Pairing(s): SB/RL (so SLASH is implied- nothing graphic)
Disclaimer: If it were mine, I wouldn't be here. All JKR's
Notes: This was not beta'd, so mistakes are all mine. I'm not happy with the beginning, and I think some parts are clunky, but I couldn't let this fic languish on my hard-drive forever. Feedback: Will make my summer sooo much better.

Patience McNealy was thoroughly engrossed in collating her research into a comprehensive report when the summons came.

"Inquisitor," the young messenger stuttered and handed her a slip of paper. "They request your presence at once."

She glanced quickly at the parchment. "Why wasn't I informed earlier?" she snapped. McNealy took a deep breath and dismissed the messenger—after all, it wasn't the poor boy's fault that his superiors were complete idiots. After gathering all the necessary material, she headed to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's holding cells. It wasn't long after she arrived that Gates came ambling down the hallway.

"Malcolm." The man was scowling, as was his wont, but he shook her hand warmly enough.

"Patience, always a pleasure." He smoothed his robes—an anxious tic that McNealy had noticed over the past few weeks. "I was in the middle of a meeting with the Merchant's Union when I got word. Figured you'd want me here as soon as possible, though…"

"This morning!" she interrupted. "He simply strolled in this morning and asked for me, when we were certain that it would take a court order to get him to talk. And what do the Auror's do? Question him without my authority and without informing me."

"Calm down, lass. You want to be levelheaded when you start asking the questions. Do you remember the Granger interview?" His smirk was not unkind.

McNealy knew he was right and fought to gain control of herself, though not before muttering, "Insufferable know-it-all, she was."

"Looks like our scribe has arrived," Gates grunted, his scowl a little deeper. When McNealy turned to the man approaching them, she understood Malcolm's concerns. Hallistor was young, foolhardy, and obnoxious. The young Auror also retained many prejudices and assumptions that might prove sticky, especially considering the man about to be interviewed. Gates could also show a rather ugly side sometimes, but he was more open-minded and aware of his faults than Hallistor. McNealy knew how to deal with him.

As a group, they walked down the hallway to the designated room. A one-way mirror—an ingenious Muggle invention recently added to the Department—gave them full view of the man inside. McNealy was taken aback by his appearance. The man seated at the table, lost in his own thoughts, looked nothing like the man McNealy remembered. His hair was entirely gray, which did not help his sallow complexion. He was painfully thin and his face lined with weariness and sorrow.

She took a deep breath and entered the room, Gates and Hallistor obediently followed. The man inside stood at their entrance and grinned warmly.

"Remus Lupin, at your service." He shook hands with each of them, ignoring the look of horror that crossed Hallistor's face at being touched by a Dark Creature.

"I'm Inquisitor McNealy, this is Councilor Gates and Junior Officer Hallistor."

"A pleasure. Please, take a seat." He swept his arm towards the chairs, acting every inch the gentleman host despite being in a Ministry holding cell. McNealy placed her notes on the table between them and sat down, Lupin following suit. He smiled. "I would offer you some tea or refreshments, but I don't seem to have any on hand."

McNealy glanced quizzically at him. "You haven't been offered any lunch, Mr. Lupin?" He shook his head, still keeping a pleasant smile on his face, and shrugged. "Tea, then. Would you like something to eat?"

"No, thank you. I don't really eat much the day after a transformation."

Hallistor made a choking sound. Ignoring him, McNealy signaled to the Auror at the door. The young girl practically ran from the room to get drinks.

"Right, then. First, I'd like to thank you on behalf of the Ministry for stepping forward as well as for your patience in the matter."

"Hmmm. To think I almost missed going through nearly seven hours of questions and background checks just to make sure I'm me—which, by the way, I'm relieved to say I am. It would put all of us in a bit of a bind if I wasn't myself. If nothing else, the Ministry has certainly improved on its desire for acquiring the correct facts."

