Author’s note: This
story takes place immediately after Alkari’s excellent story, “Toast.” If you have not already done so, you should read
“Toast” prior to beginning this story.
Special thanks to Alkari for allowing me to borrow some of her characters, as
well as to JKR for allowing us to play in her playground.
Thanks to the
tireless efforts of my betas, Alkari, Luna, Mincot, Pelirroja, and Vargmoy,
especially to Alkari and Mincot for the many long hours of discussion to shape
and mould this chapter.
CHAPTER ONE – THE MORNING
“Thank you, Remus. Toast would be
fine.” Albus Dumbledore said as he and Mad-Eye Moody stood staring at Remus
through the smoke filled room. Their expressions were studiedly neutral. Why are they staring at me like that? “I
expect that none of us have eaten since...” There was no need for him to say
anymore; they all knew what he meant. Since Sirius died.
Remus Lupin got up quickly from his
chair in the dark, empty kitchen of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. The fire
in the hearth had long since gone out, leaving nothing but cold grey ashes.
Although it was mid-morning, little light penetrated the thick cloud cover as
rain dripped against the kitchen windows. As he listened, Remus realised how
dark it was in the kitchen and groped for a candle.
“Please, have a seat,” attempted
Remus in his most polite voice as he started to prepare breakfast. Concentrate… don’t breathe so hard… we need cups,
saucers, and plates. *CRASH!* He
jumped as one of the teacups shattered on the flagstone floor, and he barely
retained his grip on the saucer. Concentrate!
Rather than lifting the cup magically, Remus bent and picked the now fixed
teacup off the floor with both hands and set it on the benchtop.
Dumbledore and Moody stood there for
what seemed an eternity, watching Remus, then looked at each other again and
sat down. Why are they looking at my
shoulders? Blast! The ashes and cinders from the fires! He wiped
the ashes quickly off of his shoulders and chest. The movement caused more grey
ashes to dislodge themselves from his greying hair. Remus brushed them out of
his hair as well and the ashes snowed down upon his shoulders and the floor; he
brushed his shoulders once again.
He regained his controlled demeanour
and went quickly over to the teapot. A quick tap of the teapot standing on the
wooden workbench with his wand and instantly the smell of warm, mint tea filled
the acrid air. Remus poured two cups of tea rather shakily, gave one to Moody,
and took a sip out of the other one before setting it down on the kitchen
table. What? Now what did I do? Moody
and Dumbledore looked at each other as Moody handed the teacup to Dumbledore. Ah, I gave it to Moody. Of course it doesn’t go to
Moody! You know he only drinks from his own flask! Sure enough,
Moody took out his hip flask and drew a long swig from it.
Dumbledore and Moody’s haggard
appearance told of the long night they had spent, yet they still managed to
look alert as they sat quietly waiting for breakfast. Although Remus turned
his back to them to continue preparing breakfast, he could still feel their
eyes trained on him, following his every move as if that would tell them
something about his emotional state.
“Interesting conversation I had this
morning,” said Dumbledore slowly. Remus paused at the unaccustomed note of
hesitancy in the head of the Order’s voice. “Phineas Nigellus told me that you
had gone mad and that this house was so filled with smoke that it had even
entered the room where his portrait hangs. Alastor and I came here to see what
was going on and to see if you were all right. Indeed, the house does smell of
smoke and the hallway is uncharacteristically silent.”
Remus flicked his wand once more to
make the toast and orange marmalade appear.
“What happened, lad?” coaxed Moody in
a surprisingly gentle voice.
Remus’ arm froze for an instant,
almost imperceptibly, as Moody said this. The toast and marmalade appeared on
the table. Although the toast was burnt, Remus placed it on the plates anyway.
Lad is it now?
What, am I a child? Remus could feel the anger start to
build up in him. He pushed it back, vaguely surprised at how much energy it
took. No, actually, he calls most people
that, doesn’t he? He even calls… called… Sirius that. Even after Sirius
escaped Azkaban and first came back to this infernal house. Did Sirius get
upset about it? No, he took it in stride … no… he actually liked it. Like when Moody had met him when we were
getting the Order together again.
Remus paused, staring out the water-spattered window
as he remembered that meeting...
- “Welcome back, lad,” Moody had said as he shook
looked at Remus with smiling pale blue eyes. Remus watched him extend his
emaciated hand to Moody and shake the hand of the man he had worked with so
many years ago.
