Rating: PG-13, for dark themes and language
Disclaimer: Can I say the characters belong to me? No? Okay.
Spoilers: Hardcore. Don't read if you haven't read HBP. Easy enough.
Summary: "'Tell me if you need any help,' she answered, feeling like the room was settling with smoke, like the aftermath of a bad fire." Remus and Minerva talk.Shehas doubt in a mysterious letter, the truth, and Remus.
It was untold, how the rest of the day would go. It was he who made big decisions concerning changes in the school day, but he was gone, and she wouldn't have to make such decisions if he hadn't died. She was angry, and had every right to be, even if she didn't quite know where to direct it.
God damnit, why did he have to die? Leave her here by herself, to run a school in times of war.
She had decided to just go to her classroom during first period, and she wasn't surprised to see not one student outside her door, waiting for her to unlock it for class to begin. She had forgotten that she suspended classes. She hadn't even called a staff meeting, to discuss their situation, and even though she worked well in bad times like these, she felt like she was long overdo for her second mental breakdown of the year.
But when she reached the door, and placed a hand on the doorknob, she found it unlocked. Not a sound could be heard through the door, and when she opened it she found the room vacant of students, the identical desks lined up just the way she left it. She entered the threshold, and just stared at the empty seats neatly lined up in rows, as if willing her students to appear. The castle was so quiet, and it felt like summer holiday.
Did summer break begin, and she forgot about it?
"They have a few more days," a hoarse voice said softly. She nearly jumped four feet in the air, whipping out her wand in the process. Sitting at her desk, leaning back in her worn leather chair, and looking up at her with the most neutral expression was Remus Lupin. She felt her hands trembling, fist clutching and loosening as she just stood there, staring at him.
"Did I say that out loud?" she asked, almost pathetically. She doubted the moment entirely, herself and him as well. He didn't answer her, barely acknowledging her question, or her, which made her question the man sitting at her desk. She didn't put away her wand, because he was making her uncomfortable, acting so unlike himself. She felt control in the room, a feeling that she always associated with him, but there was something else, something she couldn't place. It made her feel uneasy.
"Did you ever think any of this would happen?" he asked, rocking back and forth in the chair, with his hands gripping the arms tightly. He spoke to her wand, eyes never moving from her hand.
"I always thought he would outlive me," she admitted, coming to stand beside him, and leaning against the desk. She couldn't believe for a moment she didn't trust the man who broke into her classroom and was now sitting at her desk. She felt almost ashamed.
He smiled humorlessly, a look that didn't suit him at all. It reminded her sadly that he wasn't a child anymore.
But, she then thought even more miserably, he never really had the chance to be one.
"Minerva," he said, suddenly, sitting up and moving from her chair to the window overlooking the grounds, "I decided to leave the werewolves." She didn't say anything, so he continued, "If I return they will kill me. Last night proved to them that I wasn't on their side."
"I understand," she said, slightly moved by what he just said. The Remus she knew best what a man who was too stubborn to end anything, and especially something for the Order. He always played the martyr, but this time he was making the right decision. This time he didn't come off as hating himself.
Everyone in the Order had their own mission, their own battle within the war. Remus just ended his, not winning but not losing either. It was more of a surrender, or a retreat, with no casualties. She was thankful for that, thankful that he was deciding to use his head for once.
"Do you know where the Order will go from here? We weren't prepared for this, were we," she said truthfully, and he turned to look at her, expression unreadable only with his eyebrows furrowed slightly. There was a moment of silence, and the familiarity of it almost made her want to smile: he was thinking over something in his mind, and trying to be quick and secretive about it.
"What is it," she said, feeling her mouth break to form a small smile. Her face almost hurt from it. She felt like she was talking to a student.
"I have these theories…" he said, fading off and taking a seat in the nearest chair. He looked down at the initials carved into the old desk. His were probably on it somewhere.
"Is there someplace safe we can go?" he asked, looking up, his light eyes revealing uncertainty that made her uneasy, that made her give to feelings of doubt. He might be telling her something she wasn't ready to hear.
"The headmaster's office," she said automatically, frowning slightly as she said it.