McNealy ignored the last comment and turned to Hallistor. "Ready?" He held up his quill and nodded. "Let us begin. Interview #587 of the Greeley Warfare Files, subset 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named', section 'Testimonials'. Inquisitor: Patience K. McNealy, Second Lieutenant. Witness: Malcolm Gates, Representative of the Council for Reconstruction. Subject: Remus J. Lupin, werewolf. Pause." Hallistor stopped writing. "Sorry about that, Mr. Lupin. It's your only officially recognized classification."

"Quite alright. You're a second lieutenant? At such a young age, too. Makes sense, though. You were rather ambitious for a Ravenclaw."

She blushed. "I can't believe you remember me."

"You were in the only NEWT class I ever taught. Of course I remember."

"As nice as this little reunion is," Gates drawled, "can we get on with it? Start, Hallistor. I assume you know why you're here, Lupin?"

"Of course. The records must be complete, after all. The Ministry must know everything that happened."

"I would think you'd have come forth earlier—right after the battle. We had to knock on a lot of doors, many of them the unsavoury types, to flush you out of the woodworks. Hiding something, Lupin? I wonder what it is a werewolf has to be ashamed of."

McNealy was impressed that Lupin didn't even bat an eye at the hostility Gates was displaying. She sent Gates a sharp look. "You don't have to answer that, Mr. Lupin. Might I remind Councilor Gates that I am the only one Ministry-certified to ask the questions? Let it also be noted that Mr. Lupin turned himself over for questioning willingly and that he is in no way being forced to cooperate. It is true, though. You have an amazingly loyal group of friends—none of them would tell us where you were."

"Yes, they seem to think I'm made of glass these days. Silly, really, since I'm more of a danger to myself than anyone else could ever be. Can I ask a question?"

"I don't see why not."

Lupin turned to Gates. "How long have you been a cuckold?"

"What—how do you—" Gates spluttered. "Pause!"

"How long," Lupin repeated slowly, "has your wife been finding satisfaction—sexually—with another man?"

McNealy hid a grin behind her hand, while Hallistor was outright snorting. Gates was turning purple. It was a well-known secret that the Gates marriage was an unhappy one, and Malcolm Gates could normally care less about who knew. However, this was the first time someone figured it out within minutes of meeting him.

"Oh, don't look so astonished. You're practically vibrating with pent-up frustration. Not to mention, the smell of a relationship filled with lies is something I'm well acquainted with."

"I do not think, Lupin," Gates spat, "that my personal life is any of your concern."

"And mine is none of yours." Lupin leaned forward slightly and looked Gates right in the eyes. "I have many regrets and some things I am ashamed of, but that is neither here nor there—just as what shames you is of no importance to this interview. Let us stick to the matter at hand."

Gates merely grunted in reply, though McNealy knew that Lupin had just earned his grudging respect. She cleared her throat. "Start. Mr. Lupin, could you please walk us through the events of—"

"I know what day it was, as do the rest of you." Lupin paused when the young Auror returned with a tray of drinks. He made a cup of tea and set it in front of him, but did not drink. Hallistor helped himself to some coffee, while Gates snagged a sugar cube to suck on. "I would have made a good Auror—at least I like to think so."

"Excuse me?"

"An Auror. The only thing keeping me back was the whole werewolf issue. My 'furry little problem.'" He snorted before continuing. "Though I'm not sure I would've wanted to be one anyway."

"What does this have to do with the battle?"

"I'll get there in my own time, Ms. McNealy. Have faith." His gaze focused in the distance. "My dueling skills have never been exceptional; my friends were experts in that particular field. Of course, they had a lot of practice during their time at Hogwarts," he added with a chuckle. "James never let a chance slip by to measure his skills, even in friendly matches."

"I don't understand the point of this, Lupin," Gates grunted.

