Author: Girl Who Writes
Word Count: 2,614 words in MSWord
Prompt: Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Less Travelled".
Summary: The sun is lower in the sky, and fear is being replaced with grim determination. "Don't be a hero, Remus. Just be alive."
Author's Note: For some utterly bizarre reason, the poem worked better for me in reverse. This story was written as part of rtchallenge at livejournal's February Ficathon.
And that has made all the difference
They sit around the kitchen table, their faces in muted shades of grey, as the Order slowly reports its findings, slowly realising the outcome of what they have been working for. Hestia Jones lets out a breathy sob, burying her face into the sleeve of her robe, and Dung rests his hand on her shoulder, his face unfamiliar in its seriousness.
He stands in the doorway of the kitchen, his face drawn but unsurprised at the news that has been presented to the Order. He's lived this hell before, and his eyes are on two people at the other end of the table.
Harry is taller and skinnier than James ever was, and whilst he is pale with terror of what he faces, there is the light of determination shining from Lily's eyes. Underneath the table, Ginny clasps his hand tightly in hers.
She sits next to Harry, running around the rim of a half-finished cup of hot chocolate, her face mimicking the same fear, the same resignation that the others have. But her hair is still bubblegum pink, like a talisman against whatever is coming.
Moody shifts and clears his throat. "Hogwarts school tomorrow, at sunset," he says gruffly. And he flounders for something else to say, but there really isn't anything else to say. 'Good luck, hope you all come out alive? I know some great places for artificial body parts?'
No one wants to leave the House of Black tonight – they want comfort and reassurance and a presence. Tonks' cat, Snitch, has since moved in because no one wants to be alone in the middle of a war.
He finds her in the room that they share, sitting on it with the cat in her lap, staring off into space. He sits beside her, taking one of her hands in both of his, and she turns toward him with bright eyes and the ghost of a smile.
"How's Harry doing?" she asks, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
"I don't know," he says truthfully, kissing her temple. "I wanted to make sure you were alright."
"Absolutely fine," she smiles at him, but he brushes the tears still sticky on her cheeks away with his thumb and she falters. "Scared beyond any measure." She bites her lip and puts her cat back onto the bed. "Let's find Harry."
Harry is in the library, and far from being alone. Ginny, Ron, the twins and Hermione are there with him, but they are all silent, just staring. Remus admires the tableau for a moment; Ginny with her body resting against Harry's legs, who is sitting on the couch, next to Hermione, who is clutching both Ron and Harry's hands so tightly her knuckles are white. The twins are sprawled beside Ginny.
"Are you alright?" Remus asks as he and Tonks enter the room. Ginny offers a thin smile and grabs Fred's hand tightly. "A silly question."
"Are you okay, Professor?" Hermione looks up at him and Remus is astounded that the young woman before him is the same child he taught. He is dismayed to reaffirm that they may all be older, but they are still children at heart.
"I've done this once before, Hermione. I'm more worried about you all. You can't stay up all night worrying," Remus watches as Tonks sits beside Harry, her legs tucked up underneath her, her eyes still faintly red.
"Can't sleep," George mutters back, charming a foot rest to canter around the room.
"Go and try. We have a good deal of time before we have to set off for the school. If you're still awake in an hour, I'll see Molly brings you up some sleeping draft." He's surprised to find out how easy it is to slip back into the role of the Professor they all liked, and even more shocked when they all heave themselves up and make for the stairs.
Except Harry; Harry sits next to Tonks, and they both watch as he comes over, motioning for Harry to scoot over, and he sits in the middle, wrapping one around Harry's shoulders, and one around Tonks' waist and they sit in silence until Arthur finds them.
"Best go to bed now, Harry, get some rest," Arthur says with a kind smile and Harry nods. "Molly's making you children something to help you sleep tonight, so don't worry about nightmares."
Harry goes to leave the library, pausing at the doorway to stare at Remus and Tonks together one last time before he goes upstairs, his tread heavy.
