Epilogue: Love Is Its Own Protection
While Harry considered Ron to be his best friend and Ginny to be the love of his life, he was at a loss when he tried to tell them what he had learned in the letters. After Ron moved in, Harry brought up the subject of Sirius, but they never moved beyond how brave Sirius was to stand up to his family and move out. It was the perfect time for Harry to tell Ron that Sirius' decision to leave Number Twelve Grimmauld Place had as much to do with his feelings for Lupin as it did his hatred of his family, but the words caught in his throat. He felt if he uttered the words they would lose the deep felt sentiments and fall upon Ron's ears ugly and disgraceful.
He suggested to Ginny that they visit his godson, Teddy, during the upcoming weekend. He hoped to use the opportunity to ease their conversation into the letters and the magical circumstance of Teddy's conception and birth. But once again, the plan failed. Seeing the child seemed to put Ginny under a romantic spell as she spoke wistfully of the short lived love of Remus and Tonks. "At least they lived long enough to see their child," she sighed.
Harry opened his mouth to tell her how Teddy was Sirius' child too, but the words that had made so much sense when he had read them, sounded mystical and crazy when he imagined himself saying them, so he agreed with her and kept silent.
Weeks went by and it appeared to Harry that everything had changed. He walked through Grimmauld Place, not thinking of it as Sirius' prison, but as the place where Sirius and his lover had shared their plans for a future with him. On the way to his classes at the Ministry he looked at people wondering what secrets they kept. Just as he had slept for years in the bed where his parents had spent a night of passion, had seen the damaged wall and heard the creaky bedsprings, without ever knowing their origin, he now wondered what other signs of love were right in front of him, invisible to his naïve eyes.
When he could no longer keep the secret, he knew that there was only one person with whom he could share this information. He met Hermione in a café in Muggle London. She arrived before him and waved to him from a table in the back.
"You're studying hard," she remarked, pointing to his heavy rucksack.
Harry nodded in agreement, although the sack also contained Sirius' letters.
"I'm so glad you asked me to meet you. Ron is pathetic in Muggle establishments, so self-conscious. I've become a great fan of good coffee lately and you just can't get that in Diagon Alley," Hermione shook her head and took a sip from her mug. "Are you getting anything?" she added as the waiter approached.
"A cup of tea and a scone, please," Harry ordered, seeing Hermione frown slightly and the ordinariness of his food choices.
"You could get that anywhere. Why did you suggest we come here?"
The time for truth had come and Harry cleared his throat. "Well, I have something to talk privately with you about and I knew we wouldn't run into anyone we knew here."
"Sounds intriguing," Hermione said, her brow wrinkled as if trying to guess what it was that Harry wanted to discuss.
"Hermione, I found out something about Sirius. Something he wanted me to know, but he died before he could tell me. Something… delicate, but it's also something important. It's something beautiful, but affects other people and I don't know how they will react to the information. I mean, I was shocked and unsettled at first, but now I just want to tell everyone, but when I try to say anything, I can't find the words."
Hermione sat quietly looking at Harry. Her eyes encouraged him. While she had strong opinions, Hermione did not judge people. He knew his secret was safe with her.
"I need your opinion," Harry told her. "I need to know if I should share what I know or if everyone would be better served if I keep this secret, if his memory and the memory of others involved, should be left in tact."
Hermione nodded. "It sounds big."
"It is," he said and he pulled out the portfolio of blank letters. As Hermione blocked the view of the other patrons, he took out his wand and muttered the incantation.
"Sirius began writing letters to me during the spring of our fifth year. You may remember that Dolores Umbridge was Headmistress and she was monitoring student mail, so he never sent them."
"Of course I remember," Hermione said, shaking her head. "We thought things were so bad then, but they became so much worse."
"Right. Any way, I found them in Sirius' bedroom when I returned to Grimmauld Place a few weeks ago."
Hermione examined the portfolio. "How come we didn't find it before? We combed every inch of that house looking for the locket."
"Because Lupin took it," Harry told her, fingering one of the letters.
"Why would Lupin do that? He wouldn't have been able to read them. How did he know what they were?"
