Notes: More like 6000 words, but hey. Post-HBP. I have a thing for Mature, Not-Annoying-Depressed!Harry. Also Harry-With-Two-Brain-Cells-To-Rub-Together. He can't be that oblivious. So this ficlet isn't much more than wish-fulfillment on my part... still, hope you like it. Opening and closing lyrics from "Let Your Troubles Roll By" by Carbon Leaf.
A Thousand Words
"Love endures, it clings away;
When asked to leave, it begs to stay.
Like the perfect song, at imperfect times -
It's the way the chords struck with the rhymes..."
Night had fallen and Ottery St. Catchpole was a mere smudge of deeper shade on the horizon by the time Remus Lupin, exhausted well beyond the breaking point, appeared out of thin air on the doorstep of the Burrow. The stumbling half-turn of his Apparition nearly sent him sprawling on the welcome mat, but he caught the doorframe in time and sagged there, spent. It took a long minute to pull himself together.
Order work was harder than ever these days, and less protected. Not that it ever had been, not really, but the name of Albus Dumbledore alone had garnered some respect. But even the trustworthy packs had become skittish since --
Remus set trembling fingers to the cold doorknob and flinched as a tiny static spark jolted up his arm. His nerves were oversensitive. He hadn't slept in... he didn't know how long. But even in his lamentable state he remembered to take care not to let the door squeak, and to keep his footsteps silent -- though if an enemy were inside they would surely have heard his clumsy Apparition already.
Ghosting over the threshold, through tingling invisible wards which recognized him instantly, he saw that a small light still burned in the living room, despite the hour. A few embers still smoldered in the hearth, and curled up in an armchair right next to the dwindling heat was Harry, a thick leather-bound book held right up near his nose so that the candle that burned behind his elbow cast enough light on the pages to read by.
Remus shut the door, allowing the latch to snick softly. Harry looked up, his eyes lost in darkness, his glasses reflecting the candle-flame from the inside. He gave Remus a small smile, and lowered his book.
"Should I have said not to wait up for me before I left?" Remus asked in a bare croak, his voice having been long out of use.
"I wasn't --" Harry began, slipping a bit of torn parchment into the book and closing it softly; "Ron's asleep and I didn't want to wake him with a light --"
Remus waved the explanation away. "Only joking, Harry," he murmured. His eyes felt leaden and his knees watery, but he nevertheless managed to ask, "How are things?"
"Everyone's fine." Harry stood. "Nothing's happened." He hesitated, then laid the book down on his chair and hurried to Remus' side, lifting one of Remus' arms around his shoulders. Remus thought about protesting, but he hadn't the energy and besides, he reasoned, it would be stupid to deny help he truly needed, pride or no pride. He eyed the distance from the front door to the hall, and decided his legs would stage a revolt before obeying him that far.
"Thank you," he whispered to Harry, who said nothing, but might have nodded -- Remus didn't turn to look.
Harry half-helped, half-hauled Remus along the hallway to the room that was temporarily his. The Weasleys had added a few more lean-to guest rooms to their already-crowded ramshackle home, in an attempt to accommodate all the comings and goings that the Order (not to mention the upcoming wedding) inflicted on them. For the moment, Remus lived there alone. He'd moved his belongings out of Grimmauld Place at last; with Dumbledore around he'd been willing to look after the place, even alone, even after... But the loss of their leader made Sirius seem less like a casualty of war and more like the point-man of a massacre. There was no comfort or purpose in holding down the fort at Grimmauld Place anymore, and Remus would rather be with friends when the dark came calling. He hadn't said that to Molly in so many words, but she'd understood.
"Should I even ask?" Harry inquired, shifting his grip on Remus' arm. Remus shook his head. Harry sighed.
Remus' room was at last in sight -- his bed, with his own pillows, not the softest bit of dirt or the nearest pile of leaves. Remus' aching body gave up the ghost, and he let Harry guide his boneless collapse so that he landed on the mattress rather than the floor. Distantly he felt Harry pulling his boots and socks off, and yanking the blanket out from under his inert form to drape it over him.
His eyes refused to drift shut; his brain refused to shut down. Too long without sleep made sleep impossible, he knew. It would take a little while for the weariness to overpower the adrenaline-fueled insomnia. He talked instead.
