There you are!"
"Dana," Remus said, moving forward to kneel down in front of the fireplace. "Did you get the letter from Mrs. Pettigrew?"
"Yes," Dana replied. "Are you both going?"
"Yes," Olivia said, joining Remus at the hearth. "Can you make it?"
Dana nodded. "I've arranged with my supervisors to have the next two weeks off. They even said that I can take more time if I need too." She smiled sadly. "Apparently, being friends with the parents of Harry Potter can win some impressive privileges."
"Work," Olivia murmured. "Oh, God, I haven't been to work in two days! Moody's going to think that I've quit!"
"I wouldn't worry about it," Dana replied. "Like I said, 'friend of Harry Potter and his parents' goes a long way to convincing your superiors that you deserve all the time off that you need."
Olivia shook her head. "This is Moody we're talking about here. He doesn't think the way normal people do. I have to go talk to him. But you're coming tonight, right?"
"Yeah," Dana replied. "Should we meet somewhere first?"
"Come here," Remus offered. "Say six thirty?"
Dana nodded. "All right, then. I'll see you tonight."
She disappeared with a pop, and the green flames died down. Olivia turned to Remus.
"I have to go to work," she said. "I need to make sure that I have everything straightened out with Moody."
"Go," Remus replied with a nod. "I'll see you tonight."
Olivia kissed his cheek. "Thanks, Remus. See you then."
With a pop, she Disapparated.
An unnatural hush shrouded the Auror department at the Ministry. Olivia walked through the halls, trying to make as little noise as possible, wondering what had happened. She thought back to the horrible day when James and Lily had died, and the jubilant celebration when the Aurors had learned that Voldemort had disappeared. What could have happened to turn their mood so dismal? And where had everyone gone? Each hall she walked down showed closed office doors. Were the Aurors working behind them, or had they all been called into the field? A door to her right opened, and a head popped out.
"Livie? What are you doing here?"
"John," Olivia smiled. "Thank goodness. I was starting to think that the entire staff was gone. Why is it so quiet here?"
John's face was ashen as he looked at her. "You haven't heard?"
"About Frank Longbottom?"
"What about him?"
"Oh, man." John grabbed her hand, and pulled her into his office. "Liv . . . there's no easy way to say this . . ."
"Just tell me, John," Olivia said wearily. "After all that I've been through, a little more bad news won't hurt."
John drew a deep breath. "Frank and Alice were attacked by Death Eaters last night."
"What?" Olivia exclaimed. "But how is that possible? Voldemort is gone!"
John winced at the sound of the name. "Yes, I know that, love, but apparently these Death Eaters were trying to find him. They thought, for some reason, that the Longbottoms would know where to find him."
"Oh, no," Olivia moaned. "Did they kill them?"
"No," John said slowly, "no, it's far worse than that. They used the Cruciatus on them as a form of torture. I think they had planned to torture them until they gave the information that they wanted."
"But they didn't have that information," Olivia said fearfully.
"Exactly," John sighed. "They tortured them too long, Livie."
"They are both in St. Mungo's right now," he said slowly. "The Healers are trying to reverse the damage, but they don't think they're going to be able to. The Longbottoms are – well, they've lost their minds. They're insane."
"Oh, God!" Olivia exclaimed, clapping her hands over her mouth. "How is this possible?"
"I know," John said, pulling her close against him. "I know."
Olivia clung to him for a moment, trying to regain her composure. "Is that why this place seems deserted?"
"Yes," John replied. "Everyone's pretty subdued. Moody's even been quiet today."
"Moody . . . I came to talk to him about when I should return to work."
"Oh, man, Liv, I'm sorry," John said, clapping his hand to his forehead. "I was supposed to tell you. With everything that's happened, I totally forgot. Moody said to take as long as you need to get yourself together." He smiled slightly. "Actually, he followed it up by saying that an Auror who isn't completely focused on the job is a waste of space on his schedule, and he doesn't want to see you again until you're ready to devote yourself to your work like you did before."
Olivia smiled in spite of herself. "That sounds like Moody."
"Yeah," John said sadly. "Listen, are you okay? I talked to Mum and Dad, and they said that you were a bit off yesterday."