Instead of answering her, Harry passed her Lupin's last letter to him that he held in his hands. "Here," he said. "Read this. You'll have more questions, of course, but you'll get the idea."
Hermione took the letter from him and Harry watched the changing expression on her face as she read its contents.
I returned to Grimmauld Place tonight to leave this portfolio for you to find. I told myself once that I took the letters because of my grief, but today I realize that I took them because of my shame. With Sirius gone, I didn't feel I was strong enough to admit to you the love we had shared - a love that, for better or worse, consumed a large part of our lives.
It was difficult getting here and I watched the building for several days to make sure it wasn't under surveillance before I entered. Unfortunately, I can't help thinking that this is a bad sign – a sign that Voldemort and his followers know where you are, or at least they are sure that you won't be coming back here. Grimmauld Place is even sadder now than it ever was. Every room is in disarray, including our bedroom, from where I now write you and where I plan to leave these letters.
'Our bedroom'…the words seem like they were from another lifetime ago. I guess they are, but still the books and belongings strewn about the floor seem to desecrate the sanctity of this sacred space. The walls whisper to me. They coax me to remember the hours that Sirius and I would lie together, sharing the secret of our love, connecting in heart, soul and body, making love tenderly as if the night were endless. How could I forget all that had taken place within them? Those days are gone, but so are the days when I wished more than anything to have them back. My wife and my son provide me with a renewed sense of love and purpose. I love them completely, but Sirius is my first love, my true love. Death has not made that love less real or less pure.
Sirius loved you like a son. I know now that he died happy. Of course, none of us want to die, but Sirius, like your father, died having experienced everything he wanted. He had finally found a family, he had me to love him unconditionally the way that Lily loved James, and he finally had the opportunity to protect those he loved – the opportunity that Peter stole with his betrayal.
I don't fear for you, Harry. While I know you are facing greater dangers than any of us could ever imagine, I also know that you are being watched by your parents, by Sirius, and even by Dumbledore. When this is all over, I know you will have felt them, too. I look forward to the day when you will read the letters and we can talk about the past.
When it is time, I will be there for you.
It was rare when Harry saw Hermione at a loss for words, but, as he expected, this was one of those time.
"So…" he said finally, hoping to rouse her from her silence.
"My goodness," was all Hermione could say, her eyes still glued to the page in front of her.
"Yes, it's quite a lot to take in," Harry agreed.
Hermione looked up at him. "Sirius and Remus were…"
Harry watched her struggle to finish the sentence and answered her unasked question. "Very much so. There are more letters that describe that in great detail."
"She knew. She knew and she accepted that. In the end it seems it was Sirius who brought them together. It's a long story." Harry shook his head and began.
He told Hermione about the teenage indiscretion in Remus' parents' house. He told her about the continuing connection, the betrayal of Reve, and Sirius' decision to join the Order. He told her about the repression that kept Remus and Sirius from speaking their feelings, and Sirius' descent into suspicion after the death of his brother. He told her Sirius' reasons for asking James to make Peter the Secret Keeper and the twists of fate and fortune that brought Remus to Hogwarts in the year that Sirius escaped from Azkaban.
He told her how Remus continued the letters after Sirius' death, chronicling his grief, how he fell in love with Tonks and eventually married her. And he told her what she already knew: how Remus questioned his love for Tonks and returned to the place where he and Sirius had spent their last days, only to run into Harry's wrath at his decision to abandon his child.
Hermione listened intently, blushing slightly at some of Harry's more intimate revelations, nodding at others. When Harry stopped she said, "Well, that does explain some things. I always wondered why Sirius thought the traitor could be Remus. It never seemed likely that Sirius would single Remus out just because he was a werewolf. Sirius never seemed to have those kinds of prejudices, except maybe for Kreacher."
Harry agreed. "It explains to me why Remus appeared with Sirius when I held the Resurrection Stone. I never could completely explain that before now."
"How so?" Hermione asked him.
"Well, the reason my parents appeared is obvious. Sirius was my godfather and he was the closest thing to a father that I can remember having. But, Remus was my father's friend. After he left Hogwarts, I never felt that we had anything more than a passing friendship. I didn't even see him for an entire year from the time I met Sirius until the time he took me to Grimmauld Place.
