Chapter 8 - The Battle That Never Happened (Part 3)
Silence had fallen over the group at headquarters. Sirius paced furiously by the door, glaring at it vehemently as if it were preventing his friend from walking in. The Weasleys had clustered at the opposite end of the room around the head of the table, Molly fidgeting, somehow always coming into contact with Bill's elbow or Charlie's hand, reassuring herself that they were well and still with her. Charlie finally covered his mother's hand with his own, "We're fine, Mum, honestly."
"Might not have been that way if it hadn't been for Remus, though," Bill said, "Don't know how he had both our backs as well as his own, but he did."
"Told you there's no one I'd rather have at my back," Mad-Eye said from where he sat with Tonks and Kingsley. Sirius turned to glare at Mrs. Weasley
Molly's gaze dropped to the floor. Arthur rubbed her back absently, staring into space.
Separate soft conversations broke out. Moody was writing in sharp strokes on parchment everyone's report of the events of the night. When they were finished telling him, they scattered about, occasionally standing to take a few steps, then self-consciously sitting again, quite unsure what to do with themselves. But it was an Order tradition that no one left until the fate of all was known, and so they waited.
Finally, Moody's blue eye rolled back and looked through his head, "Black, if you don't stop pacing and grumbling under your breath, I'm going to petrify you."
"Bite me, Mad-Eye," Sirius barked, "If it were you out there, Remus wouldn't leave you behind, dead or alive."
Moody sighed and threw down his quill, "Black, you seem to forget exactly what Lupin can do. Have you forgotten the Battle at Hogsmeade?"
"Of course not," Sirius growled.
"Then you'll remember that he held his own against five seasoned Death Eaters…some of them part of You-Know-Who's original inner circle and the worst of his lot. And that was when he was only nineteen, before getting any training from Varen. I daresay he can handle himself."
"I know what a brilliant duelist Remus is, Mad-Eye," Sirius said, glaring, "James, Lily, and I dueled with him since they restarted the Dueling Club in our second year all the way through school and into the war. Why do you think we were so afraid when we thought he was the traitor? Hell, we could go at him two-on-one and not win. His reflexes are faster, his reaction times quicker, and he's an annoying encyclopedia of spells. Not to mention that he's an el….I mean, once he started figuring out how to make use of those werewolf senses of his towards the end of fourth year, he was practically unbeatable. Dumbledore had to pull him aside and tell him to take a hit now and again or the older students might grow suspicious. But even the best can make a mistake, and we're sitting here doing nothing. We never would have done this in the first war."
"In the first war, we were working with the Ministry," Moody pointed out, "We haven't heard from Dumbledore. If Aurors are there now, we'd have a lot of explaining to do." He turned around finally, meeting Sirius's gaze, "I don't like this any better than you do lad, but we've no choice. Have some faith."
"So Lupin's really that good, huh Mad-Eye?" Tonks asked.
Moody shook his head, "I'd have given my other leg to get him into the Aurors."
"Well, why wouldn't they take him?"
Sirius snorted, "He's a werewolf, Tonks. The Ministry wouldn't let a werewolf work for them as a janitor, much less in the elite branch of the DMLE. Their hiring restrictions are as bigoted as everyone else about werewolves," he gave a not-so-subtle glance in Mrs. Weasley's direction.
"I thought maybe after he took down Antonin Dolohov they'd change their minds, but…" Moody just shook his head, "Wishful thinking."
"Dolohov?" Molly asked suddenly.
Moody looked up at her, his gaze calculating, "Yes, the Death Eater that killed Gideon and Fabian. Took five to bring them down, but Dolohov was the one that struck the killing blow to both of them."
"I thought you brought in Dolohov, Mad-Eye," Kingsley asked.
"Oh I got the credit for it, all right, but it was Remus that caught him. I turned up and found Dolohov disarmed and on his back, and Lupin with his wand at his throat. Thought the lad was going to do him in, right there."
"Remus was never a killer," Sirius said softly, his hands behind his back.
"No, I suppose not," Mad-Eye said after a moment, "I watched until he'd made up his mind, then he put an Incarcerous on him, punched him in the face, and let me take him in. Given that Dolohov's the one that tortured and murdered his parents, I honestly expected the lad to kill him."
Molly looked thoughtful at that piece of information, "But he was just a boy, even then. When were his parents killed?"
Sirius sat on the opposite end of the table, still nearest to the door, "In the spring of our sixth year, just before his seventeenth birthday. James, Pet…well, James and I were planning a big surprise for his coming of age. Instead we spent it at his parents' funeral."