Mad-Eye. It’s good to be out of that hell-hole.”
always had trouble believing you would do something like that. Not your style.
But all the evidence…” Moody trailed off, putting a hand on Sirius’ shoulder.
well… that’s the way Wormtail planned it. Really… it’s all right, Mad-Eye,”
Sirius said. Remus knew that Sirius was pleased that Moody believed in him.
that night, Remus and Sirius laughed about it.
does he always call me ‘lad’?” asked Sirius as they ate dinner. “What am I - a
a collie is fancy enough looking for you. People do notice them and comment
about how gorgeous they are. Sounds just your style, Padfoot,” Remus teased.
Moony, I am shocked! Are you joining the masses now who think all I care about
are my looks? Which, you are quite right, are quite gorgeous,” Sirius quipped
me? Why, I never said that *I* thought you were drop dead gorgeous. Don’t
forget, I’ve seen you first thing in the morning with your hair all matted in
front of your face and heard you grumbling and thrashing about in your sleep
like a big bear. Quite revolting, actually.”
you’re not revolting in the way you sleep so still. I couldn’t even tell
whether you were alive or not back in our dorm room at Hogwarts unless I put a
mirror under your nose. That’s when James would always say it was a good thing
you were a werewolf instead of a vampire.” Although Sirius laughed merrily at
the memory, Remus saw a faint shadow cross Sirius’ face at the thought of
“Remus?” asked Dumbledore loudly. What? Oh… Dumbledore and Moody. Right. “Focus! I
can’t keep drifting off like that.” The two men were staring at him
“I’m sorry, Albus. What was the
“Alastor asked you what happened.
You wandered off for a moment.”
“Right, sorry. What happened
Remus glanced down the length of the
oak kitchen table. His eyes rested longer than was strictly necessary at the
head of the table; there stood Sirius’ half-drunk goblet of wine, never to be
finished. The heavily ornate Black family crest on the silver goblet shimmered
garishly, even in this weak light. He saw that Dumbledore was also now
looking at Sirius’ goblet.
“That is not so easily explained, I’m
afraid,” Remus replied softly as he turned his gaze to the remnants of last
night’s fire. They’ll think me quite mad.
Perhaps they are right. Do I care? He gave the thought careful
consideration, but found his thoughts interrupted by Dumbledore’s voice.
Dumbledore tilted his head and raised
an eyebrow. “I think it would be best if you explained from the beginning,
“Yes … enlighten us. We saw that
pile of ashes where Mrs Black’s picture used to hang. All the other paintings
were grumbling about it.” Moody took another swig from his flask before
continuing. “What happened - and where is that blasted house-elf?” he growled,
still shifting his magical eye about the room in a vain attempt to locate
Kreacher the house elf.
“Hmmm… yes, well … ” Remus cleared
his throat and took a deep breath. “Kreacher is dead. Burned to death by
bolting into that painting of Sirius’ mother.”
Moody’s arm with the flask stopped
half way to his mouth. “Burned to death? In a painting?”
Dumbledore paused before he spoke.
“What do you mean? What precisely happened?” he asked,
piercing Remus’ grey eyes with a sharp look. Unable to continue meeting
Dumbledore’s eyes, Remus looked down at the frayed sleeves of his robes. Sirius said I needed to mend these. It always pained
him to see the state of my robes. He’s been after me about them ever since our
sixth year at Hogwarts. Once more, time dropped away…
“Remus, please… you know my Uncle Alphard left me galleons of money. It’s just
sitting there at Gringott’s. After what I almost did to you last year, James
and I decided to get you some new robes.”
- “Padfoot, …”
‘Padfoot’ me! I know what you are going to say. I know your parents would get
you some, but you’re too damn stubborn to ask them. Please. You should have
some decent robes. Next year is our last at Hogwarts and then we will be going
out into the real world. You need some decent robes if you are going to look your
best on job interviews.” A smile lit Sirius’ face. “Besides, it’s awfully
chilly out there and James and I want you to be able to come and see us play
Quidditch for Gryffindor.”
“No, Sirius. Thanks for the offer, but you know I cannot accept. I’m lucky
enough to even be here. That is enough for me.”
The light in Sirius’ eyes went out as his face set. He rolled his eyes
and took out a large parcel from inside his robes. “Here!” he said as he
grabbed Remus’ hand and thrust the parcel into it forcefully. “I am not taking
‘no” for an answer. If you won’t take it for yourself, then do it for James
and me. We hate seeing you like that … especially when you don’t have to be.
