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Chapter title attributed to C.S. Lewis, being modified from the title of the last chapter of The Magician's Nephew (the little-read prequel to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).
Chapter 1: The end of one life
An unseasonable chill penetrated the fog swirling around Privet Drive, and found it's way to a second floor window on the unassuming Number Four where a thin sixteen-year-old named Harry Potter looked out over the blissfully ignorant suburbs. Hundreds of thousands of people lived in Surrey, all but a minute percentage going about their daily routines, unaware that a darkness was rising which threatened to destroy the free world. Harry looked out from his window solemnly, the grief brought on by the recent murder of Albus Dumbledore magnified beyond measure by the knowledge that even now everyday folk were being slaughtered without mercy or regret. Not even the crack of apparition, nor Uncle Vernon's muffled shouting could rouse the teen from his reverie, until the cries took on a more personal flavour.
"Boy! Get down here!" The shouts to Harry's mind a letter he had received only the day before. He scanned his room, over the piles of The Daily Prophet's with headlines describing horrific murders, until he spied the crumpled parchment on his desk.
July 9, 1997
I hope this letter finds you well, and not blaming yourself too much for the events of June, seeing as IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. Dumbledore was an extremely powerful wizard, and could easily have subdued Draco without a wand. We may never know why he didn't, but he made the choice on his own. Anyway, I didn't write just for that; there is a great deal I've been allowed to tell you, but it isn't really the sort of information I can put in a letter. I'm able to stop by tomorrow at three o'clock in the afternoon. Reply by return owl if that's a good time for you and your family.
P.S. I apologize in advance if Cygnus causes your relatives any harm. He's Dora's owl, and not very fond of muggles, though he has grown tolerant of Ted.
Harry checked his watch. 3:01 P.M. A thin ghost of a smile crossed his features. Remus was nothing if not punctual. He went down to the kitchen where the werewolf was carrying on an amiable, albeit one-sided, conversation with Aunt Petunia, the latter staring with fear and disgust at the former's patched, frayed, and very dirty robes. Harry's arrival, silent as it was, caused the older man to look up.
Remus looked as sickly as he ever did, but his drawn face lit up as his warm, sapphire eyes took in the son of his late best friend. "Harry!" Remus rose quickly to his feet, and turned to address Aunt Petunia. "It's been delightful to see you again Petunia, but I'm afraid I'll have to ask for some time alone with my ward." For her part Aunt Petunia looked quite relieved to be scurrying out of the room, but the werewolf's choice of words forced Harry to pause and consider.
"Your ward?" he asked, eyebrows raised.
Remus smiled apologetically as he retook his seat. "I suppose Albus didn't tell you. In his will, Sirius named me your legal guardian."
Harry was a little sceptical, to say the least, but he took a seat opposite his alleged guardian. "And Scrimgeour just let that happen?" Given Remus' status as a werewolf, and therefore a nonperson, Harry found it highly unlikely that the Ministry of Magic would allow him to take legal custody of the Wizarding World's most famous teenager.
Now, for the first time, Remus looked slightly uncomfortable. "No, I'm afraid you're right." Harry's eyebrows rose even higher. "Scrimgeour decided that, since Sirius was your godfather, his closest living relative would become your legal guardian. His only brother, Regulus, has been dead for years, so it would have to be a cousin. However since Bellatrix is a convicted Death Eater, Narcissa is married to a convicted Death Eater, and Andromeda is married to a muggle, officially the only relative Sirius has left is Nymphadora." The older man elaborated.
This explanation, though thorough, did little to satisfy Harry's curiosity. "Alright, that makes sense. But that would still make Tonks my guardian, not you." The slightest hint of a possibility was beginning to form in the back of Harry's mind, but he didn't consider it likely just yet.
At this point Remus was visibly fidgeting. "Well uh, Dora and I found a loophole and…" he was never able to finish his sentence, as at that moment Harry realized that he had kept his left hand suspiciously out of sight for the entire conversation.
"No…" Harry was shaking his head slowly, refusing to believe what his intellect told him was true. "Remus let me see your left hand." The man complied meekly, and Harry saw for the first time the gold band on his fourth finger. For the first time since witnessing Dumbledore falling from the Astronomy Tower, Harry broke into a genuine smile. "So you finally did it."
Remus nodded his assent, his own smile growing. "What Minerva said in June, how Albus being happy about a little more love in the world, made me re-think my position. I'm sorry you couldn't come to the wedding, but we just wanted a small affair. It was only us and Dora's parents." Harry congratulated his father' old friend, but was waved off. "It's a very delightful thing, but it's not why I'm here." He leaned in, and Harry followed suit. There was no doubt in his mind that this news was somehow related to the actions of the Order of the Phoenix.
"First and foremost, Minerva and Alastor will be sharing the duties of head of the Order. Minerva has also taken the Headmistress post at Hogwarts, and has promoted Professor Flitwick to be Deputy Head." Harry nodded, he had expected all that. "Alastor has agreed to fill the vacant Defence Against the Dark Arts post, and Professor Slughorn has agreed to stay on full time as Potions Master and head of Slytherin house. Minerva says she's filled the Transfiguration position, but won't let out any details. The reading of Dumbledore's will has been set for Friday August 1st. Since you'll be of age by then, and have been named in it, you have been asked to attend." This made Harry start. Dumbledore had left him something? What? And more importantly, why?
Remus appeared lost in thought, but the moment passed. "Ah yes, one last thing. Hermione has been spending a lot of time at the Burrow recently," for reasons Harry would not admit to himself, that simple admission made his heart feel like it was made of lead. His face must have displayed something of his feelings, since Remus flashed a knowing smile before continuing, "And she and Bill have been putting their heads together. According to those two, the blood wards aren't focused to the house, as we'd previously believed, but to you specifically no matter where you are, and they'll be maintained until midnight on July 31st, whether you're here or not, so there's really no reason for you to stay here. Dora and I would be delighted if you would come and stay with us until the reading." The older man grinned hopefully.
Harry smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. Grief at Dumbledore's death, and at returning to Grimmauld Place, gripped him. Nonetheless, "I'd love to" was his simple reply.
Remus beamed at him, but Harry noticed a haunted look in his eyes. It seemed not even being newly married could completely eliminate the pain of recent loss. "Wonderful! We can't apparate you out, thanks to the wards, but I'll arrange something as soon as possible." He noticed Harry's downcast expression and chuckled. "Don't worry Harry, it shouldn't take any longer than a week."
This did little to cheer Harry up. "Why a week? Why not now?" Of course he was impatient; it was perfectly justified in his situation.
Remus fixed him with a sad look; he knew perfectly well what the young man had been put through, and could understand his frustration. "I'm sorry Harry, I'm on assignment for all of the next week." He pulled a golden pocket watch from his robe and considered it for a moment before rising with a slight frown and dropping it back into place. "Speaking of, I'm due to start soon. Minerva will not be pleased with me if I'm late."
Harry perked up at the possibility of more news. "What's your assignment?" He asked hopefully.
Remus just smiled thinly. "Sorry, not this time." And with a cheery wave, he disapparated. Harry stared at the spot that formerly held the werewolf. Although there was no change in his almost permanently sombre expression, he was truly happy. Only one more week and he would be gone forever from 4 Privet Drive.