With Harry gone to bed and Arthur having left them in private, he turns to his lady, pressing a kiss to her nose that elicits a smile, and she stands up, reading to retire for the night as well. And when they are tucked up in bed together, finding out that skin on skin contact is more soothing than any potion, she cries, her tears slipping down her cheeks and he kisses them away.
Tonks' is in his arms and he is almost asleep when he hears her whisper to him.
"Don't be a hero, Remus. Just be alive."
And I took the one less travelled by
There are no tears from anyone the next morning. Courtesy of Molly's sleeping draft, most of the Order slept deeply and much longer than anyone predicated. Moody yells about being unprepared and constant vigilant, and Molly burns the bacon and yells at Bill for sitting in Ginny's seat, before pulling him into a hug, her face white.
White and red could be the colours of the war, Remus has decided. White for the fear, for the fresh bodies and for the shock. Red for the blood, but that's fairly obvious.
They seem to shadow each other all day; she's by his side everywhere he turns, and he finds that it calms him about what's about to happen. She and Dung spread out the dozens of weapons they've accumulated, and Godric Gryffindor's sword is handed without question or ceremony to Harry.
The sun is lower in the sky, and fear is being replaced with grim determination. Moody stands at the front of the group and shakes his head.
"Some – maybe all - of us won't be coming back tonight." His magical eye rolls in its socket and Remus shudders, reminded of the fortune tellers in Knockturn Alley his parents dragged him to as a child. "Watch your back, and don't hesitate, because they certainly won't. CONSTANT VIGILANCE."
They've got a few minutes before the port keys are ready, and Molly and Arthur are surrounded by their red haired children. Harry and Hermione are exchanging words by the door. And he turns to the pink haired girl beside her and kisses her hard before handing her something he acquired on the quiet.
"In case," he whispers to her. And she nods, kissing him back.
"Come back, Remus," she murmurs to him. "Harry and I need you. This isn't like the last war."
And she grips his hand tightly in hers, and before they gather around the port keys, Harry walks over and hugs him tightly because Remus, his knowledge and his quiet presence has been the most consistent thing in Harry's life – which is sad to Remus considering he missed out on the first twelve years of Harry's life.
Remus looks at the black haired boy who was never James to him, and the pink haired woman who was just the right amount of brightness, and reaches for the port key, and wonders if any of them should've taken stock in the morbid calculations made by one Sybil Trelawney.
Two roads diverged in a wood
It would be easy to be that hero Tonks' accused him of; he has always found it far easier to be Remus Alone, to give it everything it takes, even if it's his life. The last war, his friends thought he was the traitor. This war, there are people crying for fear of his fate and begging him to come home safe; this is a novelty to him. That at the end of the battle, he will have a life and a purpose, and that if he dies, he will be mourned.
After James and Lily's death, Sirius's imprisonment and the assumed death of Peter, Remus never thought he'd be mourned by anyone.
The grounds of Hogwarts are eerie as the Order, as the Auror force, as ordinary witches and wizards step up to defend their freedom. And Remus sneaks a look at the large crowd for a girl with pink hair.
He remembers Sybil Trelawney as a rather bizarre woman who insisted he was waiting for something pink (a prediction Severus had taken much sadistic pleasure in) and told him something odd about tea leaves and mushrooms. But maybe there is some backwards sense of fate in Sybil's ramblings. Maybe he survived the first war because of a pink haired woman and a black haired boy.
And the irrational side of Remus that demands revenge for every unkindness, every moment of pain and humiliation from every individual who has spat in his path wonders if he can turn the Killing Curse pink just for Severus.
But only for a moment. The sky is getting darker, and maybe it's the sheer terror of facing a battle at the age of thirty seven, but Remus likes to think he is still here, alive, because Harry needs help and because maybe he deserves Nymphadora's love just a little bit.
The pop of Apparation jerks him back to reality, and he raises his wand.
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Tonks is used to bodies; she works for the Ministry, and politics has never been a lemon-fresh sort of business to get into. But she got to learn excellent sorts of hexes and wear the boots her mother hated, and it seemed like the best idea at the time.
She's been prepared for this her whole life; maybe before, because she still is the daughter of a Black.
