A/N: Well, this is it, folks. The final chapter. Time is up. ;p
For the final time, I shall offer up my profoundest thanks to the eight people I nicknamed my Merry Band for the invaluable help they gave me at the start of this fic in thrashing out plot, ideas and sticking points that enabled me to get the theory behind this fic to make some kind of logical sense. Without them, there probably wouldn't have been a fic and I'm most grateful that they rode in to my rescue when I was drowning in too many ideas and not enough solutions. My thanks, AftertheRain, Celtmama, Drumher, Gilpin, Godricgal, Lady Bracknell, Mrs Tater and of course Snorkackcatcher who foolishly ahem kindly offered his service as beta reader and proved invaluable in terms of spotting boneheaded errors on my part, assisting in the plugging of plotholes and of course, placing commas where no comma had gone before. I offer steaming great piles of gratitude to you all. :)
I don't think I'm done with this universe I've nicknamed the Portalverse yet - from my perspective it's preferable to the alternative for obvious reasons! - though I have no immediate plans for any further fics other than a few rough, unformed ideas floating around waiting for a good prompt. We'll see what that next rtchallenge and metamorficmoon jumbles on Livejournal bring, I guess:) I also have plans for a Find/Replace canon-ed up version of this to post on Live Journal (trust JKR to scupper me two chapters from the end by giving Percy a different wife!) where Penny becomes Audrey and the little Weasley kids fall into line with JKR's diagram but I can't say when and the only difference will be in the names anyway, so it'll hardly be the event of the season!
And so, here we go with the epilogue. Oh and a warning - anyone who disapproves of a nice, happy ending in which everyone gets what they deserve and everything is set to rights should probably look away now. Because I just couldn't help myself...;p
Epilogue: Beyond the Portal
When Remus Lupin came to look back upon those heady few weeks that followed the annulment of their fate, it was not the blur of so many faces he remembered most vividly, nor the bold, dark headlines proclaiming a miracle, nor the voices shouting questions, begging for answers or descriptions of how his miraculous return made him feel.
It was the joy on his son's face. The warm grasp of his wife's hand in his. The smiles that blossomed over the faces of his friends.
And it was the relief.
His family was safe. They'd survived both the war and the perils of fear and bureaucracy; belatedly in the case of the former, it was true, but survival was survival and Remus was in no mood to quibble. He much preferred to simply live.
When he allowed his mind to drift back to that dreadful, euphoric day, what he mostly remembered was the emotion. The potent mix of fear, sorrow, and anger as he waited for the spell that would end his life and that of the woman he loved all as one. The confusion and bitter, desperately suppressed hope as the spell failed to succeed. His fury as DeWinter dared lay hands upon his wife, his bewilderment at Percy's arrival, and yet again, that agonising, frantically beaten back edge of hope as they'd been summoned to Penny's bedside to hear what she had to say.
He'd known, even as she spoke, that her words might change nothing. He'd struggled desperately to keep himself from feeling anything but blankness, flatly refused himself any edge of relief or joy because he'd seen his own fervent hopes dashed too many times before to allow himself that emotional commitment to something that could at any moment be ripped away. It hadn't been until Dora had spoken up to Matilda, had asked the questions he had dared not long for the answers to and then had turned, her face glorious, to embrace both him and Teddy as one that Remus had finally allowed his mask to slip and joy to fill his world.
He'd actually found himself struggling not to sob as he'd grasped his wife and his son in that hard embrace, burying his face into Dora's suddenly gloriously pink hair, and allowing himself to revel in the sensation of simply holding the two people he loved best and knowing he could continue to do so for years to come. By the time they'd been escorted home by a fiercely grinning Harry to await the pending Wizengamot appeal, he'd been so ridiculously, embarrassingly emotional that he'd almost struggled to walk through the door without help.
Dora – a living, breathing, given-her-life-back Dora – had laughed at him merrily, before pouncing on him for a hug and whispering how much she loved him and how happy she was that they were finally going to have time to be together. And then she'd leapt on a beaming Teddy and declared similar sentiments before cornering even poor Harry with expressions of love and gratitude that left the saviour of the wizarding world both dishevelled and a little the worse for wear. But he'd kept smiling. They'd all kept smiling.
The Wizengamot hearing, held two days later, had been a little more sobering. Just as Matilda had predicted, when faced with Penny's new evidence, the purple-robed witches and wizards had, with shamefaced unity, overturned their original sentence, and had also grudgingly commuted Teddy's six month jail term into a year of community service (an idea that Kingsley had cheerfully stolen from the Muggle world after his time with the Prime Minister's office), an unofficial dismissal from all Ministry positions, and a ban on working with any other manner of temporal magic in the future. Tertias DeWinter had not been present – he had not been seen in the Ministry since his violent, vitriolic outburst in the Portal chamber, and no more than a few days later, the announcement was made that he was retiring from his position as Head of the Unspeakables and retiring to Malaysia for his health'. Nothing was said out loud, but the straightforward grin on Kingsley's face the next time he saw them had told them all that they needed to know. It was, in fact, remarkably similar to the grin worn by both Harry and Hermione when Aloysius Sproule was dismissed from the Ministry with a memory modified to remove all reference to Teddy's trial a few weeks later, after being caught attempting to steal confidential documents pertaining to it and trying to breach his Vow of Silence. Nobody was even slightly sorry to see him go.