Lupin ignored him. "He was eager to fight against Voldemort—sorry, You-Know-Who—from the very beginning. So many of us were, once the threat became apparent. Those days were dark, though. Such high expectations, such shattered dreams. The losses hurt back then because each death made everything much more horribly real. We still had hope, though, idealistic children that we were. And You-Know-Who savored the challenge of breaking us slowly. Dark, yes…"

"Mr. Lupin?" McNealy queried when he fell silent for several moments.

"I'd say this 'second' war was more bleak, already knowing what could happen to us. There were a few better days, of course, but I think everyone was much more aware of what was at stake and what could be lost."

"Many good people died…" McNealy said gently.

Lupin looked through her rather than at her. "Yes. And some of their deaths could have been prevented, but that is all in hindsight. Everyone wished they could do more, including myself—however, I know what I did was something only I was suitable for, and that gives me slight comfort."

"Which was?"

"Did you ever stop to consider why, if Voldemort was recruiting Dark Creatures, only a handful of werewolves were arrested for Death Eater activity? Why England never woke after a full moon to find an entire village decimated? I could never have persuaded them to fight for the society that shunned them, but I was eventually able to influence them into neutrality." Lupin's eyes were haunted and distant. McNealy knew to a certain degree what Lupin did during the war, but it finally struck her how hard it must have been for him, walking the line between those who feared him and those who resented him. "But despite my best efforts," he continued with a heavy voice, "I failed to protect those I cared about."

She placed a hand over his clasped ones. "No one can save everyone; we can only try and hope for the best."

"To an extent, I agree with what you are saying. However, I even failed at trying. Those I loved the most—well, I neglected to protect them from themselves. Peter from his insecurity, James from his pride, Harry from his guilt, and Sirius—"

McNealy could hear Hallistor's sharp intake of breath, but gave Lupin a moment to collect himself before asking gently, "Sirius Black?"

"Sirius Black," Lupin said fondly as if he hadn't heard her. "The years at Azkaban fooled with his mind. When I finally learned the truth—when he came back to me—he was a twisted exaggeration of the boy he once was. Still fiercely loyal and determined, but prideful and rash. All of his faults became vices and all his virtues bright enough to burn. I should have seen what was happening to him. He was never given the chance to heal, and it festered inside him. If I had only stepped in…"

Lupin took a sip of his tea and grimaced. He poured himself a new, warmer cup without so much sugar. Although Gates showed signs of impatience, McNealy kept quiet. She knew that sometimes the best strategy during an interview was to let the subject set the pace.

"I suppose my agonizing over events doesn't really matter," Lupin continued. "I will always carry with me the memories of how he was, and the knowledge of the man he should have become. He had an amazing sense of humor. Whenever he took the time to pay attention, he could be surprisingly caring and sensitive. There was nothing he would not do for his friends. And he was amazingly flexible in bed," he added with a smirk, just as Hallistor was taking a sip of his coffee. McNealy nearly laughed at the choked sputtering and bug-eyed expression. A mischievous look crossed Lupin's face for a split second. "Are you all right, sir?"

"You and Black were—were—" Hallistor spat.

"Involved? Life mates? Shagging? In love? A bit of each, depending on the day."

"So you can confirm that Black is deceased?" McNealy spoke up, interrupting Hallistor from making a rude comment. This fact was already known to the Ministry, but she could never pass an opportunity to gain more information from witnesses.

"I can most definitely state that Sirius Black is no longer a threat to the Ministry or society, nor is he bound and tethered to the injustice of the world."

There was a hope and longing burning in his eyes that she dare not diminish. She knew she wouldn't get a clearer answer from him on the subject.

"When did he… depart?" she asked gently.

"He fell during the first battle. The skirmish at the Department of Mysteries."

"We have the account of that incident." She flipped through her notebook. "Just for the record, can you state the details of this casualty?"

"Sirius was fighting a Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange, in order to protect his godson, Harry Potter. A spell hit him and caused him to fall behind the Veil." He raised an eyebrow at Hallistor's scribbling. "I assume this is in line with the other statements you've collected?"