"You should know better than to listen to Mum and Dad where my feelings are concerned," Olivia said stiffly. Despite her conversation with Remus and the fact that she had made up with her parents, she knew that she would never completely forgive them for all that they had said against Sirius – particularly now that they were right.
"They're worried about you, Livie," John said, watching her closely. "You've been through a lot in the past couple days. No one should have to deal with all that's happened to you." He tipped her chin up so that he could look into her eyes. "I'm worried about you, too."
"Well, don't worry about me too much," she replied. "I'm not fine now, but I will be."
"If you need to talk, I'll always be here for you."
"I know, John. But, really, I have my friends, and I know . . . I know we'll make it out of this okay as long as we're there for one another."
Her brother looked at her for a long moment, then nodded. "Okay. But just remember that I am here for you, and that I care about you."
"I know you do."
"And, Olivia, Mum and Dad care, too. They really are worried about you. I know they were never excited about the prospect of having Sirius as their son-in-law, but they never wanted something like this to happen, either."
As they had so many times in the past few days, tears filled her eyes again. "John, I really don't want to talk about this right now. Can you just tell Moody that I was here and that I'll let him know when I'm ready to come back to work?"
"All right," John said, his eyes full of concern. "You take care of yourself, all right? Go home and get some rest."
"I will. I promise."
"Good girl." He folded her into his arms again. "I love you, little sister."
"I love you, too."
Remus, Olivia, and Dana went to Mrs. Pettigrew's house together that evening, all clad in dark, somber dress robes. None of them wanted to go; it was almost an impossible task to bid farewell to yet another of their friends. Peter's memorial service also served as a reminder of the horrible plans they had begun that afternoon for the funeral for Lily and James.
They Apparated down the road from Mrs. Pettigrew's house, wanting to delay the moment when they would have to see her. They walked slowly up the road. Remus walked between the two girls, wondering if they were drawing strength from his presence as much as he was from theirs.
They finally arrived at the Pettigrew house, where the backyard had been arranged for the memorial. Rows of chairs faced the setting sun. A picture of Peter in happier times stood in front of them, next to a small box. Other pictures of Peter with his friends and family lined the sides of the yard. Several wizards were already there, all walking around to look at the pictures and talking quietly.
"Oh, you came," Mrs. Pettigrew said as she came forward to greet them. "I'm so glad. It's so good to see Peter's friends here."
"Of course we came," Remus said softly, hugging her. "We had to be here for Peter."
"Of course," she said, moving from him to hug the girls. "You'll have to look at the pictures – there are quite a few with you all in them."
"Thanks, Mrs. Pettigrew," Dana said softly. "We'll go look now."
Several more people came in, and she stepped away to greet them. Remus turned to the girls.
"Shall we go look at these pictures, then?"
"Yes, we might as well," Olivia agreed.
They walked around slowly, looking at all the snapshots. There were many of Peter as a baby and a small child, looking cheerful. Remus couldn't help but note that although many of the pictures featured Peter with his mother, none showed him with his father.
"Where's his dad?" Dana whispered as they walked. "He's not in any of these pictures."
"Maybe he was the family photographer," Olivia shrugged.
After all that he had heard about Mr. Pettigrew, Remus highly doubted that that was the reason for his absence in the photos, but chose not to comment. Olivia had continued on down the row, and turned back to her friends with a sad smile.
"Look, Remus, here's one of you and Peter."
"That's from our first year," Remus said as he and Dana joined Olivia in front of the picture. "James took it – I remember. It was at the end of the year, right after we got our exam marks. See that paper in Peter's hand? That's his passing Defense exam. I helped him study, so James said that we should take a picture to show what teamwork can do. There should be one of him and James with his Transfiguration exam – yeah, there it is. And we took one of him and Sirius . . ." He trailed off. "Well – that one isn't here."
"She's not going to display pictures of his murderer," Olivia said a bit harshly. "Come on, let's keep going."
They made their way around the pictures, finally stopping in front of the largest one next to the box. Peter grinned at them from the picture, winking as they stepped closer.
"It's a good picture," Dana said, swallowing hard. "It really looks just like him."
"Yeah," Remus agreed hoarsely. He looked down, and noticed what was beneath the picture.