But it had been the day after the Wizengamot hearing, at the press conference Kingsley had called, that the real circus had begun. The revelation that two war heroes from the Battle of Hogwarts had appeared, alive and well, in the Department of Mysteries had, of course, caused quite a stir. The trust that Kingsley engendered and his reassuring assertions had meant that the story had been swallowed with the minimum of fuss, and although several distraught, desperate relatives had indeed arrived at the Ministry, begging for the same favour or a way to be found, all had eventually seen reason. The chaos the Wizengamot had so feared had failed to materialise.
Remus, along with Tonks and occasionally Teddy, had spent the next few days talking until his throat was even more hoarse than usual. There had been so many interviews – the Daily Prophet had dispatched several reporters to find different angles, and its new-to-Remus yet decade-old rival, the Crucible, had done the same. Transfiguration Today had requested that they join with Penny Weasley to write an article on this fascinating genetic quirk that had allowed their return, and Dora had enjoyed a casual discussion about wartime romance with an old school friend who now worked for Witch Weekly that had resulted in an article so frank that Teddy had blushed scarlet and burned it. Remus, more than a little embarrassed himself, had been far more comfortable joining Dora to chat with their old Potterwatch companion Lee Jordan on his popular Wizarding Wireless Network show, and had also rather enjoyed talking about their return with Tegan Fawcett, the new editor of the increasingly respectable Quibbler, who'd taken over after the apparently ever more eccentric Xenophilius Lovegood had finally retired to Sweden to hunt Snorkacks. It made for an exhausting week, but the end result had been a success; most of the articles and interviews had focussed on the positives of this miracle, although Rita Skeeter had published a story in her gossip magazine Tadah! that had not only crossed the boundary of being libellous but kicked its shins as well. Remus had a strong suspicion that the tone had been vaguely related to the fact that Harry had arrested her for trespass three days before when they'd caught her up a tree near their cottage, scratched and battered, as she wrestled an owl for their mail.
And after the interviews came the visitors. Andromeda, of course, had been there from the beginning, flying out of the Floo mere moments after they'd returned to the house and hugging her daughter solidly for fifteen minutes while she sobbed with utter relief. The Weasleys had also been constant visitors, Molly providing injections of food at regular intervals (since she was sure they would be far too busy to cook themselves), Arthur delivering each article as it was published and staying to discuss whatever issues it happened to raise. Victoire had been all but glued to Teddy's side and Bill had dropped by to help Remus convert the old cellar back into a suitable place for his now-pending first transformation in this brave new world. The Wolfsbane Potion, which had been refined in the last twenty years so that only one dose was necessary in the few days before a change, was provided by Kingsley, whose wife was a skilled apothecary. And Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione had decided that the best way to distract them from the circus of their return was to inundate them with kids.
Remus liked them all from the start. Young James was his grandfather and Sirius all rolled into one; within twenty seconds of meeting him, he'd thwarted the young man's first attempt to prank him and within about thirty he'd discovered that Harry's son not only had possession of the Marauder's Map but was more than living up to it. Albus was a rather more serious character but easily likeable once brought out of his shell, and little Lily was frankly adorable. She had attached herself to Dora after about ten seconds, enamoured by her bubblegum pink curls, and Hugo, apparently her playmate, was soon fervently egging both Dora and Teddy along to compete in changing their features, in what Harry laughingly christened a morph-off'. And finally there was Rose, who bombarded them all with questions about how they came to be here and how the accident had all worked, fascinated to learn about this strange new magic. When he caught Ron's eye during the barrage, his former student had nodded his head in his wife's direction and mouthed twins.
And of course, once word was out, old acquaintances came knocking from every direction. Surviving Order members such as Hestia Jones and Dedalus Diggle had all but beaten a path to their door, and even Mundungus Fletcher had skulked out of the woodwork to greet them. Old school friends and workmates of Dora's, all looking disconcertingly older, had been quick to drop by, and Remus had been inundated by former pupils. Neville Longbottom had been the first, along with his wife Hannah, escorting a slightly frailer but still indomitable Minerva McGonagall around for tea. Luna Lovegood – now Scamander – had arrived one morning with her husband Rolf and twin sons on the back of an enormous palomino hippogriff. On one memorable afternoon, twenty-seven different people had all dropped round to say hello. It was verging upon the overwhelming.
Inevitably, it was Molly who had come up with the solution and in spite of Remus' reservations on the matter, Dora had loved the idea and they had ploughed ahead. Friends had been informed and asked to help out; general invitations to all concerned had been issued via adverts in the Prophet and the Crucible to anyone who wished to come. And so it was that Remus found himself standing with his wife and son on a bright morning in early August in the vast garden at The Burrow with several hundred people, most of whom he barely knew, as the slightly disconcerted centre of attention at what Ron had cheerfully christened a So Glad You're Not Dead After All party.