"Good, because this is important," he said, same hoarse voice but with more emphasis. He stood up, and walked towards her, and she suddenly realized who they were: once a student and a teacher, then comrades of war, briefly two colleagues, and old friends. Did she ever stop to wonder at all those transitions? He stood in front of her, and she finally saw him as a full grown man, even if the years went by, more than she felt she could admit. It was all those situations that made her doubt his over all maturity, up to the one yesterday between him and Tonks. She felt she could doubt that, because he was ridiculously stubborn, even though she trusted him beyond anything. She couldn't remember when it was, sometime during the first war, that she began to see him as more than a young yet competent wizard. She forgot when she began referring to him as her friend.
Leaving the vacant classroom, she stood behind him, closing the door as they left. She let him lead the familiar route.
There was a very awkward moment when they entered the office. After a terrible pause at the doorway, she moved forward and took a seat in one of the comfortable chairs in front of the desk. She had considered it, but she wasn't ready to sit behind the desk yet.
Once he sat down, he leaned forward on his knees, and there was more silence. She could do nothing but watch him, somehow finding the way the muscles of his back moved fascinating as he leaned forward to take something out of his back pocket.
"Last night, as you know, or may not have known, I stayed over in one of the vacant rooms in the faculty tower," he said, unfolding the piece of parchment he had taken from his pocket, "and I was awoken in the middle of the night by Dumbledore's phoenix perched at the foot of my bed. He offered this to me, and took off at once. It's a letter," he cleared his throat, gesturing to the paper," addressed to me, from Dumbledore. And before you say anything, it was dated months back," he added, looking at her.
"Go on," she said, tentatively.
"It's rather interesting, actually. I don't know what to make of it, so I thought I would tell you," he said, leaning back and looking down at the paper in his hands. "Would you like to read it?"
"Does it do any good, Remus?" she asked, actually afraid of what it might reveal. She was let down enough these last few days.
"I don't know really," he answered, thoughtfully. He handed the letter to her and stood up, walking to the window and opening it. "Do you mind?" he asked, and she looked up to him holding a packet of cigarettes. And she thought that to be a phase of his youth…
"Yes," she sighed, watching him light one. He sat down on Dumbledore's old trunk, arm out the window to shake the ash off the lit cigarette.
"I'll give you time to read it," he said, looking out into the distance. She looked down, at the old familiar handwriting, looping and slanting:
My dear RJ,
How odd it is, to be writing this letter, knowing that at the time you will be receiving it I will already be dead. I want to say that I have come to terms with my "future death", if it so comes and that you are reading this letter. We all die sometime, my old friend. If I, such an old fellow, can acknowledge that fact, then you, a man wise beyond your years should be able to as well. I hope that if my death brings anything, it brings you acceptance of that.
Oh, what terrible things we sometimes have to discuss. This is my last reach for you, Remus, and I find myself struggling to find the words to say. Right now, on the day I am writing this letter, I know you are off on your self sacrificing mission, and you are struggling on in many ways to achieve what we have discussed. If your cover is blown, and your identity deceives you, you must listen to me, boy, and promise me you will put your safety ahead of the mission. If you are caught, flee. Your life is worth more than to die at the hands of those monsters. You have more important things to do than living underground with them, and I hope that I don't have to refer to our previous discussions to convince you. In fact, I do hope that you accept what I am telling you as an order, not a request. You have more important things to do.
War is such a serious matter, but you don't need me to tell you that, I'm afraid. It is our way of life we fight for, my boy, but you shouldn't come out of the war completely broken, like last time. You should not feel like you need to run again, like you did after the first war, because there are people here that need you. The Order needs you, Harry needs you, and I know there is a certain young woman who needs you the most, even if you are too stubborn to admit it. We have one life, Remus, and we should try to make the best of it. Or, if we fail to see the importance of life's little gifts at the exact moment, it always does best to look back fondly at those times. I hope you know what I am trying to tell you.
I must confide in you, and I hope that in turn you choose to confide in a person you trust completely about what I am to tell you. I have kept this to myself far too long, and if I so die, someone must know the truth about how and why. If you are reading this letter, it means either two things: I was unfortunately killed by Draco Malfoy, by the orders of the Dark Lord, or if that is not true, the boy failed to kill me, and you are all feeling seriously lost at the moment, betrayed by the one I told you to trust. I want to tell you about Severus Snape, Remus. I see you right now, in my mind's eye, sitting alone someplace secret and reading this, your mind spinning with hopelessness and fear. Follow me at every word, and I ask you, one last time, to trust me.