"May I ask what book was so fascinating you dared an open light to read it? At two in the morning?" Lying down on a real mattress was causing every vertebra in his back to burn with the fire of a thousand suns, but the sensation was slowly passing as he lay still and tried to relax.
Even through the dimness he was sure he saw Harry blush a little. "Well, I wasn't -- reading, exactly. It's a -- well, Hagrid made it for me my first year. A photo album. Of my parents, and stuff. I just -- I couldn't sleep, so..."
Memory surfaced -- dim and hazy, but definite nonetheless. Memory of
the briny smell of a stretch of Welsh coast that saw more fishing
boats than yachts -- a village, all shale and graying wood, and cold
rain outside the windows of a church where a small blonde woman
played the piano with her eyes closed. Her music transformed the
weathered rafters into gilt buttresses. He only went to church when
she was there; he thought he understood divinity a little better
then. The owl had been waiting for him at home
that Sunday, bearing the note from Hagrid and nothing
The owl had been waiting for him at home
that Sunday, bearing the note from Hagrid and nothing
Remus blinked again and tried to focus on Harry, but the soft haze of sleep had settled in at last. Even the ache of his half-adjusted back couldnt keep the darkness off. He twisted his mouth into a smile of thanks for Harry's help, but could not even manage a mouthed 'good night' before he was asleep.
"Remus is back," said Harry the next morning, sitting down to breakfast with a yawn. Weasley mealtimes were more subdued than they used to be, though Harry was not sure if this was a reflection of Mrs. Weasley's melancholy mood or if she was saving her strength for the upcoming culinary nightmare of Bill and Fleur's wedding.
"Is he?" Mrs. Weasley came over and began piling eggs on Harry and Ron's plates. "I heard the wards chime late last night..."
Harry nodded, digging in. When he had swallowed a bite, he said, "I was --" he hesitated, but covered it by swallowing again " --reading. Downstairs. He's in pretty bad shape, but I didn't see any injuries."
"Just tired, I expect," Mrs. Weasley sighed. "Works himself too hard, what with everything. He'll be hungry when he wakes." She immediately set about making enough food for (Harry thought) a whole army of starving werewolves, a bit of her old enthusiasm returning.
caught Ron's eye and glanced out the door, hinting. Ron nodded
and the two of them bolted the rest of their food in record time,
earning brownie points with Ron's mother by washing up after
themselves to clear space for her cooking. She smiled gratefully at
them -- Harry saw more wrinkles at the corners of her eyes than he'd
ever noticed before, and his stomach gave a strange uncomfortable
lurch. She's just tired, too
She's just tired, toohe thought. Thatís all.
They hurried out of the kitchen and walked more sedately into the garden out back. "So?" Ron asked at once, rounding on Harry, a now-familiar look of hunger brightening his eyes. All of them had gotten like that, Harry knew. They needed to know what was going on, in a way that was beyond mere curiosity; they had grown up, and they understood that lives (their own and others) depended on knowing enough to keep a step ahead of the game. The mere thought of the disasters in the last two years that could have been avoided with a little more communication between allies --
But Harry shrugged, making Ron's face fall a little. "He could hardly stand, but I think your mum's right, he's just tired," Harry said quietly. "He wasn't hurt, unless he's been cursed, and you know how hard it is to curse a werewolf. Or if he's sick -- but I don't think he is."
"He say anything about the packs, or how the other envoys are going?"
"Nothing," Harry sighed. "But it can't be going well. The packs must be getting wilder -- he had a couple leaves in his hair. I think he ran with them."
Ron shook his head, equal parts frustration and awe on his face. "Running with a pack of werewolves," he muttered. "The people we know, Harry."
Harry smiled. Yeah, he thought. The people I know -- and the people I ought to know.
His thoughts drifted back to the photo album, where they had been hovering for the past several days. He knew what was coming, at least vaguely -- he knew that what he had to do would be the end of him, either by his death or by some deeper transformation. By this time next year, he'd be dead -- or he'd have killed. Neither bore thinking about.