George had constructed three enormous banners that flashed their names and cheered loudly if they walked too close. Molly had made several cakes the size of a reasonably proportioned Hungarian Horntail. Lee Jordan was setting up his equipment in Arthur's old potting shed ready for a pending outside broadcast. And so far, and with a lack of acknowledgement of his condition that was frankly disconcerting, fifty-three different people had walked up and shaken his hand.
It was more than a little frightening. He'd almost considered going home and hiding in bed.
But nearby, Dora was grinning from ear to ear and obviously having a ball as she chatted enthusiastically with her old colleague Esther Proudfoot about changes in the Auror Department over the last twenty years. A little further away, at the trestle tables, Teddy was laughing his head off with Victoire and a group of school friends as they helped themselves to trifle.
And there was cake. You couldn't argue with that.
"Good grief, Remus. You look scared to death."
The familiar squeaky voice startled Remus out of his reverie and, with a broad smile, he looked down. "Hello Filius."
Filius Flitwick, his former colleague and the current Headmaster of Hogwarts, grinned as he cheerfully stretched up and deposited a plate that contained a chunk of chocolate fudge cake that was almost as large as he was on a nearby table before levitating himself efficiently onto a conveniently placed chair. With a click of his fingers, he Summoned a fork and tucked in.
"Mmmm," he ruminated contentedly. "Good cake."
Still smiling, Remus took a seat beside his diminutive friend. "Well, it was made by Molly Weasley."
"The woman's a genius." Filius smacked his lips. "You can't argue with cake like this."
"I was just thinking the same thing myself. Aside from anything else, it can't talk back."
Filius gave a peel of laughter. "True, true!" He slapped Remus' arm in a friendly manner. "I always liked your little asides, Remus. They livened up the staff room no end. That was always missing, after you had to go."
Remus had always enjoyed those evenings in the staff room, chatting with Pomona and Minerva, joking with Filius and poor Charity Burbage about their lessons, their students, occasionally even about Severus, Argus or Sybil when they'd done something of particular note. It'd been years prior to that since he'd been able to talk comfortably with a group of adults who knew of and acknowledged his condition, and he missed the almost chummy camaraderie that he'd found there. Although he'd been a jack-of-all-trades out of necessity, it had been that year at Hogwarts where he'd felt he'd truly found the place, the profession where he belonged. It had made seeing it ripped away by his own stupidity only that much more painful, though realistically, with the jinx on the Defence position, he knew he'd been an over-optimistic fool to have expected anything else.
"How is Hogwarts these days?" he asked, hoping that the slightly plaintive note in his voice was only in his imagination. "Harry told me the rebuilding work has left it as good as new. And I know that Neville Longbottom is teaching Herbology."
"And he's Head of Gryffindor, and a fine job he's doing too!" Filius helped himself to another forkful of cake. "The faces have changed, of course, except for Hagrid and me." He gestured to the gamekeeper who was apologetically helping George to re-hang one of the vast banners after accidentally getting the hook of it caught in his beard. "And Sybil, of course – nothing short of a dragon through the window would get her out of that tower these days. Most of the teachers that survived the battle have moved on in the last twenty years, and of course we've a whole new generation in the classrooms for whom those wars are nothing more than a story." Filius' expression grew more serious. "And that feels dangerous to me. Complacency led to Voldemort's rise. Complacency after Voldemort's fall led to him rising again. And the place to put a stop to that is Hogwarts."
Remus nodded. "I couldn't agree more."
Filius smiled broadly. "I'm pleased to hear that. Because I've got a plan to tackle the problem, Remus, to give the possibility of threat some immediacy. And I intend to use the vacancies we currently or will soon have at Hogwarts to solve it."
"Vacancies?" A strange, twisting, uncomfortably hopeful sensation abruptly took up residence in Remus' stomach but violently he forced it away. Don't be ridiculous. You're twenty years out of date. He's just asking your opinion, that's all…
"Mmmm." Further application of cake delayed Filius' response. "The first being History of Magic."
"History of Magic?" Remus utterly failed to conceal his astonishment. "Wait a minute, I wouldn't have thought that would ever be a vacancy. What about Professor Binns?"
Filius looked up at him, his expression weary. "You didn't hear? At the end of that awful year, a few weeks before the battle, Professor Carrow had Binns exorcised."
Filius' shrug was sadly resigned. "They didn't want him teaching anything that didn't fit in with their Purebloods Forever curriculum and you know what old Binns was like – he didn't know anything but that same syllabus he'd been teaching for about a century. He didn't make a stand or put up a fight – he simply couldn't change and he told the same history he always had, Muggle-borns and all. So Amycus Carrow summoned some representatives from the Spirit Division to cast him out. They were careful not to destroy him, in spite of Carrow egging them on, but what they did means he can't enter the Hogwarts grounds anymore. But the Spirit Division smuggled him away and found him a nice spot in the History Section of the Wizarding Archives. He gives lectures, though not usually to much of an audience. He's the same as ever. I'm not sure he even noticed the change."
Remus smiled wanly. "That sounds about right."