"Mmmm," she hummed distractedly as she looked through her notes. "Why do you ask? Is there information you are withholding or altering? Remember, you are under an Oath-bind…"

"Yes, yes, I know," he said impatiently. "I was just curious as to how, with so many witnesses giving the same statement, the Ministry could have… overlooked… Sirius's innocence when the issue was first brought up."

"It doesn't really matter though, does it? He's dead!"

"Junior Officer Hallistor!" McNealy snapped. "You are here to write, not to talk. Or do you want another mark on your record?" She waited until Hallistor was focused again on scribing. "Back to the matter at hand…"

"Actually, I would like to respond to young Mr. Hallistor. He's right that it does not really matter to one who is no longer with us, but I feel that it is important for the sake of history. You are aware that most people were so willing to condemn Sirius because of his heritage. If you allow Sirius to officially remain a traitor, then you are continuing the trend of prejudicial thinking on bloodlines that the Ministry is trying so hard to stop. Sirius would not like to be remembered as another contemptible Black."

McNealy sighed. "Mr. Lupin, regardless of any evidence put forth during my inquiries, Mr. Black's case is beyond my jurisdiction."

"Perhaps that is so." Lupin looked at her like he was weighing her soul. "I loved him, you know," he blurted. "Still do. Even when I thought he was guilty, when I believed the worst. I couldn't make myself forget all the good times."

Once more, Lupin looked through her at something beyond the understanding of the others in the room.

"It made me angry, and guilty, to feel that way. After he was arrested, I carried that weight with me. I moved from place to place and job to job, never staying for long because of what I was and never being happy because of what had happened."

"Mr. Lupin, I don't want to interrupt you, but we should really try getting back on topic." From the look in his eyes, McNealy knew that he hadn't even heard her.

"Do you know what the sound of betrayal is, Ms. McNealy? I do. It echoes in my dreams. For twelve years I woke every day to find myself straining to catch it, a whisper just beyond my hearing. It does not sound like the screams of the innocent or the laughter of a madman—not even the sound of a door slamming. It is silence. Heavy, pressing silence that burns like ice, where even the beat of your own heart cannot penetrate its layers. And to find out you were mistaken about the source—it throbs."

McNealy wished she had something to say or something to write—anything to break the uncomfortable silence that had descended. Even in her worst nightmares, she could never feel the pain that was etched on Lupin's face. Hallistor was so intent on scribing that he did not realize what Lupin had said until he read it over. The young Auror looked up slack-jawed and the quill he was using fell limp in his hand.

Gates cleared his throat and glanced at McNealy once before turning to Lupin. His voice was as gentle as she had ever heard it. "Mr. Lupin, I cannot begin to understand what you went through, but I must ask you to focus on the reason you're here. Tell us about the events of—"

"You received the statements of the other witnesses, have you not?" Lupin interrupted with a weary sigh.

"Yes, we have. But we need you to tell us—"

"Then let us stop with the niceties," Lupin said abruptly. "There is no need for yet another witness to the deeds of others. You've gathered all the facts you need from everyone else—when things happened, who was where, what they did. Enough facts to determine who gets a nice little award from the Ministry. You think you are here to question my actions to see if I merit one of those trinkets. However, we all know that this is merely the Ministry dotting its i's and crossing its t's so that it can say, 'See? We are a kinder, gentler government. Even werewolves get a pat on the head.' There most likely will not be an award, because no matter what I'm still a Dark Creature. They may use me as a symbol that not all werewolves are nasty bloodthirsty things, some of them can be tamed and controlled. But that will not make things better for me or any other werewolf. We will still be jobless and friendless—monsters among men.

