"...the razor-edged return of memory" by H.L.B.
Remus Lupin awoke and failed to remember. For just a moment he did not remember who he was or where he was or why he was there. But in a breath that moment was gone and he felt the painful rush of knowledge. He closed his eyes and longed for that moment of forgetfulness. What he wouldn't give for a thousand more... if only they weren't followed by the razor-edged return of memory!
He opened his eyes once more and watched the play of the golden early light on the ceiling above his bed. The bitter irony of today was that most of the people he knew would be participating in celebrations. He, on the other hand, would be attending a funeral. No, this was no day of rejoicing for him.
With a sigh he acknowledged to himself that staying in bed would not make things better... or even different. Dully, he pulled himself out of bed and set about the task of getting ready for the day. He managed to numb himself to thought and feeling as he went through the daily motions of washing, bathing, and dressing. His feet carried him automatically to the small kitchen where his hands set about the daily routine of brewing a pot of tea with minimal assistance from his brain.
A detached part of his mind wondered if he could keep this up for the rest of the day. Perhaps he might be able to bear it if he could remain numb in body, mind, and spirit. Even as he wondered this he felt the feelings coming back with sharp painful pricks like the nerves of a sleeping limb reviving. No, numbness was not an option - and that was probably just as well. Sooner or later feelings would insist on being felt, putting it off only made it worse.
He put the teapot on the table and walked the few steps from the tiny kitchen to the front door. As he opened it to fetch the rolled-up paper dropped earlier by the Daily Prophet delivery owl he saw that the day promised to be a fine one. A gorgeous late fall day. All the better for revelers, he supposed. As for him - it didn't really matter.
As he re-entered the kitchen he dropped the paper on the table and went to fetch a mug from the drain board. He hand closed around his favorite one without thinking. It was a very chunky somewhat lopsided affair, obviously made by hand and not machine. An inexperienced hand, at that, Remus thought feeling the hot stinging of tears in his eyes. He sat heavily and held the mug in both hands, regarding it.
Lily had made it during the summer break between their forth and fifth years. It happened to be one of the better outcomes of a pottery class she had taken and she had kept it carefully so that she could give it to him for Christmas. In fact, she had made one for each of them: Sirius, Peter, James, and Ella Figg. James', of course, had probably been the best example of her work but Remus had always thought that his was a close second.
He had used it ever since, carefully packing it and taking it with him every time he moved. To him, it was more than a lumpy amateur piece. It was a tangible reminder of what had become the most precious and unexpected gift in his life: friendship. True friends, real friends. People that loved you and got incredibly annoyed with you... people who could tease about pottery being lopsided at the same time they treasured it as if it were the finest gold.
His friends were people who showed up mere hours after his parents died and refused to leave his side. As hard as the death of his parents had been, he could not imagine how he would have gotten through it with his friends.
Before school his parents were all he had. Because other children's parents feared him, he had not had friends or even playmates. Unlike his peers, he had come to Hogwarts without the little trinkets and remembrances of friends and frienship. No photos, no mementos, no silly little gifts. And he hadn't expected to gather any at Hogwarts. What he had expected was the same level of rejection and isolation to which he had grown accustomed since being bitten ... and cursed.
Yet, instead of rejection he had found friendship... an impossibly rich treasure that those who had always had it could scarcely appreciate. They accepted him, trusted him ... loved him. James and Sirius had pretty much become fast friends the instant they met and it didn't take them long to draft Remus into helping with one of their first pranks. Remus had entered the common room after a late night of study just as Sirius and James had started sneaking up the stairs to the girls' dormitory. Remus saw their startled expressions, their location, and the dung bombs in their hands and did the math. Even then they had been quite the charmers. Before he had time to think twice Remus found himself recruited to stand guard while they made their "delivery" to the first year girls' dorm.
As Remus waited, tense, listening hard he thought he heard the sound of something rolling on the floor above him. He didn't have much time to contemplate this, however, for James and Sirius were pelting down the stairs and grabbing him and dragging him toward their dorm stairs before he knew it. They had just hit the bottom stair of the boys' dorm when the sound of three eleven-year old girls screaming hit them. This had given all three guilty eleven-year-old boys an extra burst of speed. They somehow managed to make it to their own dorm just before all Hell truly broke loose - but it had been very close. Fortunately, Muddy Fletcher and Peter Pettigrew, who were awakened by the three boys falling, laughing, into their dorm, did not give them away.
Remus chuckled softly to himself as he recalled the "looks of death" Lily, Ella, and Amy Philos had given them for well over a week. The dung bombs had been bad enough, he supposed, but the fact that the first year boys were never punished even though the first year girls knew they had done it ...well, that had been a bit much for the girls to take. There had been no proof that night, but Lily and Ella considered the gauntlet to have been thrown down. They rose to the challenge magnificently and by Christmas a high-pitched prank war was underway, much to the chagrin of Argus Filtch, the caretaker. He was certain that they would somehow cause irreparable harm to the castle or grounds and made it his mission not only to stop them but also to see they were punished thoroughly.