"I got in a nice young chap to replace him." With a final swallow, Filius polished off his helping of cake. "You might remember him from your N.E.W.T class – Demetrios Warwick?"
Remus nodded – Demetrios had been a dark-haired Slytherin who'd always had more interest in the origins of spells and curses than their usage. He'd also shown nothing but disdain for the prejudiced views of some of his housemates. "I remember Demetrios. He was a good student."
"He was a good teacher for these last twenty years - the children actually started paying attention in History of Magic lessons." Filius' expression grew suddenly awkward. "But I'd noticed in the last couple of years that he'd been getting a bit restless. He was fascinated by that Portal of yours and what it could do, and I think he was a bit disappointed when he contacted Penelope Weasley and found out the only available position in the Time Division had just been filled by one of his pupils."
Remus had a sudden feeling as to where this was going; his eyes drifted to where his son was laughing with Ginny and Ron. "Teddy's job. He's been offered Teddy's job."
Filius nodded. "I think so. He owled me his resignation three days ago and told me he'd been taken on as an Unspeakable. I can't imagine it would be anything else. But since he's leaving, I thought now was as good a time as any for a shift in the syllabus to, shall we say, more contemporary events?"
"That sounds reasonable." Remus was starting to wonder where all this was heading. He knew enough of Filius and the slightly pointed look in his eyes to know that it was heading somewhere, but penetrating this line of thought was proving to be beyond him.
Filius was rubbing his hands together. "And with that in mind… I've been speaking to your son."
A strange rush tumbled through Remus' stomach, shock, satisfaction, and approval, all tinged just slightly by a bitter edge of envy. "Teddy didn't tell me you'd offered him a job."
Filius shrugged. "I haven't yet, although I'd like to. I assume you know about the plans he's been making with Hermione Weasley."
Remus laughed, although it came out a little forced – after seeing the amount of paper strewn across the lounge for the last few days as the pair had made notes, it would have been rather hard to miss the aforementioned plans. "I know he and Hermione are intending to revise and update Hogwarts: A History together. He's very much looking forward to it."
Stop it. Don't discourage Filius. This could be a wonderful opportunity for your son and he'd make a very good teacher. So don't go and spoil it just because you're jealous.
"I know, and it's quite a project. With Hermione working at the Ministry, the majority of the work will fall on him." Filius was fingering his now empty plate and eyeing up the cake table with a certain degree of intent. "Which is why I was going to suggest he might like to take up the position next year rather than this, when the majority of the hard work on his revisions will be done."
A year. I could get used to it in a year. And I could help him. I'd want to help him.
"I think under those circumstances, he'd be delighted." There, well done. The right thing to say. "Do you have someone in mind to fill in in the meantime?"
"As it happens, I do." Filius' eyes never left the groaning monstrosity that was Molly Weasley's enormous carrot cake. "You."
It took perhaps ten seconds for that single word to penetrate the foggy, slightly distracted layers of Remus' brain. And when it did, the best he could muster was a single, slightly choked out word.
"You." The matter-of-factness with which Filius made the statement was frankly shocking. "I'm offering you a job, Remus. Harry said you hadn't even been looking when I asked him, and I know you love to teach. So there you have it."
"But…" The connection between his mouth and brain seemed to be suffering from a catastrophic failure. "I… Filius, I've never taught History of Magic. I haven't done it since school! I…"
"Which just goes to show you weren't listening properly earlier." Filius tapped his fork firmly against his plate with a clang. "I want to give recent history some immediacy for the students, Remus. I want you to teach the same thing to every year. The two wars with Voldemort. You were there for it all, after all, fighting on the front lines, and for you it was a month ago. It doesn't get much more immediate than that."
"But…" Remus was too flustered to wonder why on earth he was still protesting. "I don't know everything that went on during those wars. And I don't know about how it ended…"
Filius gave a shockingly casual shrug. "Read a book. Teddy has several. Or of course, you could just ask a certain Harry Potter and his friends for details! You've got access to the best source of first-hand material on the subject there is! And it's only for a year, Remus. After that you can go back to teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts where you belong."
It was about this point that Remus became convinced that he had somehow tumbled into an impossible parallel universe. Unless of course, he'd fallen asleep and started dreaming…
"Defence?" he managed weakly.
"Oh, didn't I mention that part?" Filius grinned. "My Defence teacher has been looking to leave and set up a Boggart Sanctuary in Suffolk, and he told me at the end of last term that with another year's salary in his pocket, he'll have enough money to do it. You can use the year in between to catch up on the changes and innovations in the subject while you were gone, so that by the time he leaves, you'll be ready to take it on again. It couldn't be more perfect, really. Your coming back has saved me an awful lot of head-hunting."