So it seemed more imperative than ever that he get to know those few people he could not possibly know, not really, not anymore. But he wanted to know them as well as he could before... before whatever end came. So he memorized the photo album at night, and talked a little here and there with the Order members, all of whom seemed to understand his need. He was comforted by the fact that he could close his eyes and call to mind the image of his parents -- flawless and vivid, as if he had really seen them with his own two eyes. They were always smiling; they always smiled in the photos.
and Ron talked a little more, speculation segueing into wedding-talk,
a common occurrence this past week. Only one more week -- actually,
less; six days as of this morning -- and the guests would start
arriving. Then there would be the wedding, the festivities, the joy
-- and then... And then
And thenthought Harry dully. Nothing else to add to that, is there.
Ron spotted Ginny and ran to tell her about Remus' return. Harry wandered back into the house, which smelled almost exclusively of bacon. Full as he was, he wrinkled his nose and moved into the living room, away from the smell. The photo album was still tucked under the cushion of the chair he'd been sitting in last night; he hesitated, thinking of pulling it out, even in broad daylight --
Soft thumping in the hall; Harry turned just in time to see Remus walk in, looking haggard but awake. His eyes looked bruised from lack of sleep, and his lips were cracked where they had dried from exposure. The leaves were gone from his hair, though, as were the smudges of dirt from his face and hands -- and when he smiled at Harry, it looked genuine enough.
Harry nodded to the kitchen. "Mrs. Weasley may make enough bacon for ten of you if you don't stop her," he said.
"Why on earth would I want to?" Remus replied drily, his words punctuated by a low growl from the general area of his stomach. He grimaced.
Harry grinned and watched Remus go. He contemplated the chair a moment longer, then turned away. He would find his Firebolt and challenge Ron and Ginny to a game. The summer breeze in his hair and the sound of Ginny's laughter would be enough to satisfy him -- for now.
But the album hovered on the edge of his conscious thought all the rest of the day.
Four past midnight saw Harry curled up in the chair, just beginning to crack the spine of the old album. Ron was still awake, but Harry could wait no longer, and Ron hadn't stopped him from leaving -- he was busy writing a letter. Harry hadn't asked to whom. Maybe it was a side effect of growing up too fast, or maybe of Ron's acceptance of Harry and Ginny as a couple, but both of them had begun to understand the benefits of leaving each others' personal lives alone.
Harry turned a page -- two -- three. Here it was, the one he'd chosen to call his favorite after long debate: Lily and James, young, so young, curled together under a tree, nestled in deep grass packed with wildflowers. Sometimes they slept. Tonight, as Harry traced the solid curve of his father's shoulders with his fingertips, James blinked sleepily and smiled at the camera.
Harry looked at them, at the way their bodies fit together like a fortress, the curves of their backs and the placement of their hands betraying their protectiveness -- and their love. Harry didn't think heíd ever known an image to be more pure and more romantic at the same time. This picture, this one picture, made all his doubts -- all the discomfort of Snapeís memories, of the suggestion that James was far less than a saint and Lily far less than in love with him -- fade away, if only for a moment.
A small sound made him look up. Remus stood in the hall door with a mound of things in his hands, looking as if he wanted to have second thoughts about something. Even as Harry watched, something went firmer in his eyes and the set of his mouth, and he walked forward.
"Harry," Remus said softly. "That photo album. May I see it?" He nodded at the book in Harry's hands.
Harry closed it and held it out, unfolding himself from the chair to sit forward. Remus walked closer and sat on the edge of the coffee table in front of Harry, putting his stack of unidentifiable things down on the table next to him before taking the album from Harry. This he flipped through quickly, sighing a little as each image stung his half-faded memory.
"Do you know where Hagrid got the pictures?" Remus asked, stopping on one page and staring for a few moments before flipping it over.
"He said he asked my parents' friends for--" Harry stopped, making the obvious connection at last. "Some of those were from you, weren't they?" he asked softly.
"A bare few," Remus replied. "I skimmed the surface of my collection. Hagrid's request came at a time when I did not particularly wish to relive the past; I couldn't bear to look through many. These --" he turned the book around and pointed to some sedate headshots of Lily and James, both of them in formal wear, like the pictures Harry had seen in Muggle annuals, " -- I took. Lily wanted something a little more familiar to give her family, a little more Muggle. The pictures found their way back to me when everyone else was gone."
"Did you ever meet my mum's parents?" Harry asked curiously.