"You will also not be giving me anything because you'd rather I not receive any more attention from proper wizarding folk than is strictly necessary. I am the last wound from a war that you wish to forget and there is no healing for me—a throbbing scar that tarnishes your Utopia. I carry the weight of the dead around me like a cloak. I bleed grief and the regrets of an entire generation. When people see me, they will see their past, and that is precisely what the Ministry is trying its hardest to distance itself from. This meaningless interview will finish, you will write your insignificant little report, and the world will continue its inconsequential celebration. Society will carry on its humdrum routine and live in blissful ignorance of any wrongs in the world… And I will not deny any of you that right. How can I, when all that I have ever wanted is just one moment of peace…"

McNealy was taken aback. Never before had the subject of an interview taken matters into his own hands. She was uncertain whether to be disgruntled or awed. At the same time, Lupin's bitter words touched her heart and she was filled with sympathy. Hallistor was dumbstruck at Lupin's insubordination, but Gates showed a new reverence for the werewolf. He understood now what she had also just realized; they were looking at the true casualty of the war—not those wounded or dead, but those that survived.

"The real reason you are questioning me," Lupin continued, "is because deep in your hearts what you really want are answers—answers that no one else would give you. You want to know how a seventeen-year-old boy defeated the greatest evil of our time, how a bunch of rag-tag wizards and witches were able to stop the worst activities of the Death Eaters. It's partly because what we knew. This wasn't knowledge you could find in a library or in a file at the Ministry. We gained this insight through the blood of those before us.

"The Ministry thought that You-Know-Who would fight the way he had been in the first war. To obtain the power he wanted, most people thought he would hit the places that held authority or attack the various important people that stood against him. In some ways, he continued that course of action. However, we knew some his tactics had also changed. Instead of eliminating the opposition through force, he intended to bring the wizarding world to its knees through fear. I think he realized how effective the individual targeting was in scaring the public during his first rise to power. This time around, he was looking for specific ways to terrorize.

"That's how—when it became apparent a large-scale attack was imminent—we knew he was headed to Hogwarts instead of Diagon Ally or the Ministry, a school building instead of an economical or political center. Even in light of certain events, even with Dumbledore gone, Hogwarts was still in the collective subconscious as a place of safety. Parents may have preferred to keep their children home, but no one ever pictured Hogwarts as actually falling. And that's what he set out to do that day—utterly destroy the place of so many happy memories for so many people.

"The 'how' of our victory also stemmed from our greatest gifts: love and unity. It is hard to see from an outside perspective how those things could have contributed so much to our strength, but Harry was able to defeat Volde—You-Know-Who because he was not alone. It took him a while to fully realize it, of course. Harry loved his friends and family so fiercely that he simply could not let You-Know-Who win. And we loved him so much that we could not let him stand alone. You-Know-Who always underestimated that. He never quite realized that there are those who would die, kill, live, endure for those they loved."

He paused for a sip of tea. "Now that I have given answers to those questions, I suppose I should tell you why I'm really here. I do not think you quite understand what exactly is going on today. It was no mistake that all of your interviews—all of your questions—have ultimately brought us together. Didn't you wonder why it was that no one gave you more than the basic facts, the truth stripped to the bones? You see, I directed your search, I led you to conclude that the answers could only be found with me."

"What—how—?" McNealy gasped.

"There was an agreement of sorts made at the end. I am the keeper of secrets for the Order and those that fought. The horrors that we went through, the things we learned about the enemy, were all given to me for safekeeping. They will always remember, of course. In fact, I'm sure many of them are haunted during the darkest hours of the night. However, the memories of what happened will not rub them raw until their lives are but the shadow of living—they will not be forced to recount them over and over again by those who do not know. I accepted the burden of the past to disclose whenever I felt it necessary. And I decided to hold off until today."

"Why would you do that?"

"Because I was waiting. Waiting until you were ready."

"Ready for what?"

"Ready for the truth, of course." Lupin ran a hand through his grayed hair. He studied McNealy for a few moments before nodding and continuing. "Society is of the mind that this war was a fight between—well, good and evil to put it simply. It has been more than that, though. Even during You-Know-Who's first rise to power it was more than that. Dumbledore knew it, You-Know-Who felt it, and now society must realize it."