"Glad to help." He couldn't focus. The world was a daze. This couldn't be real, it was just too good, too perfect… Things like this just didn't happen to him…"But what about my condition? The parents won't want…"
"Oh, that's nothing that can't be regulated for." Those easy shrugs were starting to fray Remus' fragile, disbelieving nerves. "We managed well enough last time, except for one exceptional night. And Minister Shacklebolt revoked most of those ridiculous anti-werewolf laws long ago, so you've nothing to worry about on that score. There will still be some idiots of course, but people are a lot more tolerant than they used to be. As it happens, that was partly down to you." Filius smiled gently. "After all, a generation worth of students found out that a werewolf could also make an extremely good teacher, and an ordinary, pleasant, likeable human being to boot. And they're the parents now. Remember that." He rubbed his hands together once more. "So, then, Remus, what do you say? I've yet to ask your son, of course, but I've got a year's grace on his position. It's you I need an answer from." He fixed Remus with a penetrating stare. "Will you come back to teach at Hogwarts?"
And that was the question. He'd been humming and hawing and making protests as the conversation rampaged on like a runaway hippogriff, rampaging out of all control. But that was the simple, straightforward, fundamental truth behind it all, and Remus could feel the daze lifting from his mind as he absorbed it, let it consume him, let the idea settle - and stared in the face of the alternative, of not going back to the one job he'd loved more than any other.
And he knew, right then, that there could only ever be one answer.
"Yes," he said. "I will."
"Magnificent!" Filius clapped his hands together, almost tumbling out of his chair in his enthusiasm. "It'll be wonderful to have you back! Now if you'll excuse me, there's a piece of carrot cake that most definitely has my name on it…"
And then he was gone, jumping down from his seat and vanishing into the crowd as though he hadn't just rocked his former, and soon to be current, colleague to his core. And in the silence that followed, Remus simply sat, staring at the brightly coloured banners overhead and allowed himself to take in everything that had just happened.
I'm going back to Hogwarts. I'm going back to Hogwarts.
Sweet Merlin. I'm going to be a teacher again….
It took about five seconds for his smile to spread into an all-out grin. He was going back to Hogwarts…
His wife's voice started him out of his joyful reverie. Dora thrust her way out of the crowd, dragging a smiling Harry by one arm as she waved a small piece of paper emphatically in the other.
"Remus!" she exclaimed again, her face flushed but her eyes ecstatic. "Remus, guess what? I'm going to be an Auror again!"
Remus' eyes darted immediately to Harry, whose smile and shrug seemed wholly inadequate when compared to the fact the Dora was grinning like a Cheshire cat and dancing on the spot so happily that her feet barely touched the ground.
"The department always needs good Aurors." Harry's smile was spreading into a grin as he gestured to the piece of paper that Tonks was continuing to wave around. "I didn't see the point in letting one of the best go to waste, so I arranged a schedule of retraining and updating. She'll be qualified to go back on the beat by Christmas. I'd have told you sooner but it took a little while to sort out…"
"Isn't it fantastic?" With a half step, half-leap, Dora flung herself into his arms and Remus responded by lifting her into the air as she giggled and hurled her exclamations of joy towards to bright blue sky. He couldn't help but remember how devastated she'd been when she'd lost the job she'd trained so hard for and loved so much, how frustrated and at a loss that she was no longer able to help protect those she cared for, at least in an official sense. He couldn't help but beam his silent gratitude over her shoulder at Harry as she engulfed him in her embrace once more, revelling in her good fortune.
"It's wonderful..." Remus' sentence was cut off briefly by his wife's lips, but it wasn't an interruption he had any vast objections to. "I'm so happy for you."
Her hands still clasped around his neck for balance, Tonks leaned back and beamed at him. "That's a coincidence. I'm happy for me too." One sharp fingernail poked his shoulder. "And Teddy's got his research project with Hermione on the cards, so he's a little less upset about losing his job. Now all we need to do is get you sorted out…"
He couldn't help it. The smile that spread across his lips was unsuppressable.
Dora's dark eyes glittered. "And just what are you grinning about?"
Remus considered playing ignorant but decided in the end just to come right out and admit it. "Filius Flitwick just offered me a teaching job at Hogwarts."
Dora's eyes widened joyfully and her hands flew away from his neck, apparently with the intention of being flung around him once more. It was just a little unfortunate that her grip on him had been the only thing keeping her leaning body upright.
"Oof!" Backside met grass with an echoing thud, but Remus' quickly offered hand was slapped away as his wife glared with sudden fierceness up from the ground.
"I hope you bloody well took it!" she exclaimed forcefully. "I know you, Remus. I know you'll have tried to make excuses, but teaching's what you were made for so you'd better have…"
Remus conceded the point with a nod of his head. "I'll admit I did make a few excuses along the way. But in the end…" He shrugged slightly. "I decided I was being an idiot. So yes, I bloody well took it."
"Yes!" Dora's exuberant air-punch from a seated position drew a fair amount of attention but Remus was distracted by Harry's emphatic slap on the back.
"That is brilliant," he declared and Remus was both flattered and a little daunted by the sincerity in his expression. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather have teaching my kids. I'll have to buy Professor Flitwick a bottle of mead to compliment him on his good sense." He paused a moment to assist Tonks as she pulled herself back to her feet and dusted away the grass from her robes. "I assume you'll be teaching Defence?"