Resting on a cushion of red velvet lay Peter's finger. Revulsion filling him, Remus clamped his lips together tightly, fearing that he was going to be sick, and stepped away. Olivia and Dana looked at him in confusion, then looked down. They quickly followed Remus, both a little green.
"Shall we find seats?" Dana suggested.
"Yeah," Remus said, swallowing. "Yeah, let's sit down."
They had barely managed to sit down when the service began. Looking around, they saw that Dumbledore was there, along with many of their professors from Hogwarts. Remus noted that not many of their classmates had come. He had always assumed that Peter had enjoyed the reflected popularity that came with being friends with James Potter and Sirius Black. Apparently, that popularity had died along with James, or perhaps even so long ago as when they had graduated from Hogwarts. The idea of so few people caring that Peter had died brought fresh tears to Remus's eyes.
Remus was dimly surprised to see that the first person to step to the front of the group was none other than the Minister of Magic, Helena Powell. She smiled sadly at them for a moment before beginning to speak.
"We have all come together today to remember Peter Pettigrew," she said slowly. "He lived his life as a devoted son and a good friend who, until his death, tried to help those he counted among his friends. I am certain that by this time, all of you know how he died. He gave his life to avenge the deaths of his friends. His actions were nothing short of heroic, and he will always be remembered as a hero."
Olivia gave a dry sob and shook her head as though telling herself not to cry. Remus reached out for her hand. She grasped his hand firmly, not daring to look at him. She knew that if she looked into his teary eyes, she would lose control and start to cry again.
"I know that nothing that I or anyone else can do will ever bring Peter back. I know that he will never be able to spend an afternoon with his mother again. But I hope that what I have to offer will be some small comfort. Mrs. Pettigrew, if you would please step forward."
Mrs. Pettigrew walked slowly to join the Minister, clutching a black lace handkerchief in her hand. Minister Powell smiled sadly at her.
"Mrs. Pettigrew, on behalf of the Ministry of Magic, I would like to present you, in your son's name, with the Order of Merlin, First Class, in honor of Peter's heroic actions in the face of danger and imminent death. His sacrifice will not be forgotten, nor will it be denied the honor it deserves."
Sobbing quietly, Mrs. Pettigrew accepted the award. Minister Powell reached out to shake her hand, but changed her mind, and instead pulled her into a comforting embrace.
Remus swallowed again, and reached his other hand out to Dana. She took it and looked up at him, her face streaked with tears.
"He would be so happy, wouldn't he?" she whispered. "He did that all by himself."
"Yes," Remus sighed. "He'd say that he finally managed to make his father proud."
He looked at the setting sun, thinking that it was a perfect symbol of the past few days. Together with his friends, they had been as happy and as bright as the blazing sun. But during the past few days, true colors had been shown, and now the bright light that had lit their world for so long was burning out.
"Mummy, please let me go outside and play!"
"Fine, go out!" Molly Weasley said crossly, waving her hand toward the open back door. "But when I call you in for bed in fifteen minutes, you'd better not complain!"
"No, I won't!" Percy said cheerfully. He bolted out the door before his mother had a chance to change her mind.
Molly watched him go, then turned around at the sound of a crash. "Wait – what are you – Fred, George, no!"
She ran off to rescue her three-year-old twins from the books that were shooting across the room at them. They both laughed as the heavy tomes landed all around them, never touching them. Molly waved her wand to put the books away, and brushed her hair back from her face.
"Oh, what was I thinking to want another?" she sighed, running her hands over her rounded abdomen. She looked at the clock, then went back to the window, where she could see the five-year-old Percy poking around in the garden. "Percy, ten minutes!"
"Okay," Percy called back. He continued his exploration of the garden, trying to find gnomes. He thought they might make fun pets. He was sure that his dad would agree – but he'd have to work to convince his mum.
As he turned leaves over, he noticed something furry hiding. He sat down in the dirt, bending plants to get a better look.
"Percy! Five minutes!"
"Okay, Mum!" he yelled before moving another plant out of his way.
The small animal jerked as though trying to jump out of sight. But Percy had become quite determined to discover exactly what had found its way into his garden, and persistently followed it.
"Hello," he said when he had finally uncovered the rat. It looked up at him with a frightened expression. "You don't have to be scared," he said. "I won't hurt you."