There are bodies. She doesn't pause to figure out Death Eater from Order members, monster from student. She just fires off more curses, and tries to block out the screams of terror. She sees Lucius Malfoy throw the Killing curse at a friend of Harry's – Ernie? She cries out for the boy, and looks up into the face of the man who is her uncle by marriage. The man who murdered a school boy.
But there's Hermione there to take Lucius out with a stunning spell, a burn down one cheek and a
nasty looking wound on her shoulder but still standing and that's good enough for Tonks.
This battle is taking far longer than she ever thought it would.
And then she hears something she has been sensitive too for a long time now – the snarl of a werewolf. Not Remus; the moon isn't full. No, she's is greeted with Fenrir Greyback, who tosses the body of a child aside and grins at her with blood stained teeth.
He's talking to her but her attention has been caught, she jerks her head around to see Lord Voldemort, flanked by Bellatrix and Peter Pettigrew, duelling with little Harry Potter.
Rule number one of Auror training: focus your entire attention on your opponent; do not be distracted.
Maybe she should have been concentrating on Greyback more, but she's faced with the monster that cursed Remus when he was six years old. The monster that eats children for the pleasure with a human mind.
He's closer when she turns back to him, her wand still tight in her hand. He says something about Remus and she just watches him, tensed and ready for whatever comes. Another Auror fatality to Fenrir Greyback. She was born a metamorphmagus, she's used to being a statistic by now.
And then, before she or Greyback can make another move, Remus is shoving her out of the way and Greyback is laughing loudly over the yelling.
And then there is a curse shot at her from behind and she is faced with Wormtail, his silver hand glinting in the moonlight. The sorry looking little man who destroyed lives for want of being accepted. James, Lily, Sirius, the boy Cedric…
He is a sorry looking person to have killed so many people. But he smiles at her and utters a spell that hits Remus directly in the back, and there's a scream and it takes a moment for her to realise that it's her who is screaming so awfully, and Remus is yelling in pain, and she wants to yell some more because it's a familiar yelling from Remus.
And on the battlefield that was once a school, Remus's body rips itself apart of reforms in a werewolf, and it's Neville who stuns Peter clear across the field.
There hasn't been any Wolfsbane since Snape.
Greyback is laughing loudly, as the Wolf stalks around him in a circle, and eyes both her and a wounded Ginny Weasley, growling deeply. But it is Greyback that the Wolf leaps at, spitting and snarling, and Ginny is pointing her wand at the two wolves; whether or not Greyback is transformed, he has rewritten the laws of brutality. Ginny's hand is shaking, and Tonks reaches into her robes, feeling quite cold and sore.
The gun is loaded with silver bullets. Maybe Remus knew that such a spell existed, or maybe it was a gesture of chivalry to keep her safe from the one thing he feared the most in this war.
She pulls the trigger twice, aimed at the wolves. And Ginny screams and Tonks barely feels her body hit the ground, only realising when the mud is soft against her cheek.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
The stink of blood rises from the Hogwarts ground as the Boy Who Lived staggers from the mess of ash and silver blood that was once the Dark Lord Voldemort. He blinks into the moonlight and looks at the bodies littering the grounds.
He sits on the grass and wonders if he's the only one who survived.
No. There's Professor McGonagall, limping towards him, with tears on her face and the proudest smile she's ever worn. There are the two grinning twins, who appear to be covered entirely in dirt, and Moody's emerging from the fog, spitting blood and teeth to the ground. Some people lived.
Remus is wearing a dead Death Eater's robes, his own destroyed during his transformation. Fenrir's body lies limp, more pelt than man, a few metres away, two bullet holes in the back of his neck.
She's there, looking shaken and beaten and covered head to toe in mud, but there. He helps her to her feet, and can hear other survivors close by.
His arm is wrapped tightly around her waist. They will be identifying and burying bodies for months, imprisoning people for weeks, and cleaning up the battle for years. He's lost friends, family and students to the war, and there will be more pain before there is peace, or happiness, or that sense of freedom without fear, but Nymphadora and Harry lived through it and that's all he hoped for.
And he kisses Tonks again, in the middle battlefield for being his hero.