I’d rather see you nice and warm than have a few extra coins in that vault.
You are important to us Remus and you deserve it. Consider it your Christmas
present. I don’t want to hear any more about it.”
Ah, Sirius… you were
always so thoughtful of everyone else. Never thought about the consequences to
you, did you? Several minutes passed while
Remus continued to study his sleeves. He looked up, only to find that
Dumbledore’s eyes were still fixed on him, as were Moody’s.
Right… the painting
and Kreacher. Remus finished the dregs of his now
cold tea. Odd how the tea remnants
resembled the wasted, shrivelled canvass ashes of the portrait. He
poured himself another cup. “I burnt it,” he finally replied simply, staring
steadily back at Dumbledore. The strong acrid smell of the burnt painting still
filled his nostrils, nauseating him.
Remus got up and started walking
around the room slowly, going nowhere in particular, but pausing at the kitchen
sink; it was still filled with dishes from last night’s dinner. He ran his
hand along the smooth marble counter top. I
have to wash those today. Wouldn’t want to have people hover over me because
they think I’m too distraught to even wash dishes. People. Hopefully, nobody
else will come by. Think I’ll do them without magic… help keep my mind off
things. Remus wiped his hands on a nearby dishtowel and faced
Dumbledore and Moody again. I wonder if
they know the full extent of my activities last night.
“You may also be interested in
knowing that I also burnt that wretched tapestry. Did Phineas Nigellus mention
that, too? Sirius deserves better than that abomination of pure-blood arrogance
hanging like a monument. He deserves better in his own house,” Remus said
bitterly. It will always be Sirius’ house,
even though he did leave it to me. It belongs to Sirius.
“Sirius was cheated out of the life
he should have had…He never would have spent all those years in Azkaban if
someone had believed him… had more faith in him…I should… He could have… He
suffered unnecessarily... right until the end.” Remus could feel tears welling
in his eyes, but managed to fight them. That’s
the last thing I need, for Dumbledore and Moody to see me like that. Stay
calm. Breathe. “I didn’t do anything to help him during his life.
I allowed everyone to continue to call him rash, selfish, childish … later on…
a mass murderer. I was here alone and the whole house was mocking him.” His
voice cracked. “Someone should have helped him.” Remus lowered his eyes,
unable to look at them any longer. His teeth clenched together in anguish,
overwhelming emotion clearly visible on his face. I should have helped
him. I was supposedly the best friend he had left. But instead, I did
nothing… just like I always do. If I only had him back…
Remus chanced a slight glance at
Dumbledore. Surely he knows it was my fault.
A small frown was forming on Dumbledore’s face as he leant back in his chair.
He was no longer looking at Remus, but down at his own hands instead.
Dumbledore’s eyes had a far away look. What
is he thinking about? Can he not stand to look at me because of what I failed
Dumbledore said sadly, “I am quite
aware that more should have been done for Sirius, Remus. I understand how you
Oh, great. Then he
agrees I should have done more for Sirius. He knows it was my fault Sirius is
Moody looked tightly at Dumbledore,
who did not return his glance. “Go on, lad,” urged Moody quietly. “What
happened to the house-elf?”
Remus forced himself to breathe. He
picked up a rather ornate ebony clock from the mantelpiece. “Kreacher jumped
into that infernal painting after dear Augusta Clementine Black and burnt to
death.” A better ending than he deserved.
Remus put the clock back down forcefully. Once again, he glanced at Sirius’
goblet. I wish you had been here to see it,
Padfoot. Remember all those times we dreamed of destroying that painting? A
loud silence filled the room. Remus sat down again, picked up the salt shaker
and fingered it absent-mindedly, before replacing it. Dumbledore finally
stopped looking at his hands and instead was now looking at Sirius’ goblet.
“Couldn’t you stop the elf?” Moody at
last asked Remus. “You must have seen what he was planning to do.”
Remus looked up at him incredulously
and bolted up out of his seat and began pacing about the room. “Couldn’t I
have stopped him? Of course I couldn’t stop him!”. I may be angry, but I’m certainly not unfeeling about another’s life!
“Don’t you think I tried? I was never fond of Kreacher, especially after what
he did to Sirius, but I certainly did not wish him any harm! Before I knew
what he was doing, he had already somehow got into that painting and was
running after Sirius’ mother.”