The timing couldn't have been better. The full moon had been Saturday, the fifth of March. The tenth was on Thursday. Remus was already pretty well recovered only three days out. They'd worked out all the logistics on Sunday while Remus had slept. They could sneak out through the One-Eyed Witch passage into Honeydukes. They'd already stashed four brooms at the end of the tunnel. A quiet trek through the shop to the outside and the four of them would be off to Edinburgh to hit the pubs. Sirius loved it when a plan came together.
The Great Hall was buzzing as usual. James was sitting between Sirius and Remus, Peter and Lily across from them. Slowly the girl of James's dreams was starting to come around. After The Incident, as Sirius had come to call it in his mind, both he and James had calmed down considerably. They were hardly models of good behavior, but neither boy found hexing random students to be amusing any more…not after they knew how easily things could go wrong. Sirius looked over his shoulder at the Slytherin table. The slimey git was still there, still with that same smirk he'd been wearing on his face for about a week now. Sirius sorely wanted to corner the little snake and find out what was so amusing. He'd told James so just yesterday, but James had told him to let it go. Snape wasn't worth any more trouble. So he'd let it lie, but it still made Sirius's skin crawl to think what Snivellus might be happy about.
"Remus, are you even tasting that?" Lily asked amused, watching Remus shovel a third helping of fried potatoes into his mouth. Remus merely nodded, chewing, and shoveled on. The Marauders chuckled, quite used to the massive amounts of food Moony could tuck away.
"As much as you eat you think you'd…" Lily's voice drifted off, her gaze looking over their shoulder towards the entrance to the Great Hall. James, Sirius, and Remus turned. There, at the double doors, stood two Ministry officials wearing the robes of the Department of Notification. Silence fell over the room, the air turning thick with tension. The first time Ministry officials had come to the school had been at the end of last year. Since then, the sight had become all too frequent. It meant that a classmate had lost someone in their family to the Death Eaters.
From the entrance hall behind, Professor McGonagall joined the Ministry officials. Sirius felt James stiffen beside him. So, it was to be a Gryffindor. The three moved towards the table draped in red and gold, and Sirius took a deep breath, putting a hand on James's shoulder. As Chief Sorcerer of the Wizengamot, Alan Potter was widely respected throughout the wizarding world. Mr. Potter had been speaking out against Voldemort from the beginning alongside Dumbledore. James had spoken with him this past Christmas, wondering how wise it was to be so outspoken. Mr. Potter had merely looked steadily at both of them and said, "If no one speaks, then our world dies in silence, boys."
They were coming closer, and McGonagall's eyes seemed to be fixed on them, her usually stern expression replaced by sadness. He felt Remus's hand over his own as the other boy slung his arm across James's shoulders which had begun to move up and down as he gasped. McGonagall stopped behind them, her gaze falling on each of them in turn. Both Sirius and Remus grabbed a fistful of James's robes, ready to hold him steady, but McGonagall's eyes did not stop on James.
"Mr. Lupin," she said softly, "I need you to come with me, please."
Sirius's hand spasmed, and he could feel James start. They both looked at Remus, who was simply staring uncomprehending at Professor McGonagall.
"Mr. Lupin," she said again, "Please, stand up. You need to come with us."
"But…no," Remus sputtered, "No, I don't have anyone but my parents, and they can't be…"
"Remus," Professor McGonagall finally said, placing a hand on his back, "Come with us. We will explain…"
"No!" Remus jerked away from her hand, trying to stand, "My parents aren't anything. They can't be…"
At the same time, James and Sirius swept Remus up under his arms before he fell. He leaned into the two of them, shivering. Sirius felt his robes becoming wet where Remus's head was buried. Peter had stood and surprisingly taken the short cut, climbing across the table and putting both hands on Remus's shoulders. Tears streamed down Lily's face. They stood there for a moment, Sirius's eyes sweeping across the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables. He could see many of the girls crying, some looked away, some couldn't look away, but every face was grim. It was true. The Lupins weren't involved in the movement against Lord Voldemort. They were simple, ordinary people…and if they could be targeted, no one was safe.
"Mr. Potter, Mr. Black, Mr. Pettigrew, why don't you come with us as well," McGonagall said.
Remus slowly raised his head. His breath hitched as he tried to control himself and put one foot in front of the other. James and Sirius supported him on each side as they followed their Head of House and the Ministry officials towards Dumbledore's office. As they passed by the Slytherin table, Sirius glanced again at Severus Snape. He was grinning triumphantly.