Before the first term began, Severus came to me, and for the second time in my life, I saw the man distraught. I am sure you can think of what might be the first time. At that moment, I must say I was nervous, because for such a controlled man, it is unheard of for him to seem distressed and worried. I sat him down with a cup of tea, and he told me his problem. You know, Remus, that he works to remain on both sides of the war, spying for the Order while maintaining his cover amongst the Death Eaters. He was always talented at some things, like juggling many problems at once, and remaining under control as he did so. No one in Voldemort's circle suspected him to be a spy, so it was natural for him to be asked to do things. Whenever this occurred, he would either come out lucky, and his tasks wouldn't have to be completed, or in some miraculous way, he got himself out of the situation.
He told me that Narcissa Malfoy came to him, explaining that Voldemort had asked her son, who was conveniently at Hogwarts, to kill me. You can imagine I was upset to hear this. No doubt, this was to be done to affect Harry, so the Dark Lord would have a better chance at getting to the boy. Severus said that Narcissa was greatly worried because she knew that if Draco couldn't do it, which was a strong possibility, Voldemort would harm him for not following orders. To protect her son, which was to make sure I was dead, she asked Severus to follow out the orders of Voldemort.
Any Death Eater, upon this request, would agree to follow through. Severus agreed to do just that. He made an Unbreakable Vow with Draco's mother, to secure the safety of her son and to make sure that I would be dead. All of this Severus told me, and sitting in front of me was the man who quite possibly would be my murderer.
But imagine the loss if Draco was unable to kill me. Surely he would die at the hands of Voldemort, and Severus would be known to have ignored Narcissa's request, betraying Voldemort completely. His cover would be blown, all of his spy work would be ruined, and the Order would be without a link inside the enemy's circle. We would be ruined, blind and out numbered by Voldemort. It would ultimately lead to our end.
And all that for the life of an old man. Remus, Severus sat in front of me and I told him quite clearly all I am telling you. I told him that if the situation comes to it, he must kill me, for the sake of the Order and his position amongst the Death Eaters. I lived my life, and I was satisfied with it, and with all that I have done.
We make our choices, and sometimes they prove to be wrong. Many years ago, Severus made the worst choice, to join the Death Eaters. He came to terms with his mistake years ago. He did what he could, and made the most out of it by spying for the Order. Sometimes our mistakes come back to bite us, and for him I think it did just that. He knows that, and he had to live with that all year, knowing that he would have to kill me because however evil the person, no 16 year old boy would be able to kill another human being.
You may think many things right now, but you can only choose one way to go about this. I imagine right now, lost in anger and grief, you feel betrayed. The Ministry right now might be hunting Severus, but they will only find him once they have found Voldemort, which they have failed to do so far. It is your responsibility to make a choice I hope is the right one. I can only aid you so far, Remus, seeing as I am not with you. Find Severus, because he won't first come to you, and don't give him all the grief you want, because he has suffered enough. Ask him to do what he has always done, to serve the Order while keeping cover. Trust me that he has not betrayed the Order, even if he has betrayed himself. All I can give you is that I know him better than you do. You don't care for him, I am aware of this, but he isn't so bad of a person. He is passionate, which may come off the wrong way in your mind, but he is only human. If I may say so, I believe you two have much in common, if you both gave each other the chance to find out.
I told you earlier that I have more important tasks for you to do. The Order is in chaos, I imagine, unable to do much without leadership. That's where you come in, Remus. Sometimes you find it hard to see, but you really are the most level headed person I know, and I wouldn't trust this with anyone but you. Over see all missions, if you can, and call together everyone for meetings. It is important that you find another headquarters, of course. Find help from the others, and trust them. Use the ministry to an extent, but don't let them know of the missions. Politics never did well with saving society from Voldemort. Importantly, Remus, trust yourself. Trust yourself as a man, and not that small part of you, the part you think controls you. Use the powers you have, my friend, the ones I know you sometimes fear people might not believe.
Please, Remus, try to give in to life's simple joys, and don't let them become lost amongst all the sufferings of war. Don't think they belittle all the seriousness of death. Life should not be about waiting for happiness to find its way, it should be about looking for light even in the darkest of places.
I am afraid this is good-bye for now, Remus, as I end this letter. We will see each other some day, hopefully not for a long time though.
I remain yours,
PS: Fawkes left you with this letter. He will find you again in time.