With an effort, Remus stopped, stood
still, ran a hand through his hair, and finally sat down slowly. “You should
have heard him…,” he said bitterly. “‘Mistress! My Mistress!’ He didn’t care
about anything except his foul mistress. Heaven knows he didn’t care two knuts
about Sirius.” He brushed the hair from in front of his eyes.
“I am quite certain that Kreacher and
his dear mistress were glad to hear what had happened to Sirius,” he said
quietly. “I must have cast a very powerful spell, because the picture burned
in no time at all. There is no way I could reach into it and try to retrieve
Kreacher.” Even if I had wanted to. Sirius
was right about that house-elf. He was right about many things, but nobody
listened to him.
Dumbledore at last raised his head.
“I understand how upset you were Remus… how upset… we all are. That is one of
the reasons for our being here this morning. But, did you not stop to think
that perhaps Andromeda or Nymphadora Tonks would have wanted the painting or
the tapestry?” He steepled his fingers together in front of his beard, his
voice very pointed and finally said what had been on his and Moody’s minds
since they arrived at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.
what concerns us is the impulsiveness of your actions. Did you not consider
what may have happened to this house, our headquarters, or more importantly, to
He must be joking!
Is he daft? Andromeda or Tonks! Why would they… he must know their names have
been … isn’t he thinking straight? Oh, that is rich!
“They were effectively as much
eliminated from ‘The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black’ as Sirius had been.
They would hardly want a reminder of Sirius’ mother.”
Disturbed I reacted
in such a manner… I’m supposed to stay calm when my best friend was just
needlessly killed! A painting and a hideous old piece of cloth, that is
concerning him? That hardly qualifies as impulsive! I could rip a lot more
than that to shreds if I wanted!
Nobody said anything. The ticking
from the ebony clock on the mantelpiece radiated through the room as second by
agonisingly slow second passed by. At last, Moody got to his feet and went
over to the wireless.
“We should be able to get the news …
The Ministry should be making announcements about now, I think.” Moody tapped
the wireless with his wand.
Henry the eighth I am
Henry the eighth I
am, I am
I got married to
the widow next door …
“What the devil is that?” cried Moody disgustedly looking at the
wireless, as he quickly switched it to the WWN-CL.
Remus could not help laughing slightly to himself. “That’s a Muggle
station, Alastor. Sirius always enjoyed torturing me with some of their
music.” Moody gave Remus an odd look. “Well, he had to have something to do
during all those months he was stuck here! Sirius always found music very
helpful for any situation.”
- - It was a cold, chilly afternoon
in January, shortly after Harry and the rest had gone back to Hogwarts. Remus
was busy at the table studying details about a witch and wizard he was to meet
in Diagon Alley about them joining the Order while Sirius sat on a dark green
leather chair, trying unsuccessfully to get Remus to put the parchment down and
talk to him.
- - “Moony, put that thing down and
talk to me, please. You don’t know what it’s like being stuck here day after
day in this hateful house while everyone else gets to go out.”
- - “In a moment, Sirius.
Dumbledore wanted me to meet these people immediately; we’ve lost some
valuable people and the search for Voldemort and his followers is not going
- - Sirius groaned exasperatedly
and got up and paced the room. “Why won’t Dumbledore let me help find
Voldemort and his Death Eaters? I’m not doing any good staying here.”
- - “What are you talking about?
You are in all the meetings and you assist with whatever you can do from here.”
- - Sirius balled his fists
reflexively in frustration before opening them forcefully. “You don’t get it.
I want to do more than sit here doing some menial paperwork. I can’t be of much
help locked up in this place. How can Dumbledore expect me to stay here when
Voldemort is getting inside Harry’s mind? I could be useful out there; I know I
could! You know, I am seriously thinking of going out there on my own … and
Dumbledore be damned!”
- - Remus sighed before answering.
“We’ve been over this before, Padfoot. To begin with, the Ministry of Magic is
still seeking you. Not to mention that thanks to Peter, it is now highly
probable that Voldemort knows not only of your animagus form, but also of your
link to Harry. Dumbledore does not want to take the risk of Voldemort finding
you and trying to use you to get to Harry or of the Ministry finding you and
administering the kiss.” Sirius opened his mouth to interrupt, but was cut off
by Remus. “Neither do I. We are concerned about your safety. Now, please… let
me finish this.”
- - Sirius looked as if he were taking it
- - “Maybe Dumbledore doesn’t know
everything, Moony. Maybe I could be of some help instead of rotting away in
this prison! Please… talk to him about letting me help find them. If Harry is
involved, I need to help.”