Sirius did not tell this story to the Order, however. That was a story for Remus to tell, if and when he chose, but he had never forgotten the look on Snape's face that day. He'd mentioned it to James later. They'd never have proof, but Sirius believed in his heart that Snape was the reason Remus's parents were dead. One quick word to the Death Eaters that a pureblood with ties to a prestigious Italian blood line had married a muggle woman and their son…well Snape couldn't have told that part, not if he wanted to stay in school, but Sirius was sure it wouldn't take much convincing that the Lupins were a target to be eradicated.
Thursday, March 10th, 1977, John and Isabelle Lupin were laid to rest in a cemetery at a small seaside church in Knott-End-On-Sea. Remus had insisted on a muggle funeral. Mrs. Lupin had been raised as a Catholic, and when he was younger, Remus could remember going to Mass with his mother and father. They would take a seat in a pew towards the back, his mother always hiding a bemused smile as her husband stumbled through when to kneel, when to stand, and when to sit. Remus had loved going to church every Sunday. They stopped going after he was bitten. At first, a part of him wondered if his mother thought something as evil as him shouldn't go into a house of God. As he grew older, he knew better…but then he wondered if his mother had simply lost her faith in God. He'd never asked her. Just like he'd never asked her the recipe for Grandmama's biscuits or how she tuned their stubborn old piano correctly when he never could. He'd never asked his dad how he knew Mum was the right one. Did his dad think it was fair for him to become serious enough about a girl to even worry if she was the right one? Did he think there was a girl out there who wouldn't care what he was. He wondered what the both of them would say. Did they think he should get married, even if it meant that the person he loved might be an outcast if anyone ever found out what he was? Did they imagine having grandchildren that would come and visit on Sundays?
He wasn't listening to a word the priest was saying. All he could do was stare at the nearly identical caskets sitting on metal stands over two holes in the earth. The Lupin family crest had been etched into the material on the lids, the initials JNL scripted elegantly beneath one, ISL under the other. James had insisted on letting his parents pay for the caskets and Remus, knowing otherwise that his parents would be buried in simple pine boxes, agreed for once. Unbeknownst to the muggles, preservations charms were placed on the caskets in the usual wizarding fashion. His friends stood beside him, looking odd in muggle suits. He'd warned his parents' wizarding friends that they should dress for the occasional, and apart from a few mild hitches that had caused some, including the priest, to discretely look twice, they had done well. It was probably the bonnet that Mr. Godfrey from Dad's old office in the Ministry was wearing. The service ended. The priest took Remus's hand and offered a few words of comfort. The other attendees were brief as well, leaving only Remus and his friends standing in the graveyard, the ocean breeze lifting their hair gently. Checking briefly to see that they were alone, Remus drew his wand and slowly lowered the two caskets into the ground. He could see his friends looking at him with concern out of the corner of his eyes, but he couldn't explain it to them. He just felt that he needed to do this. The white boxes settled gently into the earth, and he slowly swept the awaiting dirt on top of them until the ground's surface was flat, only the lack of grass showing any sign that a funeral had just taken place. At the head of the two patches of earth, a blank stone plaque lay.
"Sirius," Remus finally spoke, "would you mind?" He gestured at the stone, "Your handwriting's best."
Sirius paused for a moment, "If you're sure?" At Remus's nod, he drew his wand, then slowly and carefully inscribed:
John and Isabella Lupin
b. November 23, 1935 b. May 6, 1937
d. March 5, 1977
"Do you want anything else on it?" Sirius asked gently.
"I can't think right now," Remus said after a moment, "Would you come back later if I do?"
"Course I will, mate," he said, "any time."
Remus nodded and stared at the stone for a moment longer before turning his back and walking towards the sea. The Marauders followed, sharing concerned glances. When they came to the waters edge, they stopped. The four stood silently, the only sounds the crashing of the waves and the call of the gulls.
"Do you guys mind helping me pack?" Remus finally said.
"Pack?" James asked.
Remus finally turned to them, "The house is going up for auction. I'm allowed to take my personal belongings but that's it."
"Remus, what are you talking about?" James asked worriedly.
"My parents have a mound of debt," Remus said, "All that money they spent all those years traveling all over the place trying to find a cure for me. Well, Gringott's is auctioning everything to try to get what they can of it paid back. I suppose I'm just lucky I'm not responsible for what's left. They're just cutting their losses."
"But where are you supposed to live?" Sirius asked.
"You can come and stay with me," James said firmly before Remus could answer, "My parents' place has plenty of room. Sirius already has the room across from mine, but there's another at the end of the hall just gathering dust."
Remus was already shaking his head, "Thanks, James, but no thanks. I'll figure something out. I'm of age now, after all. I'll get a job and a place somewhere."
"But, Remus, what about school?" Peter asked.
Remus gave a terse smile, "I'm going to finish school. You guys aren't getting rid of me that easily. I'll save up."