He picked the small animal up, and studied it critically. It looked healthy enough, except for its front paw, which was clearly wounded.
"What happened to you?" he asked. "How did you get hurt?"
The rat remained silent in his hands, still looking terrified. Percy patted his head.
"I'll take care of you," he said. "I'll bet my mum can fix your paw. She's good at making people better."
"Percy! Let's go! It's time to get ready for bed!"
"That's her," Percy informed his new friend. "Come on, we'd better get inside."
"Good," Molly said as Percy trooped inside a moment later. "Go on upstairs and wash up for bed. I'll be up in a minute to tuck you in."
"Mummy, look what I found!" Percy said, ignoring her orders.
"What, dear?" she asked distractedly.
"Look!" Percy said again, holding out the rat.
"Gracious, Percy!" she exclaimed, jumping back. "What are you doing with that? You shouldn't have dirty things like that in the house!"
"He's not dirty!" Percy said indignantly. "I think he's cute. And he's hurt, Mum. I can't just leave him outside if he's hurt."
"He's hurt?" she said, bending down to look at the animal critically. "What's wrong with him?"
"I don't know, but his paw looks just awful. Look, it's all bloody." Percy looked down at the rat, then up at his mother. "Can I keep him, Mummy? Please? I'll take really good care of him, and make sure he heals right. Please?"
Molly sighed. "If your father says it's all right, then it's all right with me. Go ask him."
"Thanks, Mum!" Percy exclaimed, skipping off to find his father. He knew that his dad would grant permission.
"Looks like your mine now," he said happily to the rat. "I'll have to think up a good name for you. I promise I'll take good care of you. You're going to love living here."
Remus dressed in his best dress robes with slow, deliberate motions. He looked at himself in the mirror that hung in his bedroom and sighed.
"It's only a few hours," he whispered as he brushed his hair into place. "Only a few hours, and then it will be over. They will be laid to rest."
He bit his lips, and turned from the mirror. Yes, in a few hours' time, the funeral would be over. But where would that leave him and all the others who were left aching and broken but James and Lily's sudden, violent departures from their lives? How could they pick up the pieces of their shattered hearts and move on?
A pop sounded in his living room.
"Remus? Are you here?"
"Right here, Liv," he replied, walking out of his bedroom to meet her. He smiled sadly as he looked at her. "You look lovely."
"Thanks," she whispered. "So do you."
Olivia looked away for a moment, then turned back to him. "Are you ready?"
"Yeah," Remus replied. "Let's go."
They both Disapparated, reappearing in Godric's Hollow. They had elected to have the funeral there, near the last home that James and Lily had known. The church they had chosen for the ceremony was still empty when they arrived. Floral arrangements sent by the Potters' friends adorned the simple building. Olivia looked around for a moment, her breath catching in her throat.
"Remus, I don't know if I can do this."
"You can," he said. He put his hands on her shoulders, forcing her to look him in the eye. "You listen to me, Olivia. It's only a few hours, and then all this will be over."
"It's never going to be over," she whispered.
"Don't," he said hoarsely. "Don't, Olivia. I . . . I can't do this without you. Please, please don't make it harder than it already is. Please, be strong enough to be here with me."
She looked into his eyes for a moment, then threw her arms around him. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'll stay, I'll be here for you . . . I won't leave you, Remus, I promise."
"Thank you," he whispered, burying his face in her hair.
They both looked up to see Dana standing in the doorway, holding her daughter in her arms. Without saying a word, they both stepped forward to hug her. Remus took the baby while Olivia and Dana clung to one another. He looked at them for a moment, then looked down at the little girl in his arms.
"Hello, Miss Laura," he said. "You look quite lovely today."
She looked up at him with her mother's dark eyes. After regarding him solemnly for a moment, she smiled. Remus smiled back at her and tickled her, making her giggle.
"It's been awhile since the last time we saw one another," he said to the baby. "Do you remember me?"
"Of course she remembers Uncle Remus," Dana said as she released Olivia. "Come here, Remus. Give my baby to Olivia so you can give me a hug."
Remus complied, hugging her close. Dana pulled back and looked up at him.
"You're going to be all right, you know," she said. "We all are."