- - “Sorry, Padfoot. There is
nothing I can do. It is for the best.” Remus kept looking at his notes,
although he kept rereading at the same part over and over again, not taking
- - “Remus… we have known each
other too long for you to treat me like this. I am going mad here and I need
to help. Now, this is your last warning. You know I can be very persuasive
when I want to be.”
- - Remus ignored the subtle note
in Sirius’ voice and looked over the same portion of the notes once again.
- - “Okay… don’t say I didn’t warn
you,” sighed Sirius. He pulled his wand out from his robes and flicked it
easily at the wireless. Loud, cheerful music instantly burst forth:
- - I got married to the widow next door
She's been married seven times before
every one was an Henry (Henry)
wouldn't have a Willy or a Sam (no Sam)
her eighth old man, I'm Henry
the eighth I am
- - “Padfoot, please! There is
nothing I can do!” pleaded Remus. “You know I cannot stand that infernal
Muggle song.” Sirius had been torturing him with an old Edwardian music-hall
ditty, most recently sung by a Muggle group, Herman’s Hermits, since their days
at Hogwarts. Remus flicked his own wand at the wireless and it instantly turned
off. However, the music continued as Sirius, glaring evilly at Remus, picked
up where the song had left off in a loud boisterous voice:
- - Second verse same as the first!
- - I'm Henry the eighth I am
the eighth I am, I am
got married to the widow next door
been married seven times before
And every one was an Henry (Henry)
wouldn't have a Willy or a Sam (no Sam)
her eighth old man, I'm Henry
the eighth I am
- - Remus picked up the parchment
with his notes and left the room headed for the study. Unfortunately for him,
Sirius was on his heels like a well-trained puppy:
- - I'm
Henry the eighth I am
the eighth I am, I am
got married to the widow next door
been married seven times before
And every one was an Henry (Henry)
wouldn't have a Willy or a Sam (no Sam)
her eighth old man, I'm Henry
the eighth I am
- - At last, Remus had had enough.
“All right! I give up. You win. I’ll look at this later,” he said as he
stuffed the parchment into a pocket. “What do you want to discuss?”
- - The mirth in Sirius’ face
left. He looked stone sober. “How much danger is Harry really in? Why can’t
someone other than Snape teach him Occlumency? I understand why Dumbledore
won’t teach it to him, but surely someone else could. Staying here, day after
day… I don’t get to hear as much about what is going on in the fight against
Voldemort. Everything is hidden from me, like I am a child who wouldn’t think
first … who would act rashly. Well, I’m not a child. I can be trusted to know
about Harry and not go off half-cocked and I can be trusted to go outside and
not get caught.”
- - Still looking deadly serious,
he lowered his voice and spoke in slow measured words. “I stayed alive in that
hell-hole, managed to escape, and stayed hidden for two years before Dumbledore
locked me up here. I know I can be of some use to the Order. And I don’t care
if something does happen to me, as long as I can help, especially if it helps
to protect Harry. I used to be an Auror, for crying out loud. I know I can
help rid the world of Voldemort. The sooner we destroy Voldemort and his
followers, the sooner the wizard world will be safe.” Sirius’ normally pale
blue eyes were now bright with intensity. “Remus, please. Talk to Dumbledore
Remus was startled back into the
present by the Headmaster’s voice. “…then the Ministry is at last admitting
the truth.” Dumbledore said as he leant forward in his chair again. “It is
about time Cornelius saw reason. Unfortunately…” Dumbledore stopped and looked
sadly at Remus. “Remus, we would like to continue with the Order’s business at
this location. That is, if you have no objections.”
Dumbledore. The thin
smile vanished from Remus’ face. I never
did talk to him for Sirius. I figured I had all the answers and that it
wouldn’t do any good – figured it would be better for Sirius to be safe.
Dumbledore paused a moment and
shifted in his chair, looking toward the silver goblet at the head of the
table. “I know how difficult this must be for you, but …”
“Don’t give it another thought! I
understand; Sirius would have wanted it that way and insisted we go forward
with the Order’s work. As do I. Please, continue, Albus.” Remus, too, found
himself staring at that goblet. Sirius
would have done anything for the Order. He was happy to at least be able to
offer this house for its use.