Remus smiled. "Several times," he said. "They were wonderful. I never saw much of your aunt, but of course she stayed out of the way when us 'freaks' came to visit."
Harry made a sour face. "I can imagine."
Remus' smile faded as he reached the end of the book. He closed it gingerly and continued staring at its cracked cover for a few pregnant moments before saying, without looking up, "I almost burned them all, once."
Harry's breath caught in his throat, but he tried to remain silent so Remus would continue.
He did. "Within three days they were all gone," he murmured. "All of them. Three dead, one worse than dead -- so I believed at the time. I couldn't stand to see their faces. But I've always been weak, Harry, and I couldn't -- it would have been like killing them with my own hands. So I buried them, shut them out of my mind and locked them out of sight. Until Hagrid's owl came."
Slowly, as if a great burden weighted down his every move, he put the album down and picked up the things he'd brought with him. By his tiny pool of candlelight Harry finally recognized the objects -- two small, thick books, a relatively slender envelope, and a box that was not quite a shoebox. Too oblong, too narrow. A wand box, Harry realized. Just the right size for photographs.
Remus touched these things one after the other, and Harry saw both reverence and fear on his scarred features. Then, abruptly, Remus held them out to Harry, who took them tenderly, as if any fast movements might cause them to crumble.
"All the rest," Remus muttered. "If there are any you'd like to keep, you're welcome to them."
Harry realized that his hands were shaking. He placed the stack in his lap and hid his hands at his sides, willing them to stop. "Thank you," he tried to say, but it came out as a croak. His album was relatively spare, most pages containing only two pictures, arranged in what must have been Hagrid's idea of an artful manner. This... this sheer wealth of memory... easily five, six times as many pictures as his album held --
"I --" Remus began, but checked himself. "You need them more than I, Harry," he revised, his expression softening at last. "You deserve them. I only hope they can bring you comfort; that will be all the thanks I could ask for."
Harry nodded, struck dumb. His palms had suddenly begun to sweat, itching terribly to tear the lid off the wand box and drink in the images inside. But he waited for Remus to go first, trading good nights in hushed, hoarse voices. Finally Harry was alone again -- alone with his parents, he thought. He picked up the wand box --
But with fingers already under the lid, he hesitated. As great as his hunger was, his fear of using up this new input too quickly was greater. He restrained himself, taking the box, the envelope, and one of the books and placing them reverently on top of his own photo album on the coffee table.
The thinner of the two books he kept. Folding his gangly body once more into the chair, he ran his fingers over the rough texture of the cover before opening it to the first page.
It wasn't a scrapbook-style photo album like the one Hagrid had made, just a book of plain protective covers, each with two opposing photos tucked inside. Harry took his time with each picture, grinning widely at some, frowning at others, trying to reconcile himself with the sensation that his heart was both breaking and healing with each passing page.
The collection was wide-ranging, not limited to his parents alone. All of the Marauders were there, Remus and Sirius and Wormtail -- no. Not Wormtail. Wormtail was the vile thing this boy had become, but in these photos Peter Pettigrew was blameless. Harry spent a long time staring at his pudgy, laughing face, red-cheeked and innocent, thinking of Neville's close scrape with destiny and finding that he hated Wormtail a little less -- and perhaps pitied him a little more. His stomach turned at this confusion, and he flipped to the next picture.
So it went, for well over two hours, until Harry's body dragged him reluctantly away from the little book with its demand for sleep. He gathered the whole stack together and carried it to his and Ron's room, where he tucked it carefully under the head of his bed before falling into the deepest, most refreshing sleep he'd had in months.
The passing days were spent in a happy blur, happier than Harry could remember being in a long time. Everyone studiously refused to think of any future beyond the approaching wedding. A few guests arrived early -- Order members and more extensions of the Weasley family. Harry eventually counted five generations of Weasleys -- one surviving great-grandmother, who had to be led around by her grandchildren, all the way down to the newest of the newborn cousins. And although a couple of light brown and blonde heads speckled the crowd, the predominant hair color was, unsurprisingly, red.
Fred and George were among the first to show their grinning faces, and with the offhand order to budge up like good world-saving chaps, they moved into Ron's room with he and Harry. Their four beds filled the floor space completely, forcing the occupants to hop from mattress to mattress and duck the ceiling light in order to move around. Harry was dimly aware that Remus was also forced to share space -- with Kingsley, he thought. When Tonks showed up she looked very much as if she wanted to ask if Remus would let her share with him, but she refrained.