"Oh, Dana, I really hope so."
"I know so," she said simply. "After all we've lived through, Remus, I know we can live through this, too." She smiled slightly. "We're stronger than we look."
He leaned down to kiss her forehead. "Thank you."
Others began to arrive, all pausing to offer their condolences to the three friends who had lost so much in one night. When the professors came in, led by Dumbledore, Remus, Olivia and Dana all had to fight back their tears. They knew that they were there to mourn James as their colleague, but also to mourn both James and Lily as their students and friends. Hagrid came in at the end of the group, and made his way over to Remus, Olivia and Dana last.
"It's going to be all right," he said, tears sliding silently from his eyes. "They gave their lives to keep Harry safe, and you know that's all they ever cared about. We know that they died knowing that Harry would be safe, and that's enough to make sure they'll rest in peace. And, thanks to Dumbledore, we all know that Harry always will be safe."
"But at what cost?" Remus asked bitterly. "He's not going to have a happy life with Petunia."
"Ah, Remus, you're being too hard on her," Hagrid replied. "I know she's a Muggle, but not all Muggles are bad."
"This one is," Olivia said harshly. "She's never going to treat Harry the way he should be treated."
"He'll be okay," Hagrid said bracingly. "Dumbledore will make sure of it."
"That I will," Dumbledore said as he joined them. "You all know that Harry will never be far from my mind. He will have far more people looking out for his well-being during the next few years than most children do in a lifetime. He will be fine."
"Fine?" Olivia repeated. "Even if he's living with that horrible woman?"
"Petunia is not horrible, Olivia, she is frightened of something she does not understand," Dumbledore said softly. "And even if Harry is not fine, he will be alive and safe."
Soft organ music filled the room, and Dumbledore nodded to them.
"I think we should take our seats."
Remus, Olivia and Dana were shown to a pew in the front of the church. After all that had happened, they were the only family that James and Lily had left.
The service was short, but poignant. The readings spoke of the hope offered by the new life James and Lily had entered into. The priest gave a short sermon speaking to those same ideals, then called Dumbledore to the pulpit.
The headmaster walked up to the front of the church and took the priest's place at the pulpit. He looked at all of them for a moment, reminding Remus of the way he began each school year at Hogwarts. However, this time the smile was missing. The sparkle was gone from his eyes. The joy at addressing those around him simply was not there.
"My friends," he said, opening his arms to include them all, "we have come together for the most awful of reasons today. We are here to bid farewell to James and Lily Potter, who were two of the brightest, most talented people I have ever had the pleasure to know. Their deaths are a horrible result of the war that has ravaged our world for so many years, and are a reminder to us all that death does not discriminate. It does not select only those who are too old to continue on or those who are too ill to face another day. It attacks those who are very young, who stand at the threshold of their lives. It steals life from those who were barely given a chance to live.
"But James and Lily would not want to be remembered for the tragic way that they died. They would want to be remembered for the vibrant way that they lived. They would want to be remembered as the professor and the journalist who used their gifts to spread their love and wisdom to those around them. They would want to be remembered as the children who adored their parents, as the couple whose wedding melded wizard and Muggle traditions, as the friends whose loyalty and trust in those they held dear astounded even me. They would want to be remembered as the parents who found out about their pregnancy when they and many others thought they were too young to raise a child, but who fell in love with their son before he took his first breath. They would want us to think of them as the parents who loved and adored their child to the point of sacrificing their own lives so that he would have a chance to live his."
He paused, looking around at all of them again. "James and Lily Potter touched the lives of everyone seated in this room. They made all of our lives better just by being in them. Their legacy lives on in Harry, yes, but it also lives on in all of us. Honor James and Lily in all that you do. Remember how they defied the odd so many times to find such joy in their lives. Use your lives, as they used theirs, to work for good, both in the small world of your own life and that of your family, but also in the large world around us. For in doing that, in striving to be good friends, good parents, and good people, we allow James and Lily's light to shine through us. And in doing that, we ensure that they will never be forgotten, and that their legacy will always be allowed to live on."
Olivia and Dana both dissolved into tears as Dumbledore ended his speech. Remus put arms around both of them, letting them lean against him. He needed to feel the physical contact with them as much as they needed the comforting embrace.