Dumbledore nodded. “You may recall,
Alastor, that a few days ago we approved Remus’ recommendation that Portia
Plummer be given greater clearance within the Order. I was thinking of
assigning her along with Elphias Doge over the next few days, to guard
Nymphadora during her recovery at St. Mungo’s.. I doubt that Bellatrix
Lestrange would attempt to attack her niece right now; however, we cannot
afford to lose another of the Order’s most trusted members… Sirius was…”
Dumbledore trailed off. “This is of the utmost importance now; we need to help
galvanise the Ministry’s forces in our fight against Lord Voldemort.”
Moody and Remus nodded their heads
slightly in agreement. Thank goodness Tonks
is being protected. Sirius would not be pleased if anything happened to his
“Alastor,” continued Dumbledore, as
Remus tried to shake off his recurring memories of Sirius and focus. “… you and
Kingsley will be in charge of updating all of the Aurors and co-ordinating the
Order’s plans with those of the Ministry. This includes the handling of the
captured Death Eaters. After listening to that report from the Ministry on the
wireless just now, it seems that Cornelius is finally willing to cooperate.”
“He bloody well better,” grunted
Moody under his breath. I couldn’t agree
more. Sirius would still be alive
if Fudge hadn’t hidden his head in the sand.
Remus knew from years of experience that at any other
time, Dumbledore’s eyes would have twinkled at Moody’s comment. Right now,
they looked rather flat and dull. It
suddenly struck him. Dumbledore must be
upset over Sirius’ death, too.
“Severus will, of course, continue to
ascertain vital information regarding Voldemort’s and the Death Eaters’ plans
in light of these events.” Remus scoffed at the thought of Snape. I’ll bet he’s glad Sirius is gone. He finally beat
Sirius at something. Wonder if he will finally be easier on Harry. Harry!
“What about Harry?” Remus asked
Dumbledore pointedly. “Surely he will be able to come here now. I mean, he
cannot very well be expected to stay at Hogwarts and then return to his aunt’s
house.” Oh, Petunia and that husband would
be so sympathetic if they learnt of Sirius’ death. I can just see her horsey
face and that purple walrus’ face of his… beaming as they thought of one less
convict… one less wizard. They’d be harder on Harry then ever before, now that
they wouldn’t have to fear any reprisals from Sirius.
Dumbledore seemed startled by Remus’
interruption. He frowned with obvious regret. “Alas, Remus, that is precisely
what Harry must do. Harry Potter, as you well know, is best protected at
Hogwarts and at Petunia Dursley’s house. He will not be coming here, at least
not until near the end of the summer.”
This can’t be!
Careful… try to sound normal… He sat down and took a
deep breath before beginning in a carefully measured voice that still managed
to sound a bit clipped. “I realise that his protection is paramount, Albus. We
all know that.”
Remus was absent-mindedly playing
with the napkin he still had in his hands from his toast, turning it over and
over in his hands. “But there are other things that are important to Harry
then mere ‘physical’ protection. Surely, he must be allowed some time to
grieve with those who understand and… care. Sirius may have had his problems,
but Harry looked upon him almost like a father. He cannot deal with this
completely on his own. Harry needs ‘other’ protection, not just physical. It
is important to Harry’s well being.”
Remus stood up again and cleared the
table, the dishes rattling as he brought them to the sink. “I realise that I
have stayed mostly out of Harry’s life.” He’s
James’ son; how could I have done that for so long? “Initially, I
kept my distance in accordance with your instructions, Albus.” He piled the
dishes into the sink quite noisily. “I couldn’t very well get close to him
when I was his professor. I had to keep my distance - propriety required that
there be certain boundaries.”
Remus wiped his hands on a towel
before continuing. “Sirius and Harry needed to get to know each other. You
know how much Sirius adored Harry when he was a baby – he never stopped loving
him. And Harry needed his godfather. It was so important for both of them to
forge a strong relationship. So, I stayed in the background, encouraging Harry
to get to know his godfather and bond with him.”
And in the
meantime, my own relationship with Harry remained undeveloped. Sirius deserved that chance after being deprived of
that relationship for so many years. Despite all that, I made it a point to follow what was happening with
Harry; I always cared about him.
Remus took the hand towel and folded
it and refolded it before placing it back in its spot. Now that Sirius is … gone… “I am sure both
James and Sirius would want me to be there for Harry.” And to have a close relationship with him. Truth be
told, I want that very much as well.
Dumbledore and Moody kept their eyes
carefully trained upon Remus as he spoke. Probably
watching me to see if I can be trusted. After a moment, Dumbledore
replied “I know, Remus…” Remus started to protest again. “… I know.”