"If it wasn't about fighting evil, what was it about? What were people dying for?"

"Retribution. A reckoning of sorts. The dawning of a new age."

McNealy gave a confused look.

"For thousands of years, the magical community has remained hidden from the Muggle world. We valued secrecy and separation. But the world is changing, whether we like it or not, and as the world changes around us, so must we. We have to adapt or be eliminated. Now is the time for the wizarding world to reinvent itself. We must change our attitudes and our society to reflect the new times. You-Know-Who wanted to fight this change or shape it to his own desires.

"This war was also a catalyst for the steps we need to take to make those adaptations. In order to survive and keep a sense of identity, we must unite as a society. No longer can we favor one section over another, no longer can we push people to the outskirts. Muggle-born, pureblood, half-blood, squib—all united. People like me need to be able to find an equal place within society, or the wizarding world will begin to crumble. The war had been a harsh teacher, but unfortunately the lessons did not stick well with some. It is time for us to correct that."

The room was silent for several moments. McNealy realized that she had, from the very beginning, lost control of the interview. Lupin had stolen all of her questions from her, even answering ones that she didn't even know she had. There was nothing left for her to say—except one thing. Looking at the man in front of her, she noticed the strength, the wisdom, and the defiance that she hadn't seen earlier. McNealy knew she could not ask him that one last question.

When Gates cleared his throat expectantly, she gave him a pointed look. If Gates insisted on pressing the issue, then he would have to ask Lupin himself. McNealy was aware of the limits of her subjects. Gates frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. "Actually, Lupin, there is one other reason for this session."

Lupin raised an eyebrow in question.

"As you know, we have been able to gather information on almost everything that happened during the final battle," Gates continued gruffly. He leaned forward in his chair. "Except, there are no witnesses to one thing. From what the others have told us, you are the only one that was present to see it. What happened to Harry Potter?"

They held their breaths. Every wizard and witch had been accounted for, every move and action explained, except for this. When the red fog had finally lifted, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was dead—and the savior of the wizarding world had disappeared.

Lupin stiffened in his chair. For the first time since the start of the interview, McNealy felt Lupin was withdrawn and defensive. "I could tell you that he is dead. I could say that a stray curse from the last few Death Eaters hit him and his body has been taken to its final resting place by those who love him. But that would not be fair to the memory of those that have died for him." He chuckled, a harsh and bitter sound. "What does it matter, though?"

"It matters to us!" Hallistor interrupted. "It matters to the thousands of innocent wizards and witches out there that want to know. The public must have closure from this horror."

"Hallistor!" McNealy barked.

"And what of the closure that Harry needs?" Lupin spat back forcefully. "You were all so willing to place the burdens of sacrifice on the shoulders of a young boy. For as long as he has been a part of this world, he has been glorified by it and scrutinized by it. Never once has he been able to live a year as just Harry. And now you want to know where he is so that you can make him some sort of celebrity, so you can tell every middle-aged witch what his favorite meal is and every subscriber to the Prophet what his political views are. How can you do that if he hasn't even been able to figure out who he is yet?

"I will tell you this once, and only once. Harry Potter has disappeared. The Boy Who Lived is no more. Perhaps one day you will be lucky enough to meet an extraordinary young man I know. Until then…" Lupin stood and picked up his coat from the back of his chair. "I consider this interview over."

McNealy nodded to Gates, her lips slightly pursed in frustration. They would be getting no more out of Lupin, and she knew it. There was no choice, really, but to let him go. She gathered her things and motioned for Lupin to follow her out of the holding cell. Gates and Hallistor trailed behind.

The main room of the Department's floor was quieter than when she had been summoned to the interview. Cubicles stretched in all directions, a generous amount abandoned at this late hour. However, several of the more experienced Aurors and a good number of various Ministry workers that normally never made appearances on this floor were milling about with 'busy work'. Word of her notorious guest must have spread.