It became a challenge for Harry to find some small, private, out-of-the-way space each night in which he could spend time alone with his parents. Eventually he gave up on the house and went into the gardens, but quickly discovered that one of Ron's great-uncles was overly fond of nipping outside for a late nightcap or a puff of some noxious-smelling cigar.
So Harry abandoned the cultivated lawn in favor of the woodsy area further away from the house. He didnít tell the adults, as they would only scold him for putting himself in danger -- besides, he knew exactly how far the wards went around the Burrow, and he'd practically have to be in the next town before their protection failed. The wedding was a high-profile potential target, and the Order had taken no chances.
He made it through the two books in as many nights, and the images began to swarm together to form whole scenarios in his mind; he tried sorting them into some semblance of chronological order and found that he could practically read the entire story of his parents' years at Hogwarts through Remus' extensive documentation. Harry imagined his former professor as the previous generation's Colin Creevey, and snorted.
Harry witnessed Remus' tentative attempts to capture the grandeur of the school itself -- those were the very earliest pictures of the collection, apparently before he scraped together enough nerve to photograph people instead of gargoyles. Gryffindor tower and the boy's dorm looked exactly the same back then as Harry knew it now. Then came a blurry, fast-moving picture of a first-year pillowfight, a startling sign of life amongst the endless architecture -- Harry caught glimpses of black hair, both short and long; a huddle of blond pudge on the floor beside its bed, hiding from the violence; also a flash of longish yellow hair, some unnamed occupant of their dorm, which gave Harry the startling realization that there had been a whole school full of people back then, far more than those few he knew about. It was a strange thought. He wondered who they all were, and whether they had all known his parents -- and then, in quick succession, his thoughts turned to all the students in his own year he didn't know. Most he knew by name and face, and maybe half of those he had spoken to, and half again of those he had spoken to were actual acquaintances of his, while a bare two were his real best friends. If history remembered Harry Potter, and Ron Weasley as Harry Potter's best friend, surely it would also remember Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, and Dean Thomas as Harry Potter's dormmates?
Of course not.
Harry followed the other blond boy with his eyes as he chased Sirius about with a down-leaking pillow, and wondered what his name was.
After that Remus was more bold; maybe Sirius and James had discovered that Remus owned a camera, as it stood to reason they wouldn't allow him to own one and not use it. Studying, prank-planning, eating in the Great Hall, scaring girls with the giant squid, even a furtive shot or two from beneath a desk during classes -- Harry followed the Marauders through it all.
Despite his plan to leave the wand box for last, Harry found that once the books were done with he could no longer resist. The box was packed so tight he could barely pull the first few photos out; there were maybe two hundred in there alone. It took Harry four nights to go through it all, always methodical, never allowing his eagerness to rush the job. He wanted to do the thing right, and he did.
By the time he pulled the very last picture out of the box and held it up to the moonlight -- a snap of Lily mid-laugh, the toss of her hair and the sudden arch of her throat replaying eternally -- he felt complete in a way he never had before. The box had contained pictures ranging from fourth year to Harry's own birth -- he couldn't help but grin incredulously at the baby pictures of himself: being weighed and swaddled as a newborn; held by his father while Lily cried and laughed and held James' hand; nestled among toys of which he had no memory in a crib he had never seen. The timeline laid out by the pictures ended rather abruptly, but that didn't particularly bother him -- a fact which surprised him a bit. He knew the story beyond that point; he'd lived it. It was everything before that point, everything in these photos, that he had been missing his whole life -- the void that had wanted filling long before he knew why it was there.
Harry pulled out several photos to keep. At first he hesitated, but Remus' offer had been sincere, almost pleading. Remus didn't want or need the pictures like Harry did; Remus had the memories themselves. So Harry took a largish stack, a few dozen at least, the very earliest to the very latest, so that he could reconstruct the timeline in a new album. Digging in his trunk he found his own old wand box, still intact after all these years (though slightly crushed from having textbooks piled on it), and put the photos in.