Dumbledore said with finality. No arguing
with him when he looks like that. “But he will have Hermione Granger
and Ronald Weasley to lean on during the remainder of term. After that, he must
go where he is best protected, and that is with his mother’s blood relatives.
I have informed him this morning of the connection between himself and
Voldemort. He knows he must go back to his relatives. This is especially
vital now until we are able to determine exactly what Kreacher told Narcissa
and until Harry is able to learn Occlumency.”
“Right. That protection did so much
to help Harry when those Dementors attacked him on Privet Drive last summer.
Just like keeping Sirius here all year for his protection kept him safe. Harry
nearly got taken by Dementors, and Sirius now gone,” Remus crossed his arms as
he looked away from Professor Dumbledore. “There’s more to being a ‘family’
than mere physical protection,” he grumbled bitterly. Sirius would be livid. I have failed Sirius and
Harry yet again.
Remus stole a quick glance at
Dumbledore and found that although the Headmaster was looking sharply at him,
there seemed to be pain behind his eyes. The clock on the mantelpiece
continued ticking off the passing time. When
did Dumbledore start to look so old? I had not noticed before.
“Harry Potter must go to his aunt’s house for the summer. The protection from
his blood-relative may not be able to protect him from everything, but it is
the best protection we can offer him.” Dumbledore took off his glasses and
cleaned them slowly before continuing. “No protection can guarantee anyone’s
safety. Not even the safety of old friends well trained in protecting
themselves.” He put his glasses back on.
The clock struck the hour and chimed
a little tune. “Harry is still a boy… he needs family much more than mere
physical protection, especially at a time like this,” Remus said gently but
firmly. He had now turned to face Dumbledore once again.
Dumbledore sighed deeply and stroked
his beard. The clock had finished chiming and had resumed its constant
ticking. “Perhaps I have not considered his mental well-being sufficiently.
You are right; maybe he could come here for the second half of the summer.”
Remus closed his eyes and let out a
sigh of relief. Thank goodness! Sirius, we
have a chance to help him!
“Look at it this way, Lupin,” added
Moody. “It will give you a chance to finish…uh … redecorating this place before
the boy gets here at the end of the summer.”
Remus managed a small wry smile at
the thought of thoroughly removing all dark objects from Number Twelve,
Grimmauld Place. I’ve wanted to do that
since I was a boy and first discovered what kind of horrible place Sirius lived
in. The idea is tempting. But still… Harry…
“I am sure Harry would prefer to be
here even in the current state of this house. Besides, as much as I would like
to redecorate this monstrosity, Alastor, I am sure I could be more useful to
the Order doing things other than selecting new paintings and tapestries for
the walls,” said Remus urgently, almost pleadingly.
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow and
began to stroke his long beard thoughtfully. Surely
he was not taking Moody’s idea seriously! It was preposterous.
“Albus, no,” Remus began slowly.
Dumbledore looked at him carefully. “You cannot expect me to sit here while
Bellatrix… I mean Voldemort and his Death Eaters are still about.”
A shiver ran up and down Remus’
spine. Was that not exactly what Sirius had
been saying all these months? How vividly Remus remembered Sirius’ pleas to be
allowed to help. What an eerie case of déjà vu. Sirius uttered the exact line
I just said. So this is what
Sirius had felt like. Caged and useless. Damn, Sirius! How could I not have
Dumbledore’s tired voice brought him
out of his own thoughts. What was he saying?
“No, Remus. I do not expect you to
sit here redecorating this house. You are far too valuable for that. You will
be working with me to co-ordinate the information Severus is able to gather
with the combined efforts of Kingsley, Alastor, and the Ministry.” Thank goodness. Last thing I want to do is to sit
here going over Sirius’ death over and over again in my mind.
“Additionally, you, Nymphadora, and Portia will be involved in assessing all
new recruits to the Order. I expect many that we have approached in the past
will be more than happy to assist us now.” Portia.
I don’t think she has seen Sirius since Azkaban. And now it is too late. I
wonder if she has heard yet. God, I am so tired.
“However,” continued Dumbledore pointedly,
“I do expect you to take the next few days off for yourself and to settle
Sirius’ affairs - until Nymphadora has recovered from her injuries. You need
this time, Remus. As you know, he has left this house to you. He has also left
you in charge of administering his estate.” I
don’t want to administer his estate. I want Sirius back.