As Lupin gazed out at the maze of cubicles, he let out another bitter chuckle.

"What's so funny?" Hallistor asked harshly.

"I'm just thinking…" Lupin turned to McNealy. "A good portion of the witches and wizards that are at the beginning of their careers in the Ministry—that will influence the direction and attitude of society—well, I taught them at some point. No matter what the Ministry does to me, they can't take that away. Do you know Neville Longbottom?"

"Yes," she replied quizzically. Longbottom was a war hero—everyone knew that. He was by no means brilliant, but his modesty was endearing and the passion he placed in whatever interested him was astounding. In fact, she heard rumors that he was beginning to direct that passion towards Muggle-wizard relations and had gained a few enemies—as well as scores of friends—within the Ministry.

"Expect to hear a lot more from him, soon." Lupin warmly grasped her hand a kissed her cheek. "Remember, Patience, no one who tries her hardest regrets it."

He nodded to Hallistor and Gates before gracing her with a small, enchanting smile. Instantly, McNealy was reminded of her last year at Hogwarts. She remembered how her determination to help others through Ministry work had flagged mid-way through the year, how two silly Slytherin girls in her Defense class had given her a painful lesson on what politics were truly like—she almost conceded to her mother and became a Healer. And then, only a few brief words with Professor Lupin after class one day—along with that smile—to point her in the right direction for researching a Muggle Studies essay, of all things. McNealy recalled the book she then found on Muggle law and social work, the author's powerful words that were burned into her memory, and the haunting lesson on werewolves that Lupin gave later that week. She remembered, and understood.

She watched as he walked out of the building, his patched robes billowing silently behind him, his head held high despite the stares of the other officials and the pronounced limp in his right leg. Suddenly, she was filled with a deep sadness and knowledge that he would never be seen in the wizarding world again. Remus Lupin had waited patiently for the time to tell his story. Now, he would pass quietly into the misty realm of legends and heroes, nightmares and tall tales.

"Your recommendation, Inquisitor McNealy?" Hallistor asked from behind her. She turned back to face her co-workers.

"He confirmed the stories, just like we thought he would. Issue the press release with a list of all recipients, from the Order of Merlin to the Crossed Wands."

"And Lupin, Ma'am?"

She glanced again at the doors, but he had long since passed out of sight. "Order of Merlin, first class."

Hallistor dropped his quill and parchment. "A werewolf? Order of Merlin? First class? What are you—are you sure, Ma'am?"

Gates let out a deep chortle. She merely smiled. "Absolutely. Oh, and Hallistor?" she asked, as he was walking away. "Put a request in for an inquiry into the case of Sirius Black."

McNealy wandered back to her desk and began to skim through her files. Gates followed her at a leisurely pace, an amused quirk on his normally severe face. "This is likely the most interesting day I've had since the war ended. A werewolf getting an Order of Merlin."

"Are you questioning my decision, Malcolm?"

"Not really. I'm just glad that Lupin was on our side. He would've been a tough enemy to crack."

She finally found the correct form she was looking for. "Crouch was the senior officer at the Black 'trial', correct?"

"Yes. Are you sure you want to do that, lass? You were right before—Sirius Black is out of your jurisdiction."

"Sirius Black is beyond my reach, but an inquest into the handling of his trial is not. I figure that will raise enough public awareness to set things right."

"You are going to upset a lot of people—a lot of very powerful people."

She smirked. "They're the best kind."

"You're also going to be pulled into the realm of politics whether you like it or not."

A shudder ran through her as she remembered the Slytherin girls, but it was the words of the Muggle Studies book and Lupin's smile that made her heart beat faster. "It's time for me to speak for those who have no voice, Malcolm. It's what I was born to do—politics be damned."

As Gates wandered away from her desk, McNealy began to write a note to one of the editors she knew at the Prophet. If she had it her way, Lupin's story would not be forgotten. Some wounds were meant to scar.