"From next year, yes." At Harry's quizzical expression, Remus explained. "For this year, I'm teaching History of Magic. Filius wants the children to learn about the First and Second Wars from someone who was there. Recently." He met Harry's eyes with an expression both apologetic and hopeful. "Although, if you've no objections, I might need your help with a few parts of the syllabus…"
Harry's smile was genuine. "I'd be happy to."
"Mum! Dad! Harry!" With an exuberance not at all dissimilar to his mother's, Teddy appeared abruptly out of the crowd, his face lit up with a glorious smile. In his hand, he held a plate of carrot cake.
Grinning from ear to ear, Teddy's eyes darted across the faces of his three loved ones. "I just saw Professor Flitwick at the cake table!" he exclaimed. "And you'll never guess what he asked me…"
The north battlement of Hogwarts castle was deserted. It was probably just as well.
Remus released a slow, careful sigh as he leant slowly against the jutting crenellations of the wall and stared out over the grounds to where Hagrid's hut hunkered in the dark and brooding shadow of the Forbidden Forest, unchanged and unchangeable in the light of a cloudy September morning.
It all looked just the same.
He wasn't quite sure what he'd expected really.
The last time he had stood on this spot, he had, as far as the world was concerned, been killed. It seemed incredible, even knowing all too well that twenty years had passed him by in the blink of an eye, that there was no sign now, no scar from the destruction he had seen that day, that had happened, for his mind, a mere two months before. The great gash that a giant's club had rent out of the wall had healed without a trace, the courtyard and lawn beneath smooth and neat as though great craters had never been torn from their surface, throwing clods of earth, stone, and other, less pleasant things into the air as bombastic spells struck home. There was no hint now of the bodies that had strewn the ground below except for a beautifully crafted memorial in the Entrance Hall. He still found it both difficult and bizarre to look at it. Aside from anything else, it still carried his name.
Make it real for the students, Filius had asked of him. Make them understand the horrors that come from hatred and prejudice and war. Make sure they realise what it all leads to, so it can never happen again. Tell them the whole truth.
It was still so vivid in his mind, the memories of this place in chaos, the terror that darkness could inflict. Where better to tell that story than here?
He glanced at his watch. 11am. It was September the first and the Hogwarts Express was just pulling out of Kings Cross station. The students were on their way.
He was back. He was a teacher again. And his students were coming.
Even now, after spending a month preparing lessons with help and advice from Harry, Kingsley and Hermione, even after spending the entirety of yesterday fitting out his new office near the History of Magic classroom, it still didn't quite seem real somehow. It probably wouldn't until the halls were echoing once more with student feet and happy, laughing voices that could chase away the too recent memory of spell blasts and reverberating screams.
It did feel strange to be back. But Hogwarts was Hogwarts and the good memories he had here would always outweigh the bad. And now he had the chance to tip that balance even further. To make new memories in a place he loved.
He'd chosen not to live here in the end – it meant too much to him seeing his wife and son every evening to think about giving that up. Filius had been extremely generous in arranging for the Floo in his new office to be connected to the fireplace at Winter Hollow so that Remus could commute to work each morning. The security precautions that Harry and Dora had set in place to ensure that no one could use the connection as a back door into the school had been grand in scale and ambition, but seemed to have proved effective, if Ron's scorched head and shocked expression when he tested the wards was anything to go by. They were downstairs now, adding the finishing touches to his office to ensure no student would be able to make the return trip, ably assisted by Teddy, who, for his community service, had been charged with helping around Hogwarts castle as required; the arrangement had proved ideal, since it meant that Teddy had ready access to both the ghosts and the Hogwarts library that would be so important for his research. His son had few objections to assisting the creaky Madam Pince around the library or assisting the house-elves in the kitchens and had even taken to the repeated scorch-marks and claw-swipes that came with helping Hagrid with his creatures with impressively cheerful alacrity but his assisting the aging and increasingly irrational Mr Filch with his caretaking duties had proved a little more of a bugbear. Filius had promised these less dignified duties would be limited once the students returned – after all, it was hardly appropriate for a potential teacher to be seen wiping scum off the corridors by his students – but it came as no surprise that his son had volunteered so quickly to take a break and help with the enchantments. Remus had been a little concerned that these intricate spells would all have to be shifted when he moved jobs and most likely offices, next year until Dora had rather gleefully pointed out that the new History of Magic teacher was very unlikely to protest at his borrowing the fire.
Two Professor Lupins, she'd teased cheerfully. However was the world going to cope?
Remus was a little more concerned about how the students would cope, but considering the possibilities that had faced him a couple of months before, pondering potential student confusion hardly seemed like the end of the world.
He'd been given a second chance. A second chance to live his life, a life he never thought he'd have, a beautiful wife, a wonderful son and a job he loved in a world where, if not always popular, he was at least accepted. He had wonderful friends and a family he loved more than anything in the world. And now as he stood with the wind ruffling his hair and cooling his face, staring out over a Hogwarts that had risen like a phoenix from destruction, he couldn't help but feel that not even every drop of Felix Felicis in the world could make him feel more lucky.
Closing his eyes, Remus lifted his face to the sky and, not sure exactly who he was addressing, not sure he even cared, he whispered two simple words that seemed somehow wholly inadequate.