When she finished reading the letter, she found Remus staring at her from his position across the room. In front of her eyes was a man, sitting on an old wooden chest smoking a cigarette, with a look in his eyes that told her that even though she couldn't imagine him crying, she knew he did when he received this letter. There was a long moment of silence between them, and smoke began to fill more of the room because he had stopped exhaling it out of the window. She could see it swirling in the light coming from outside. The room never seemed so open before. She had so much to ask him, but she felt like she was intruding. As much as she knew Remus trusted her, she knew that if this letter didn't contain issues concerning the Order, he wouldn't have secretly told her about it. It was entirely too personal, and even though he invited her to read it, she felt like she was intruding on something between him and Dumbledore, something she knew nothing about.
"Do you think perhaps he is correct?" he asked, "About Severus?"
"Have you ever doubted him in your life, Remus?"
"I want to believe him, and that he's innocent, but there's a huge part of me that has gone numb. I have learned to accept betrayal, and I was preparing myself to accept Severus killing him," he said. She stared at him for a moment.
"But he did kill him. If you found him he would easily admit to it, even if he wasn't proud of it. It's fact," she said, somehow uneasy with him, "but we shouldn't hold it completely against him."
"I guess if Dumbledore accepted it, even before it happened, we should now. No, I never doubted Dumbledore. He gave me too much for me to not trust him."
"He gave you the Order, too," she said, gesturing to the paper she still held.
"The Order belongs to itself," he replied boldly, snuffing out the cigarette on the outside wall of the castle, she imagined, as he reached one arm down outside the window. His hand came up from the open window empty, and she almost felt like scolding him for littering on school property.
"Don't say that, not right now," she said instead, a little angry at his immaturity.Remus needed to learn how to accept some things, and for some reason, her mind kept wandering back to Tonks' emotional outburst a few days ago. Stubbornness led Remus to denying the poor woman of happiness for an entire year. He deserved a good smack for that, but now wasn't the time. Hopefully he was a good enough person to realize that.
"The Order needs a leader right now," she found herself saying, waving the letter in front of her, "and Dumbledore wants you. You wouldn't want his last wishes unfulfilled."
"I just wish he told me sooner," he replied, lightly rapping his knuckles against the open window.
"He probably didn't want to burden you, Remus. And you can't always get notice on these things. I wish he told us about Snape earlier, but we now have to deal with it, after it happened."
"What good would that have done? Dumbledore's death was certain long before it happened," he said sharply. Running a hand through his hair, he muttered, "Fuck. Imagine living with those thoughts. Him and Snape."
"I want to believe Severus has lived through worse, but this might have been it. The poor man." Remus shook his head.
"We're going to have to find him, Minerva."
"I know. And the Order must be informed of this. That will be your job."
"In time, we'll tell everyone else. I don't know how, but we must."
"Yes," she agreed, "it might be easy for us to believe, but convincing a lot of people about almost unbelievable truth is going to take a lot of patience."
"Not to mention," he added, "some don't have a hard time hating Snape. I know I was skeptical," he said, looking her directly in the eye.
"What's truth is truth. Usually one should be suspicious of letters written by dead men, but when I began reading this there wasn't much doubt in my mind. It is Dumbledore, after all." She paused, and folded the letter with the creases, and added softly, "May I ask, Remus, what is he talking about, 'the powers people don't believe in'?" She handed the letter back to him, and there was a long moment where they both glanced at each other. She felt like she did when she first noticed him in her empty classroom, doubting herself and not trusting him. She knew she wasn't losing it, and that she hadn't talked aloud for him to answer. He merely continued to look at her, and she continued to doubt.
"Why do you ask questions like that?" he said, almost sounding restless with himself and almost loathsome of the subject they were talking about, "Where the answers you are already certain of." She merely stared at him.
"I need to find Mundungus and hopefully Mad-Eye. We do need a new location for the Order," he said, walking towards the closed door. She stood up.
"Tell me if you need any help," she answered, feeling like the room was settling with smoke, like the aftermath of a bad fire.
"I will." He made a slight movement forward and with his hand not holding the parchment, as if to reach up and kiss her cheek, in the most forlorn way, which was so like him she didn't need the moment to happen. He left the room, and as the moving staircase took him past her line of sight she heard him say, without any necessity, "I will talk to you soon, when we begin looking at a new place." She was sure he said that just to hear his voice echo.
AN: Can you tell Dumbledore isn't my favourite character to write? This is my longest one-shot, and contains more than anything else I've written. Please be helpful and tell me what you think. :)