When the service had ended, they went to the cemetery for the burial. The priest offered a prayer, and the mourners began to scatter, returning to the warmth of the hall for lunch. Remus, Olivia and Dana stayed to watch the caskets being lowered into the ground. Remus bent down, and picked up some of the loose dirt that would be thrown down to cover their friends' bodies.
"Here, girls," he said, dividing it among the three of them.
Olivia gasped quietly, and crushed the soil in her hands. Dana raised tear-filled eyes to meet Remus's.
"Shall we do it together?"
"Yes, let's," Remus whispered.
All three of them moved as one to toss the earth first on top of Lily's lowering casket, then onto James's. Unable to watch the caskets continued progress into the graves, both Olivia and Dana turned to leave. Remus stayed to the bitter end, watching as the caskets made their slow progress into the ground.
How many more times am I going to have to do this? How could a person reach the age of twenty-two and be able to say that he had already buried his wife and five of his best friends? There had to be some sense in all the confusion, some hope in all the despair . . . But he just wasn't ready to look for it. Not yet.
When Remus joined the other mourners in the hall for lunch, Olivia and Dana had already sat down. They were alone for the moment, but he was sure that the brief reprieve would be over soon. He was right; no sooner had he sat down than Andromeda Tonks joined them.
"I just want to tell you all how sorry I am," she said, hugging them each in turn. "I feel partially responsible for all of this."
"Andromeda, don't even think it," Olivia said as she hugged her. "There is no way that this is your fault."
Andromeda laughed harshly. "All those years, I thought that Sirius was like me. For all those years, we banded together, thinking that we were the two sane ones in our family. The Black family black sheep, we used to call ourselves. We made it through because we had each other – it was like having an ally. But now . . . now . . ." She sighed. "I would do anything to change this. Anything. I keep trying to remember if there was something that should have made me think . . . something I missed . . ."
"If there was something there, we all missed it," Remus said, clasping her hands tightly. "But we can't go back now. We just have to keep looking ahead. I know we'll make it. We'll all make it."
She nodded. "I know . . . I think this has been really hard on Nymphadora."
"Is she here?" Dana asked.
"No, I wouldn't let her come. She doesn't need to see things like this, not at her age." She smiled sadly. "She remembers Sirius the same way that I do – the laughing, teasing, fun cousin. The 'normal' member of my family. She can't understand – she can't believe that he would ever do anything so horrible." She paused and bit her lips. "I suppose none of us can. It's just easier for us adults to accept the truth."
"I don't know about that," Olivia said shakily.
Andromeda looked at her for a moment, then pulled her into a tight embrace. "I was looking forward to welcoming you into our family so much," she said. "You are such a wonderful person, and you were so good for Sirius. The two of you – I was sure you would make it."
Olivia pulled back, wiping her eyes. "I guess it wasn't meant to be."
"No," Andromeda sighed. "I suppose not. But I still consider you family, Olivia. If there's anything you need . . . if there's anything I can do . . ."
"Thanks, Andromeda," Olivia said. "I'll come and visit you and Ted soon."
"We'd like that," she replied. "So would Nymphadora."
She smiled sadly at them all one last time, then rose to leave. Once she was gone, Dana took a deep breath.
"Can I make a suggestion?" she asked.
"Of course," Olivia said.
"I'd like both of you to come home with me for a little while."
"To France?" Remus asked.
"Yes," Dana said. "I think you both need to get away for awhile, and I think we should all be together right now. Olivia, you said you have some time off. Why not?"
Remus looked at Olivia. "What do you say? Shall we go to France for a bit?"
"I'm going to need to brush up on my French," Olivia said slowly.
"Don't worry," Dana smiled. "My mum has picked up more than enough for all of us. What do you say? Will you come?"
Remus and Olivia looked at one another for a moment, then nodded.
"Let's go to France," Remus said.
"Fantastic!" Dana beamed. "You'll see. This is going to be just what we all need."
Dana was right. The two weeks in France proved to be therapeutic for all of them. While they knew at the end of their time together that they were not yet whole, they were on the path to becoming whole again. At the end of two weeks, their smiles came easier and their laughter wasn't forced.