Tonks couldn't help but smile as Remus jumped a good foot at the sound of her voice. There was something boyish and distinctly adorable about him when he was startled, and she always found it difficult to resist the urge to make her husband jump on the rare occasions it presented itself. She considered it a wifely perk.
To give him his due, Remus rarely stayed startled for long, and today was no exception. "Where did you come from?" he asked, his voice surprisingly calm for the most part as he turned to face her. "I didn't hear you."
Tonks grinned as she wandered over to join him, settling herself on his merlon as she stared out over the grounds. "Ah, you see it's all that Stealth and Tracking retraining I've been doing. Tonks the baby elephant has ceased to be. From now on, I'll glide across the ground like a silent ghost, ready to pounce at any moment…" She nodded her head in the direction of the nearby turret. "Mind you, I went flat on my face near the top of the stairs. So I strongly suspect you weren't paying attention."
He smiled fondly as he settled next to her, butting her shoulder with his playfully as he leaned his elbows on the stone. "I was just thinking."
Tonks returned the affectionate shoulder butt with one of her own. "About what?"
His eyes seemed to drift somewhere far away. "This. Being here. What happened here. What would have happened here if Teddy hadn't…"
The hand she laid gently across his wrist was enough to still the remainder of the sentence. "Don't."
His expression was vaguely reproachful. "It's important to remember. So many people died. We could have died. We should have died."
Gently, she laid one finger across his lips. "Of course it's important to remember," she replied softly. "But it's equally important not to dwell. We've been given this miracle. Let's not waste it wallowing in might-have-beens."
His smile was gentle. "I know. It's just…hard. Especially here…"
Tonks understood exactly what he meant. Flashes of memory, of screams and bangs and that bizarre image of her own frozen face staring back at her for an instant as she watched her copied self being engulfed by a life-stealing burst of deadly green light… It had all happened here. Here was where, but for her son, she would have died.
But she hadn't died. That she was standing here now was proof enough of that. What was the point of going over it all again when it hadn't even happened? All brooding on the past did was get in the way of time better spent living for the present and the future. She'd learned that lesson the hard way in the year before their marriage.
Old Mad-Eye used to say that the only thing might-have-been ever got you was a bunch of regrets and a few more scars that would never have happened if you'd cleared your head and stuck with the here and now. Mad-Eye had been a paranoid git and daft as a coot more often than not, but the old bugger had known what he was talking about.
Carefully, Tonks fixed Remus with a pointed look. "I know it's hard for you. You were built to brood. It's hexed into your brain. In Remus-world, it goes – oh dear, something has happened. I must set aside time to brood on it incessantly…"
"Hey!" This shoulder butt carried a little more weight. "I'm not that bad."
Tonks grinned, knowing she was winding him up and not much caring. "You bloody are, you know. But that's okay. Now I've finally got the time to train it out of you."
One eyebrow rose with slow deliberateness until it had all but disappeared beneath his hairline. "Train it out of me? What are you going to do – corner me with a chair and crack a whip until I stop it?"
Tonks waggled her eyebrows playfully. "Now you're just giving me ideas."
Remus rolled his eyes but she could tell he wasn't really annoyed. "Thank you, but years of once monthly and fairly ineffectual bondage sessions with the chains in the cellar were quite enough for me. But as for the brooding…" He smiled slowly. "I'll see what I can do. It isn't as though life has left me all that much to brood on."
"And yet, I know you'll still give it a try." Smiling cheekily, Tonks ducked under her husband's arm and snuggled affectionately against his shoulder. His arm tightened over her back and squeezed. "But I still love you."
"And even if I don't brood, you'll still tease me about it." His voice was a rumble against the top of her head. "But I still love you too."
Tonks indulged herself for a moment, drinking in his warmth, his scent, his touch, the sensation of just being here, with him and knowing, once and for all, that they had time to build a proper life, a future together. It felt magnificent. It felt right.
"Who were you thanking?" The question drifted off her lips without any conscious thought. "When I arrived, who did you thank?"
His arm tightened across her shoulders. "Whoever was responsible for letting me have this."
Tonks pressed her cheek into the fabric of his robes, not sure if at any moment in her life before she had ever felt so content. "In that case," she said softly. "They get a vote of thanks from me as well. And it's not a debt I can ever repay."
Teddy hadn't been sure if he would be interrupting by joining his parents when he'd looked up from the courtyard, and seen them cuddling together on the very battlements from which he had snatched them two months before. But his mother had spotted him and beckoned enthusiastically, his father had smiled and waved and before he knew it, there he was, putting down the mop and bucket that Filch had grumpily supplied him with a few minutes before, and standing with them as they stared out over the Hogwarts grounds, struggling to fight off a very disconcerting sense of déjà vu.