When Filtch declared war on them, they declared a truce and bonded over their common enemy. James, Lily, Sirius, Ella, Peter and he had become quite a group by the time the year was out. "The gang of six" was how Argus Filtch referred to them. They took it as a compliment, even though it wasn't intended as one.
The gang of six... minus two. James and Lily were dead, murdered. They had been slain by an evil wizard who then tried to kill their 15-month-old son - and now the magical world rejoiced. The Magical world rejoiced because when that evil scum, Voldemort, had tried to kill little Harry his curse rebounded and cut him down, instead. Weak and powerless, Voldemort had fled. The magical community had been freed, at last, from his reign of terror. Even as his parents lay dead in the ruins of their home, witches and wizards were toasting little Harry for having defeated Voldemort.
It wasn't fair to blame them, Remus knew. Voldemort's defeat was reason to rejoice but Remus hadn't found himself in the mood. He supposed, on some level, that he was grateful the Dark Lord was gone but that wasn't something he could really appreciate in the face of the loss that came with it. The loss of his friends was like a suffocating weight. It was surreal and all to real at once and Remus wasn't quite sure how to deal with it.
Like everything else, one hour at a time he told himself looking at the clock. There were still two very long hours to fill before he needed to apparate to Hogsmeade. For lack of anything better to pass the time, he decided to have his tea and have a look at the paper. Carefully he poured the tea into Lily's mug and picked up a sugar spoon in his right hand. With his left he unrolled the paper and smoothed it with one hand with practiced ease as he kept his attention on sweetening his tea. That done, raised the mug to drink and finally took a look at the paper.
He didn't know he had let go of the mug until he heard it shatter on the floor and felt the scalding tea splash onto his foot. He should have been dismayed at shattering it but he couldn't move, he couldn't think, he couldn't.... breathe. His hands were shaking and he was growing light headed. Only with great effort was he able to fill his lungs before he blacked out. Head in his hands, he managed another very deep breath. Carefully he looked, again, at the paper. The headline had not changed, nor had the photos beneath it.
THIRTEEN KILLED, WIZARD ARRESTED it said. Beneath the stark declaration the photos of Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black gazed back up at him. The caption under Peter's photo began in bold print with the words: "DEAD IN THE ATTACK." Even as his brain took in the information, the rest of him rejected it as impossible. More impossible still were the words that began the caption beneath Sirius' photo: "SENT TO AZKABAN FOR LIFE."
Trembling, Remus forced himself to read the article and to understand what it was telling him. It said that Peter had heroically tracked down and confronted Sirius for betraying James and Lily into the hands of Voldemort. Sirius? Betray them? This could not be possible, it couldn't. But there was more. In breathless detail, the paper described how, when confronted, Sirius had blasted the street to bits, killing Peter and twelve muggles in the bargain. Apparently, the evidence against Sirius had been so firm that he had been sent to Azkaban even without a trial.
Even though it was set before him in black and white Remus could not believe it. It simply wasn't possible. Sirius and James had been like brothers... closer than brothers. James and Lily would have placed their lives in his hands without hesitation. And that's what cost them their lives a horrible voice in the back of his mind whispered. No! The rest of Remus' mind rebelled against this thought. Even I would have trusted Sirius with my very life and soul. The man I know, the man who is my trusted friend CAN NOT have done this! Sirius would never betray any of them, he wouldn't KILL Peter, let alone twelve innocent muggles. There had to be some mistake.
This could not be true, not something this horrible. He had to talk to someone, to sort this out? But who? The ministry? No, even if he could find someone there who would take the time they would never give him a straight answer. He needed to speak with Albus Dumbledore, the sooner the better. Rising quickly, Remus pulled on his robes and grabbed his wand. An instant later he had disapparated leaving the paper and the shattered mug behind.
When Remus appeared at the Hogsmeade station the first thing he saw was the massive figure of Hagrid the groundskeeper sitting on a bench. Despite his excessive proportions, Hagrid seemed somehow... diminished. When Hagrid caught sight of Remus he sighed heavily and rose, making his way toward him.
"Been waitin' for yeh, Remus" he said dully.
This was not a good sign and Remus found himself feeling a bit panicky. He wasn't sure he could speak, even if he knew what to say. Hagrid seemed to feel he was waiting for further information,
"Dumbledore sen' me to get yeh. He told me yeh'd be here soon as yeh saw the paper and I should bring you soon as yeh came."
It seemed to Remus that, if the paper was wrong, Dumbledore could simply have sent him an express owl telling him to ignore it and promising explanations after the funeral. If, however, it was true... well then Dumbledore probably would want to speak with him.
Remus gave himself a little shake resolving not to jump to conclusions. He noticed, then, that Hagrid was looking at him with some concern. His throat was still tight with fear so Remus just nodded dumbly at Hagrid who turned and led the way out of the station to a waiting carriage.
Remus had no memory of getting into the carriage, the journey up to Hogwarts Castle, or of getting out of the carriage and making his way to Dumbledore's office. He must simply have followed Hagrid without thought as he struggled to manage the alternating waves of grief and fear as they rose and feel within him. He would not believe this was happening. He could not. People simply didn't have four of their closest friends wiped from the face of the planet in the space of forty-eight hours. These things didn't happen.