Looking back, Remus always thought of it as the most relaxing time of his life, staying with his two best friends in the gorgeous part of southern France that Dana called home. Mrs. Morgan mothered them and Laura provided them with hours of entertainment. It was while watching her antics that Olivia laughed for the first time since the terrible night that James and Lily had died. It had shocked her when it happened – her eyes had grown wide and she had clapped her hand over her mouth - but she couldn't deny that it felt good to be able to laugh again.
The night before they were scheduled to leave, Remus was alone in his room, packing for the return journey. He heard a hesitant knock on his door, and lifted his head from his suitcase.
"Come in," he called.
The door opened slowly, and Olivia walked in. She closed the door behind her, and took her time turning to face Remus.
"Oh, no," he said, instantly tensing. "What's wrong?"
"What makes you say that?" she asked, turning around fully at last.
"You're hesitating," he said. "You never hesitate unless something's wrong. What's happened now?"
She drew a deep breath. "Remus, there's something I need to tell you."
"All right," he said, sitting down on his bed. "Sit down a minute."
She sat down next to him, and took his hand in hers. "These past few weeks have been wonderful, haven't they?"
"Yes," he said slowly, wondering where she was going with this.
"Remus, I – I really feel at home here."
"Mrs. Morgan has gone out of her way to make us feel welcome, hasn't she?" he smiled.
"No – well, yes, she's been wonderful, but that's not what I meant."
"What did you mean, then?" he asked, cold dread filling him as he realized what she was planning to say.
"It's been really good for me to be away from home," she said. "I finally understand why Dana wanted to come so far away after Aidan died. Sometimes you just need to be somewhere completely new, somewhere where nothing can remind you of all that you've lost. Sometimes you just need to go away to be able to go on."
"Olivia, what are you trying to tell me?" Remus asked with forced calm.
"Remus, I'm going to go home with you tomorrow as planned," she said slowly. "But when I go back to work, I'm going to ask Moody if I can transfer to England's French Auror division. I know we have Aurors who do international work, and I know that there's an opening in the French office. I want to see if he'll let me take it."
"You want to stay here permanently?" Remus asked, still making himself stay calm.
"Yes," she whispered. "Oh, Remus, please don't hate me. Please, I can't bear it if you hate me."
"I could never hate you," he said softly. "Never. Don't even think that. I just – I'm just going to need some time to get used to it. When do you think you'll move here?"
"I'm going to tell Moody that I'll go as soon as possible," she replied. "Dana said that I can stay with her until I find a place, and then I'll be on my own."
"Dana already knows?"
"Yeah, I wanted to talk to her about it, to see if she thought it was a good idea. And, Remus, I honestly think this is the only way I'm ever going to be able to go on with my life. If I don't leave, I'm going to see my parents all the time and know that they're thinking that I'm better off without Sirius. I'm going to go into my office every day and look at Sirius's empty desk, remembering all that he did. I'm going to go home every night and look at Lily's empty bedroom and think of how she died. I know that I could move to a new flat, but I can't leave my job. It's all I know, and it's what I love. I need to be an Auror, and, if I come here, I can still do that without constantly being reminded of Sirius."
"If it's what you need to do, then you should do it," Remus said, knowing how much the words were costing him. "I'm just going to miss you so much." His voice broke, and he looked away from her.
"I'm going to miss you, too," she said, putting her arms around him. "Do you know how hard it was for me to come here and tell you this? I was more scared to tell you than I was to tell my family, Remus."
He smiled slightly, and kissed her forehead. "We are family, Liv. We always will be. The miles won't change that."
"No, they won't," she said. "We'll still see each other all the time. I know you'll be here all the time to see Laura."
"Of course," Remus smiled. "I don't know if I'll have time to see you and Dana while I'm with Laura, though."
Olivia laughed, then sobered. "Why don't you stay, too, Remus? What is there for you in England? You could stay with Dana and I, and you and I can help her raise Laura."
Remus shook his head sadly. "England is home," he said simply. "As much as you need to be away, I need to be there. I need to be close to them – all of them – and I have to be there to do that." He paused, and looked out the window. "I want to be close to Harry," he said softly.
She sighed, and laid her head on his shoulder. He put his arms around her to draw her close.
"You'll take care of yourself, won't you?" she said softly.