It was so strange, seeing them here of all places. So many times he'd stood and watched that scene play out, the one in which they'd apparently died, and knowing it hadn't really been them didn't make the memory seem any less real. He'd thought it was them as he'd watched it, he'd felt their loss each and every time. There was still a part of him that couldn't quite believe, as he stared at them now, that giants wouldn't come and smash the battlements, that Dolohov wouldn't appear to cast his deadly curse. But they were here, now, smiling at him, pulling him in between them, a quick kiss from his mum, a tap on the arm from his dad as he ushered him in to the circle of their affection.
His parents. His family.
And he loved them so.
"So." His mum grabbed the mop and swung it playfully, successfully dousing both her husband and her son's feet with water as the bucket went inevitably flying. "How's life as the Hogwarts dogsbody?"
Teddy accepted the towel his father had conjured with a wry smile as he bent to dry his feet. "Suitably revolting, considering I'm being punished," he admitted ruefully. "Filch has definitely lost the plot in the last couple of years. I'm not sure the third floor toilets have been cleaned since I was at school, and they were none too pleasant back then either. Even the house-elves won't touch them. And there's some mould down by the Potions classroom that I think might be developing a life of its own. If it carries on like this, I might have to name it…" He sighed. "I can't wait until term starts and I can go back to helping in the library."
"Just wait until the students are back." Mum was nodding knowingly. "Then even the library will be no refuge. I've seen Dungbombs in there, mud, water, custard…"
"Best study session ever, that one." Mum beamed reminiscently. "The greatest food fight in Hogwarts history and it kicked off in the one room where food was forbidden to go. It lasted for three hours. Dumbledore came to break it up and ended up joining in. And of course, that resulted in the record for the most detentions I ever had in one go. Professor Sprout actually went purple…"
Dad was grinning too. "How many?"
"Every night for two months, weekends included, helping Pince to clean the books up. It took sixty-one detentions in a row for us to clean all those shelves by hand. Beat that!"
Dad chuckled. "I was the prefect, remember? The good boy. Your cousin Sirius, however, would cheerfully take that record and raise you another month's worth."
Teddy, having encountered his mum's cousin Sirius whilst watching his parents' past, did not find this greatly difficult to believe. "What on earth did he do?"
Dad glanced out across the stony walls of Hogwarts castle towards the western side. "Let's put it this way. There's a reason why the western turret is crooked..."
Teddy shook his head as Mum let loose with peals of laughter. "Your friends were insane," he stated frankly.
Dad simply grinned. "Oh yes. But fun too. I was never bored, being friends with them."
"I should imagine not." Teddy smiled to himself as he stared out over towards the Forest once more, his mind darting back to his dad's assertion that his friends had somehow saved him from being lost when he'd been trapped inside the Portal, halfway between past and future. They were just stories to him, just as his parents had once been stories, glimpsed within the Portal as he watched his parents' past but not really known in the same way, but he was so very grateful to them for giving him his father. He was so very grateful to have them both.
"Mum, Dad." Two faces, always familiar, but now so real, turned towards him. "Back at the cottage, not long after I pulled you through, you both told me that your lives weren't worth risking my future for." He allowed himself to grin. "Given the current circumstances, I would like to state for the record that you were both completely wrong and I will now accept your apologies."
He was glad that both his parents immediately saw the funny side.
"What," Dad declared with a chuckle, "you mean we're worth facing sentient mould and the third floor toilets? I'm flattered."
"What kind of apology were you after?" Mum laughed as she leaned back against the battlements. "I could grovel at your feet but I'd rather wait until you're wearing shoes that aren't covered in mop-water."
Teddy joined their laughter for a moment before turning more serious. "I meant that, though," he said quietly. "Having you back, having the chance to know you both and seeing you pick up your lives and be happy… That would have been worth almost any cost to me. I loved my job and I'll always be sorry I lost it but it was worth giving it up to have you both back in my life. Even if I'd gone to prison, I wouldn't have cared as long as you were both okay. I love you."
He felt his mother's arms wrap around him as he dropped his head gently onto her shoulder. A moment later, his father's arms engulfed them both.
"We love you too, son," Teddy heard him whisper. "We love you too."
From the courtyard below, Harry Potter looked up at the three embracing figures and smiled.
It was strange how things turned out.
He still remembered those dark, terrible days that had followed the final victory over Voldemort. He remembered the succession of funerals, of one double funeral in particular, as he'd sat and stared at baby Teddy clutched in his weeping grandmother's arms and wondered how on earth the world would ever be able to put this right.
He'd never thought he'd see something like this.
He'd mourned so many in those days that had followed bitter victory; his parents, who'd died to save him, his loyal and loving godfather Sirius, Albus Dumbledore, an enigma even after death, Fred Weasley who died with a smile on his face, Dobby who died in his name, and even Severus Snape, who'd loved his mother just enough in the end to give him what he needed to win.
And he'd mourned a wonderful teacher who he'd never quite found the time to truly know, and his bright, determined wife, robbed of their future together and the time to get to know their son.
They had it now.
And although there were still others left to mourn who had been lost in that dreadful time, Harry couldn't help but feel that in seeing Teddy reunited with his parents, in seeing Remus and Tonks resuming the lives they truly deserved to lead, that one of the great injustices of that final battle had been miraculously put to rights.
And for the reunited Lupin family, all was finally well.