And yet... No. Don't think, don't feel. Don't think, don't feel. Don't think, don't feel... He repeated this over and again focusing all his thoughts, all his energy and awareness on the words. So intent was he on doing this that he did not notice Dumbledore entering the office.
"Remus." a firm but gentle voice said. Was there an unusual sadness in its tone?
Remus' head snapped up and he looked at Dumbledore with wild, desperate eyes. As soon as his eyes met the older man's Remus' denial was swept away like debris in a flood of unmistakable reality. Gravity and Sadness replaced the usual twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes.
So it WAS true, Remus thought in horror, It couldn't be - and yet it was.
Dumbledore sat down with marked weariness and, once again, addressed Remus,
"I'm sorry, but the news you undoubtedly heard this morning does seem to be true. I have already been to the ministry today. They confirmed everything." Dumbledore paused for a moment before continuing, "The information I was able to provide seems to have only strengthened their conclusions."
Finally, Remus found his voice, "What information?" he croaked hoarsely.
"Sirius was Lily and James' Secret Keeper. Only he could have told Voldemort where to find them."
"Are you sure?" Remus asked, almost desperately.
"I spoke with them very recently and offered to be their secret keeper. They insisted upon using Sirius."
Remus tried to take in this information then suddenly asked,
"Because they trusted him as a brother."
"No, not why did they insist on Sirius. Why did you offer to be their Secret Keeper?"
Dumbledore sighed quite heavily before answering.
"I have been aware for some time that someone close to James and Lily was passing on information to Voldemort. I didn't know who it was but thought it best to avoid using anyone in their inner circle."
"So it was Sirius then? Sirius has been working for Voldemort all this time..." Remus trailed off shaking his head. Suddenly he rose sharply pounding his fist into his palm and pacing sharply.
"No. No. I don't understand I just don't get it! How could Sirius...? All this time and we didn't know? Didn't notice? How could I not have noticed Sirius was the kind of person who would betray his two best friends to their murder? How could I be so close to him and not notice he was the kind of person who could just casually murder Peter and those muggles... my God! Those people... Peter... James and Lily!" Remus' voice had been rising but, at the last he began to choke on the words as he fought to contain the overwhelming wave of emotions: betrayal, anger, grief, ...despair.
He had stopped in front of Dumbledore's desk and found himself pounding his fists on it asking, "How? How? Help me understand, I don't understand!" But before Dumbledore could make a reply Remus felt the strength leave his body as he sank to the floor unable to contain the deep sobs that were now racking his body.
For a time he knew nothing except the pain which seemed to be torn from the depth of his very self. When he finally stopped, weak and drained, he noticed that Dumbledore had lowered himself to sit on the floor beside him. The Headmaster sat quietly allowing Remus' pain the chance to express itself. As Remus reached up to drag his sleeve across his face Dumbledore quietly removed the traces of tears from his own face before Remus could see them. He did not, however, make any move to rise from the floor but sat quietly next to Remus waiting.
"I don't know how to do it," Remus said dully
"To do what?"
"To live, to move on, to be without - my friends. My God, they're all gone all of them except for Ella." Remus' head had been resting in his hands but now he looked up at Dumbledore intently, "Where is Ella? She would have come straight here, too. She should have been here by now."
"I have sent Ella into hiding."
"You what?! Why? Please, please don't tell me Sirius tried to-"
"No, not Sirius, at least I don't believe so. Some of the Death Eaters who are still at large blasted her house apart this morning looking for her. She is alright but until we know what they want from her this seems best."
"You don't know what they want?"
"So she's gone for Merlin knows how long -alone." Remus' made a sound like laughter without mirth or joy, "Well, I guess I am too, aren't I?"
Dumbledore's gaze found his, "No, Remus you are not. You still have friends here."
"Do I?" Remus replied bitterness evident in his voice.
Dumbledore seemed taken aback at this. He looked at Remus with evident confusion.
"I'm sorry, sir. I don't mean to question your motives. I don't, in fact. It's my judgement that's a little suspect right now."
Dumbledore's eyebrow rose, questioning.
"Sirius was my closest friend and I had no idea who he really was. It seems to me that I haven't got a clue when it comes to knowing who my friends are."
"Sirius fooled a lot of people, Remus."
"Maybe, but not all of them were his best friends... just me and those who didn't live to tell the tale." Remus said in disgust.
Just then the Hogwarts bell tolled its sound resonating through the stones of the castle. At this Dumbledore put a hand on Remus' shoulder.
"It is time to go down to the lake." he said gently, rising to his feet.
Remus rose as well, shaking his robes and running his hands through his hair. The hour had come to scatter James and Lily's ashes and say a few words of tribute and comfort. Tomorrow or the next day, he supposed, they would bury Peter.
And then? What then? Exactly How does someone cope when they've lost everyone who was truly important to them? He supposed there were far too many people who strayed across Voldemort's path who had to figure it out. So many lives destroyed, incinerated by evil.
And the man he thought to be his best friend helped do it. He had been a fool but whatever innocence he had a few short hours ago, whatever faith he had in himself, it had been burned away.
Perhaps they should be scattering my ashes, too.