"This is stupid," Sirius said, "The four of us were going to go abroad this summer. We'll all be of age. You can't not go with us. Your parents wouldn't want you to miss it."
"Yeah, well, I reckon they didn't want to die either, Sirius, but it looks like this is a bad week for them getting what they wanted!" Remus shouted. James shot Sirius a disapproving look as Remus turned away, kicking at a stone.
After a few moments, Remus spoke again. "Can you guys please just help me pack, and I'll figure the rest of it out later?"
"Course we'll help you pack," James said.
"And you won't have to figure it out on your own, ok?" Sirius said.
But Remus, in true form, had figured it all out on his own. He'd taken a summer job at the Three Broomsticks and was given a room over the pub to sleep in. The Shrieking Shack lived up to its name all summer. Despite Remus's protests, they'd postponed their holiday abroad till the next summer. But by then, the war had started in earnest and the four of them had already joined the Order. Sirius sighed, glanced at his pocket watch, and kicked the leg of the table ill-temperedly before sitting on top of it, staring like a watch dog at the door.
"That must have been hard for him." Mrs. Weasley's voice interrupted his thoughts.
"What?" Sirius said distractedly.
"Losing his parents on his coming of age." She said.
"I don't imagine it's easy to lose them any time," Sirius turned to glare at her, but the sound of the front door opening and closing again drew his gaze back to the door. They heard no footsteps, but Mad-Eye's glance through the door before returning his attention to the parchment in front of him told them enough. Remus pushed open the kitchen door, glancing around briefly.
"Everyone back then?" He asked.
"Aye, you're the last," Moody said, "I've got everyone's report down. Anything to add?"
"Thank you, Alastor. Dumbledore wants a report. He knows most of….OW!" Remus started and grabbed his shoulder where Sirius had landed a mighty punch before storming out of the kitchen. His stomps could be heard up every stair to the top floor before a door slammed.
"What was that for?" Tonks sputtered indignantly.
Remus sighed, rubbing his shoulder and glancing back at Moody, "I take it he was worried?"
"Aye," Moody said, "Like a bloody girl."
"Oy!" Tonks protested.
"I was delayed because I wanted to see if I could find out what the Death Eaters were planning." Remus said, his gaze on the ceiling as he sat down, almost as if he was possessed of Moody's magical eye and could see Sirius sulking upstairs, "They were interrogating the muggle family of an Unspeakable. I don't think they talked. I doubt they even knew anything to tell them in the first place. They killed the entire family," he said softly, then sighed. "Aurors showed up just after the Death Eaters disapparated. Then Fudge, Scrimgeour, and Dumbledore followed," He let his gaze drop to the group, "Fudge is already covering this up. He insists that this is a gas leak, nothing more."
"Bloody idiot," Moody growled.
"But how can he do that?" Arthur asked, "There was obviously Dark Magic used in the area."
"You have seen the memos from the office, Arthur," Kingsley interjected, "Fudge is denying the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He will do whatever he can to keep the public in the dark. He does not want a panic on his hands."
"Imagine what he'll get when people find out the truth," Tonks growled.
"It's late," Remus said, rubbing his eyes, "You should all go home. Dumbledore will contact you all when he wants another meeting. By then hopefully this place will be a bit more hospitable."
"Here," Mad-Eye stood and handed over his stack of parchment, "Dumbledore no doubt asked you to make up a full report."
"How did you know that?"
Mad-Eye just stared at him for a moment like he had the sense of a troll, then grunted and stumped out the door. The others began filing out behind him. Tonks paused in front of him, then looked up at the ceiling.
"You need any help sorting out my cousin?" She asked with a sympathetic smile.
Remus shook his head, smiling sufferingly, "Thank you, but no. Sirius doesn't do serious emotions well."
"Sirius doesn't do Sirius emotions?" She grinned.
"Not you too," Remus shook his head, "That joke wore itself out the first week of school, but you're not entirely off the mark. He's not really upset with me…well, not too much. Sirius has always had to be in the thick of it. Being forced to sit here and not take part in missions has him frustrated. I imagine when I didn't turn up with the rest of you and didn't send word he was ready to charge to the rescue?"
"Moody had to put a Full Body Bind on him," Tonks said.
Remus winced, "Bet he took that well. One of these days, Sirius will realize that I can take care of myself."
"Funny, he spent a lot of time telling the rest of us just that. Seems he can't get it through his own thick skull though."
Remus smiled, "That's fairly typical of Sirius."
"Well, if you're sure then," she said pushing through the kitchen door, "Good night, Remus." She said over her shoulder.
"Good night, Nymphadora." Remus said as the door closed behind her.