On the last night before the wedding, Harry took the envelope with him and went further out in the woods than he ever had before -- it was the very last collection, and he wanted silence. Settling in a pile of leaves between the roots of a thick-boled tree, he risked a small Lumos-light to see by -- so what if he was scolded or expelled for doing magic outside school? He wasn't planning on going back to Hogwarts anyway.
With bated breath he unstuck the flap of the envelope. The glue had once been on it had become yellowish and flaky with age. He pulled out the pictures, the only sound the crinkle of brittle paper, and let the old envelope fall to the ground. The combined wandlight and moonlight gave the photos the illusion of colorlessness.
The first was of Remus. Harry had seen next to no pictures of Remus among the others, which stood to reason, as he had been the photographer. In this one, Remus looked to be about Harry's age, maybe a little older, and smiling nervously.
The next was of Sirius, as was the next, and the next -- half a dozen in all, ranging from the juvenile prankster Harry had always imagined Sirius to be, to one where Sirius was giving the camera a flirtatious pose so overtly sexual in nature that Harry's ears began to burn. He moved it to the back of the stack instantly, not pausing to take in the image as he had for all the hundreds of others.
Remus again, and Harry began to wonder if this small collection contained pictures of anyone else. Curiosity piqued, he carried on a little more quickly than usual. After several more of Remus (some from odd angles, some clearly catching him off-guard, some from a distance as if to make sure he wouldn't notice he was being photographed), Harry came across one of the most beautiful images he'd ever seen in his life.
It was Sirius, asleep. Harry had never watched his godfather sleep, but he supposed that the Sirius he'd known would not have looked like this -- the Sirius Remus had known. He looked -- Harry couldn't even describe it. He looked like something that should not be caged by this mundane earth, this mortal life. The only movement in the photo was Sirius' slow breathing. But more than Sirius' good looks and expression of utter peace, Harry thought the ethereal quality came from the way he had been photographed -- with such care, such stillness and silence and more than a little reverence. Harry wondered if Remus had taken the picture -- he must have; who else could have?
The next photo was of both Sirius and Remus -- Sirius' arm went out of frame towards the camera; clearly he was holding it, taking the picture of the two of them. Harry nearly flipped past it, but the duo's movements caught his attention. At first they had been merely laughing, but then Sirius turned aside to whisper something to Remus, who blushed, still laughing, and put his arms around Sirius' waist. Remus leaned his head on Sirius' shoulder; Sirius bent down and --
Harry stared. His godfather had not just bitten his former teacher's earlobe. And Remus did not just burst into hysterical giggles --
But there were more. Taken by whom, Harry couldn't imagine -- unless his parents had known that the two were... an item? There were pictures of them holding hands, tackling each other, tickling, laughing, mussing each others' hair, one of Sirius giving Remus a back massage while Remus sat at a common room table, the work laid out before him completely forgotten. Every imaginable situation... until Harry hit the unimaginable: the kissing, the touching, the snapshot that was clearly a joke (but not that much of a joke) of Sirius groping Remus' arse and Remus jumping as if electrocuted.
Harry resisted at first. He tried to feel disgusted, the way he knew anyone else would have felt -- but that didn't ring true. He knew the Dursleys' opinions on matters like this, but when it came right down to the point he didn't know what his friends' reactions would be, were they to see these pictures. In fact, he realized, he had no idea how to react himself.
With that sudden bit of self-enlightenment, Harry chanced another look at the photos, struggling only to let himself feel whatever came naturally, uninfluenced by anyone or anything else --
And he felt happy. As happy as the picture of his parents curled up in the field of wildflowers made him feel. These were no different from those -- the image of Sirius cupping Remus' face while Remus' fingers curled in his hair as they kissed was no different from the image of James dropping Lily into an extravagantly low dip underneath a sprig of mistletoe and snogging her senseless.
the last picture of the stack -- the last picture of all that Remus
had lent him. At first he only saw Sirius, lying on his side, asleep
-- but then the lump behind Sirius which he had taken for a shadow
heaved upwards, bringing the back of Remus' tousled head into
view. Remus rolled over, blinked at the camera, and looked as if he
would very much like to berate the unknown photographer. But the
moment passed, and photo-Remus gave the camera a smug look before
kissing Sirius' bare shoulder and vanishing once again behind
his lover's back. Lovers.