Dumbledore reached inside his velvety
purple robes and retrieved a key, which he handed to Remus. “Here is the key to
Sirius’ vault – number 711,” he said briskly, but with a note of sadness. After
a moment’s hesitation, he handed the key to Remus. “Naturally, you may wish
Nymphadora and her mother to accompany you to Sirius’ vault. I know you do not
like to speak of your pain, but I know how much Sirius meant to you... to all
of us.” I don’t want to talk about this. I
don’t want to think about it. If only I had…
Remus shifted slightly in his seat
and rubbed his hand along the scratchy stubble on his face. Damn! I forgot to shave this morning!
“I also expect that you really do
want to do some redecorating around here... finish getting rid of the dark
objects, brighten things up, and so forth. Molly, Arthur, and their family will
be joining you here once term is over at Hogwarts.” Great. Just what I do not want – a house full of people hovering over
me and trying to make me feel better. Molly better stay clear of me. Last
thing I need is her trying to mother me, especially after the way she treated
Sirius. I want to be left alone.
“ I have written to Hermione Granger’s
parents; she will be a guest at this house over the summer as well,” continued
Dumbledore. “Those closest to Harry are more at risk now than ever before.
Voldemort knows they are not mere bystanders. Unfortunately, Lord Voldemort is
back with many supporters and he knows he can influence Harry’s mind. Without
question he will be after those Harry loves the most. Thus, they must be
right. The last thing I feel like is a house full of people who cannot
possibly understand. I wanted to be alone. No, I want to find Bellatrix. I
want… it does not matter what I want. What matters is … Sirius. He would be
feeding Beaky his lunch about now. Beaky! His wounds!
“Gentlemen, if you will excuse me, I have an injured
hippogriff to attend to,” said Remus in his most polite voice as he rose from
the table. And after that, I desperately
need a shower and a shave. Moody and Dumbledore followed suit and
the three of them left the kitchen and went back up the stairs to the hall.
Out of habit, they all became extremely quiet as they entered the hall, just as
they had done when the picture of Mrs Black hung upon the wall.
“We shall meet again four days
hence.” Dumbledore extended his hand to Remus, as did Moody. “At that time, we
shall have a gathering of our senior members. Let us say after dinner. In the
meantime, I suggest you use your time for your own personal needs.”
Remus nodded slightly as he closed
the door gently behind Dumbledore and Moody; then he closed his eyes softly and
leaned against the door. It was quiet, except for the murmurs “Unnatural
creature” and similar comments from the paintings in the hall. He walked down
the passage past where the heads of the former house-elves of the Most Ancient
and Noble House of Black hung on the wall. Those were the next things he would
rid this place of. This very morning.
Up the stairs he went, the only sound
was the echo of his own footsteps. He went past the rooms that had been
occupied by the Weasleys, Hermione, and Harry last summer. The rooms will soon be alive with noise again. Just
what I do not need. Molly Weasley. Trying to comfort me and say she didn’t
mean to treat Sirius like that. That she really liked him. I know she was
worried about her children and Harry, but there was no need for her to treat
Sirius like that.
He continued down the passage and up
another flight of stairs. Here was the room Sirius had been using as his
bedchamber. Without even opening the door, Remus could smell the lingering
scent of his old friend. Sirius. He
inhaled deeply. That scent is
unmistakable. If only I could keep that scent alive in my mind forever, then
you would never be far away. Slowly, he walked past the room. He did
not have the strength to enter it just yet.
Up another staircase with faded rugs.
At last, he found himself in Sirius’ mother’s room with Buckbeak, his only
companion in the huge house. Buckbeak seemed excited when Remus first opened
the door, but then seemed disappointed when he saw it was not Sirius. Remus went
over to him and gently stroked his beak and then the soft feathers on his neck.
Buckbeak had learnt over the past year to trust Remus, despite his being a
Remus got out the salves and bandages for Buckbeak’s
wounds and began to treat them. His eyes watered a bit as he looked into
Buckbeak’s golden eyes.
“Well, Beaky, it looks like it’s just
you and me for the next few days,” he said softly in a choked up voice. After
I shower and shave, we’ll go out in the garden for a while. Would you like
that? I promise I’ll bring you the biggest rats I can find. Remember how
Sirius used to enjoy feeding you rats? He always named them all ‘Wormtail’ …
said he could dream. I know I can never replace Sirius, but I promise I will
take good care of you and keep you safe. It won’t be the same around here,
though. Nothing ever will be again. We both are going to have to help each
other now. Sirius is dead.”