"And right before we left the Burrow to find the Horcruxes Remus and I argued over my use of the Expelliarmus charm. He told me not to use it, but I refused to listen. I was really angry with him. In the end he was wrong. That's the spell that ultimately killed Voldemort."
Hermione looked back at the letter before her. "He wanted to be there for you, Harry. He says so in his last line."
Harry continued, "At the time, when I held the Stone, I was too wrapped up in what I had to do, but now, thinking back to that vision, I remember that Remus and Sirius held hands. I could see that they were connected, though at the time it didn't register with me. They walked together with me and were as much of a couple as my mum and dad, spirits of guidance and love."
"True love," Hermione said, gesturing at the letter. "Love that defeats death."
"And that's why I'm struggling with this information," Harry sighed. "After Remus and Tonks died, I made a vow that I would tell Teddy everything. I didn't want my godson growing up like I did, not knowing who my parents had been. I vowed I would tell him not only the good things, like how brave they both were, but the uncomfortable things as well. I would tell him that his father was a werewolf and that he struggled with that identity. I'd tell him his mother was clumsy and reckless. I didn't like hearing how arrogant my dad could be or how cruel he had been to Snape, but those things made him more real to me, like he was not a god, but a real man.
"But now, Hermione, I'm not sure if I was meant to share this. How can I tell my godson that his mother was not his father's true love? How can I tell him that his father's thoughts after death were not only for him, but for Sirius as well? But if I don't tell him these things, I will always know that I am keeping secrets from Teddy, just as my aunt and uncle kept secret the reason for my parents' death and my scar."
"But you can love more than one person," Hermione said. "People with many children love them all equally. Love is infinite. There's no such thing as loving one person more, just differently.
"I realize that because they are both men may make it difficult to explain, but it may make it easier. Look at it this way: Teddy's mother was the only woman Remus loved."
"That's true," Harry mused. "There's something else: Hermione, have you ever read that werewolves can't have children?"
"Yes, but obviously that research was wrong."
"Well, maybe not. Remus wrote in his letters that he believed that Teddy was conceived with magical, other-worldly intervention – Sirius' intervention. He believed that Teddy was Sirius' child, too."
"It's a nice sentiment, but it's not all that uncommon for children to appear nearly miraculously. Even in the Muggle world women become pregnant after years of trying without success. There's often a scientific explanation, but sometimes there isn't. It's just magical."
"Exactly!" Harry said. He leaned back in his chair. His tea was all gone and Hermione and he sat in silence for a few moments.
"So, what do I do?" He asked her. "I still need your advice."
"You need to tell him" Hermione said with conviction as she handed him back the letter. "What's more, you need to tell everyone. You are not Sirius' Secret Keeper, Harry. Haven't we been ruined enough by the secrets we have kept? If Snape hadn't kept secret his love for your mother, than perhaps things would have been different. Perhaps we would have been more compassionate toward him and seen that kindness returned. Maybe we would have had the chance to thank him for all he did for us.
"If Dumbledore had not kept secret the connection between you and Voldemort, maybe we would never have ended up in the Department of Mysteries and Sirius could have lived to tell you his secrets in person.
"If Sirius and Remus had not been keeping secret the most important thing of all, their deep and unconditional love, then maybe….maybe…" Hermione drifted off, she met Harry's eyes wondering if she had gone too far.
Harry nodded. "Teddy will know. He will not suffer my fate. He needs to know love and passion that existed in the hearts of those who brought him into the world."
"You're making the right choice," Hermione said, reaching across the table to take Harry's hand.
"I know," he said. "I am not the Secret Keeper. Love is its own protection."
A/N: Thanks everyone for reading this, especially those who came back for the epilogue. If you haven't read the previous chapters for awhile, you may note that I made some slight changes including corrections in facts, spelling, grammar, and added some additional descriptions (if you can guess my meaning.) I hope you enjoyed reading this and my other story The Prisoner of Memory. A new story, A Goblet of Blood should be up soon. – SomethingBorrowed.