"Of course," he replied. "Will you?"
"How could I not? I'll be with Dana and her mother. But you'll just be with you."
"You've forgotten that I'll be with my own mother," he smiled. "She certainly checks up on me."
"I suppose so."
"Actually, I don't think that I'm just going to sit at home."
Olivia shifted so that she could look up at him. "What are you going to do?"
"I want to keep studying." He smiled slightly. "It is what I excel at – reading, taking notes, and writing papers and exams."
"Where are you going to study?"
"I'm not sure yet," he said honestly. "That's the part I still have to work out, but, Liv, I'm going to make it happen."
"What are you going to study?"
"The Dark Arts," he replied simply.
"Remus!" she gasped, jumping back to look at him. "What do you mean?"
"I'm sorry!" he said quickly. "I didn't mean it like that! I'm going to study them as a method of learning defense! I'm not planning to start another Dark Rising!"
Olivia laughed with relief. "You really scared me for a minute there."
"I'm sorry," he said again. "I just meant that I want to learn everything I can about the Dark Arts, and the best methods of defense against them. I'm talking everything, Liv: curses, rituals, dark creatures, dark objects, history, the works. I want to know everything I can, so that when Voldemort returns, I'll be ready to fight against him."
"Where will you have to go to do all that?" she asked in awe.
"I think I can get most of it right in England," he said. "I may have to travel a bit, but that's all right. I'd like to see more of the world. I've really liked learning about France. But I don't want to move away permanently. I want to know that I'll be going home to England after a few weeks or months away."
She nodded. "You can do it, Remus, I know you can."
He smiled. "I appreciate your vote of confidence."
"I'm serious," she said. "You are the type of person who can do anything he puts his mind to, and you've certainly put your mind to this."
"Not just my mind," he said softly, shaking his head, "my heart is in this one hundred percent, as well."
She looked at him quizzically.
"I'm not just doing this for me," he clarified. "I'm doing it for Harry, too."
"If he's anything like his dad, he's going to grow up wanting revenge against the thing that took his parents from him. When Voldemort comes back like Dumbledore says he will, Harry's going to want to fight him. I want to learn all that I can about the Dark Arts so that I can help Harry learn to defend himself against them."
"You're planning to be a part of Harry's life?"
"If I can be, that would be great, but even if I can't be, I'd like to think that he'll be able to benefit from my knowledge. Maybe I'll help a teacher that he has, or maybe I'll even write a book that he'll pick up. One way or another, I want to be able to help him. Since I can't have him with me, this is the only way I can think of to do that."
"It's tough to think of James and Lily's son growing up without us, isn't it?"
"Yes," Remus replied. "But I still want to make a difference in his life, if I can."
"You will," Olivia said. "You make a difference if the lives of everyone who knows you, Remus."
"Flattery will get you nowhere," Remus answered lightly.
"Don't brush me off," she said seriously. "You're a wonderful person, Remus, and you do make a difference. If you hadn't been there for me those first few days after . . . I don't know what I would have done, but I can promise you that it wouldn't have been pretty. You're the one who kept me going, and I'm never going to forget that. I'll always love you for it."
"And I'll always love you for the help you gave me then," he replied. "Without you and Dana, I don't know where I'd be right now. Your support has meant the world to me."
A knock sounded on the door, and Dana pushed it open.
"Oh, you're both here," she said. She looked at Olivia quizzically. "Have you . . . ?"
"She's told me," Remus said. He motioned for Dana to join them on the bed. "I'm okay with it."
"Are you, really?"
"I really am," he smiled. "I know we're always going to be friends, regardless of where we live."
"He's right," Olivia said. "We'll always be there for one another."
"We've supported each other through the most horrific thing any of us could have ever imagined, and we've come out stronger, because we've been together," Remus said.
Dana hugged him. "I was afraid you'd think I was stealing Olivia away from you."
He laughed. "You are. But I'll forgive you. I know that you'll both always be with me in spirit, no matter where we all are."
"Of course we will," Olivia smiled, taking his hand.
Remus reached down on his other side, and took Dana's hand. Holding both of their hands firmly in his, he smiled at them.
"We'll always be there for one another," he said. "No matter what, we stick together."