Remus chuckled lightly, running a hand tiredly through his hair as he turned to face the stack of parchments Moody had left him.
"Come on boys, off to bed," Arthur said, patting each of his sons on the back, "Molly?"
"I'll be right there," Molly said, "I just want to tidy up a bit."
Bill and Charlie stopped in front of Remus, "We want to thank you," Bill said.
"Yeah, I reckon we'd have been done for if you hadn't been there," Charlie added.
Remus shook his head, "None of us were supposed to be walking into that. If we'd known, none of us would have gone."
"Still," Bill said, "thank you. You wouldn't happen to be teaching dueling lessons as well, would you?"
"Don't worry," Remus smiled, "We'll be doing plenty of training. You both did well. Like I said, we weren't expecting to walk into that."
"And I thank you too," Arthur said, "For looking after my boys."
"You're welcome," Remus finally said, reconciling to the fact that none of them seemed to want to believe he hadn't done anything special.
The three Weasleys murmured their goodnights, leaving Remus at the table. He sat in silence, his thumb rubbing thoughtfully across his bottom lip. His eyes were slowly drifting closed when someone sat down in front of him. His eyes snapped open, looking questioningly at Molly Weasley.
"I've been horrible to you."
"Beg pardon?" Remus said.
Molly studied her hands for a moment, looking quite ashamed before she raised her eyes to meet Remus's, "I have treated you terribly. No," she held up a hand when Remus drew a breath to speak, "Please don't interrupt."
She paused a moment to gather her thoughts, "Before I met you, all I knew was that you had taught at Hogwarts and that you were a member of the original Order. Both Dumbledore and Moody spoke very highly of you. That should have told me that you were a good man who could be trusted. But the other thing that I knew was that you were a werewolf. And for some reason, that one thing clouded out everything else." She said with almost wonderment, "I remember how highly the children spoke of you when they were in your classes. I don't think I've ever heard Fred and George talk about a class so much. And Ginny," Molly shook her head, "all I heard from her that year was about what a wonderful person you were. How you would listen to her problems, even if it wasn't about class. When I heard at the end of the year about…well, I just remember being instantly filled with fear over how close you'd been to my children. I didn't stop to listen to them. They were furious at Professor Snape over you leaving, and I remember thinking it was one of the few things he'd done I approved of."
She paused again, turning away slightly and wiping her face.
"Mrs. Weasley, I don't have any children of my own, but I do remember my mother once saying that all logic seems to run straight out of you the moment you have them."
That brought a smile, "Well, she was right. I suppose what I'm doing a horrible job of saying is, I'm sorry. I always tried to teach my children to use their own judgment about people and never let anyone else's prejudices make their opinion about someone. I hope they've learned that better than their mother has."
"You have wonderful children, Mrs. Weasley."
"Molly," she corrected reaching for his hand, "Thank you for taking care of them, both tonight and when they were at school, Mr. Lupin."
"Remus," he said, grasping her hand lightly, "You're welcome."
With a sniff, Molly nodded and followed her family out of the kitchen.
Remus sat there in silence for a few moments. Finally, he stood slowly, wincing as soreness in his joints began to set in. He made his way up the stairs, waving his hand to extinguish the candles as he moved. He came to Sirius's room and opened the door without a knock. Sirius was sitting on the side of his bed, his back to the door.
"I suppose tomorrow we should clean out a room for me, or people will start to talk," Remus said as he closed the door.
"Did you enjoy being out there fighting Death Eaters, knowing I was forbidden from coming to help you?" Sirius asked bitterly.
"Oh, yes. It was foremost on my mind. I stayed and had a drink at the pub just to make sure I kept you in suspense long enough," Remus said, sitting down on the other side of the bed and laying on his back so he could see Sirius's face.
"You're an ass," he said.
"So are you," Remus replied.
The two sat in silence for a moment before Remus spoke again.
"I punched Wormtail."
"What?" That worked. Sirius looked down at Remus, startled.
"I punched Wormtail," he repeated, "Might have even broken his jaw."
"Oh now that's really unfair," Sirius said, "I have to stay out of the fighting, and I missed a chance to punch Wormtail."
"I thought I had him actually," Remus said softly, "I thought I had the chance to bring him back and clear your name, but I screwed up again."
"What do you mean?"
Remus repeated to him the events at the shed.
"It wasn't your fault," Sirius said reluctantly, "you're lucky you weren't found," but his face was strained.
"I really did try."
"I know you did Moony, it just seems like…I don't know, like the entire world is conspiring against me sometimes," Sirius said.
"It'll get better," Remus said, "We'll get Harry here, and everything will be better."