Lovers.Harry held the last photo gingerly between thumb and forefinger, and let the understanding sink in. So many things made more sense now, so many little moments that had passed between the two that Harry had taken for a deep friendship long-broken and slow-healing. And the pain in both their voices when they had explained to Harry that each had thought the other the traitor, just before Peter was chosen for the Fidelius --
Carefully, Harry put the photos back in order, except one -- he put the picture of Sirius sleeping on the very top. He took none for himself. Deep down he understood that these particular photos might help to heal Remus in the same way that the others had helped Harry. They had enabled Harry to come to terms with everything that had happened to him, because they showed that the world had existed before he had, and that it had been good... that it was worth saving. Maybe Remus could come to terms with his own losses if he was reminded that loss was not the only constant in the universe.
Feeling lightheaded and somehow... changed... Harry made his way back to the Burrow. He went to the attic room, where Ron and the twins were already asleep, and gathered the rest of the photos in the dark. Somehow he managed to scrounge up a quill (one of the twins' self-inking ones) and a scrap of parchment without waking anyone. He went out, ducked into the bathroom, and switched on the light (Mr. Weasley was experimenting with wiring the house, with more success than Harry had expected) to write by.
Twenty minutes later he was climbing over Ron and into his own bed, overcome with unexpected weariness. He pulled his glasses off and smiled to himself before drifting off into a dreamless sleep.
The wand box, books, and envelope were stacked neatly on the small table in the guest room shared by Remus and Kingsley. A note rested under them, weighted down on one corner.
Thanks for letting me see these -- I kept quite a lot, sorry. I'm thinking of making another album. By the way, who was the other blond boy in your dorm? He looks familiar but I can't place him.
I'll never be able to explain how much these photos meant to me. They're all beautiful. I understand so much more now, about who I am and what I need to do. I think I finally understand my losses fully enough that I can let them go.
And now I know that my mum and dad weren't the only Marauder marriage. Sirius looks like an angel when he's sleeping, by the way.
Thank you so
"What're you doing with that thing?"
Harry grinned at Ron. "Taking pictures." He spun around to catch Ginny off-guard. Flash-kshhhck -- and that ought to be an interesting expression when it was developed.
"Oy!" she cried.
"It's a wedding reception, it's what you do," Harry added, holding the camera high so Ginny couldn't grab it. He caught a dizzying glimpse down the cleavage of her floral-patterned dress and nearly dropped the camera on her head.
"Not what you do," Ron objected. "I've never seen you take a picture in your life."
Harry shrugged, dodging an irate Ginny Weasley. "I'd like to have some for, you know, later," he said more seriously. Ginny stopped chasing to listen. "I've been looking through that album of my parents, the one Hagrid made me... and there aren't any pictures of us like that. So I'm taking some."
"That's a sweet thought," said Ginny, her ire abating. She gave Harry a smile and a kiss on the cheek, adding, "I guess I'll let you keep that one of me, then," before ducking off into the crowd. Harry's face went pink. Ron rolled his eyes.
Shaking his head to clear it, Harry looked away from Ron for a moment and happened to glimpse Remus a few yards away, arm-in-arm with a fiery-headed Tonks. Harry made his way over to the couple, ducking and weaving to avoid a dozen more Weasleys along the way.
Remus saw Harry coming, and Harry was pleased to see the sudden flush of crimson in the werewolf's cheeks.
"You found the pictures?" Harry asked slyly, before Remus could say a word. "And my note?"
"Yes," Remus said quickly, going a deeper shade of red. He disentangled himself from Tonks with a quick apology and pulled Harry to the side, where she couldn't hear. "You, er, weren't really supposed to see -- I didn't go through everything before I gave it to you --"
"And it's a good thing you didn't, or I'd never have known my own godfather was anything besides a juvenile delinquent," Harry said smoothly. "As it turns out, he had pretty good taste, too."
Remus looked like he wouldn't mind much if he were to be Avada Kedavra'd at that very moment.
Harry led the way back to where Tonks was chatting with Mrs. Weasley, and maneuvered the shell-shocked werewolf into position next to her. "Now," said Harry, raising the borrowed camera, "smile."
"You've come far, and though you're far from the end,
You don't mind where you are
'Cause you know where you've been."