The Sugar Quill
Author: Antonia East (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Sacred to the Memory  Chapter: 1. Remus
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

1

A/N: The poem is a beautiful one, by Mary Elizabeth Frye, and these stories spin out from it.  Those who die leave traces of themselves in everything and everybody they touched. 

I’d like to thank my betas Mistral and Lady Narcissa for grappling with my grammar.  Without them this would be nothing but adverbs and commas.

 

 

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunshine on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush,

I am that swift, uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand by my grave and cry,

I am not there, I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye

November 1981

Mrs Mary Leighton knelt by her husband’s grave. The earth had not yet been covered by grass; the rectangular patch looked bare. Raw, she thought, like her heart. She ached with the loss of him. As she placed her hand tenderly on the soil, the glint of her wedding ring caught her eye. A simple gold band, yet to her it had meant so much. With the years, her flesh had grown around it so that the ring had become impossible to take off; had she wished to remove it, it would have to be sawn from her finger. Her hand clenched into a fist, throwing into relief the blue veins that had sprung up below her knuckles. She would never cut her wedding ring no matter how hard it bit into her; when the time came, she’d be buried wearing it. She’d be buried here, in this churchyard, in this very plot. A tear slid down her face. She’d cried a lot since she’d heard the awful news; she had only been told a few weeks before but it seemed a lifetime ago. A lifetime in which the reality of the incomprehensible news had brutally sunk in: her husband had been killed in an explosion, along with a dozen others. It was such a needless way for him to have died.

She breathed deeply, trying to ease the lump that had risen in her chest, threatening to suffocate her. The pointlessness of it overwhelmed her. Bob had merely been unlucky, walking down the street at just the wrong time on his way to the annual reunion of his old army regiment. Over forty years ago her husband had gone to war and, having escaped the bombs and bullets in his youth, he’d been killed in his old age by an exploding pipe.

She wrenched her gaze from the grave; her eyes fell on the mounded earth to her right. The young couple from the other end of the village had died the day before her husband. Another terrible business; they’d both been killed in a fire that had destroyed their house. She hadn’t known them very well; they had kept to themselves, but she’d seen them a few times. Young. They had been younger than her own children, and with a baby, too, an adorable little boy with a shock of dark hair and beautiful eyes. She remembered smiling indulgently at the pretty, red-haired mother once as the young woman grappled the lollipop from her child’s hand in the local shop, and another time she’d watched the family walking together, the husband carrying the little one, his other arm wrapped around his wife’s shoulders. Mary sighed. Life was cruel; at least her Bob had been 68, although that didn’t help much at the moment. She closed her eyes. Apparently, the baby hadn’t been badly hurt and had been farmed out to relatives. It wasn’t the same, though, she thought, poor little mite. He wouldn’t remember his parents. Mrs. Stoker at the Post Office had said that she’d heard the mother had saved the boy’s life, using her body to shield him from the flames. It wouldn’t surprise her if it were true. A mother’s love was very fierce.

A hand dropped on her shoulder, and Mary turned to look up at her eldest daughter, whose face was tired and concerned.

“Come on, Mum. I’ve done some supper.”

Mary meekly followed her daughter out through the gate and down the path that led to her cottage.

***

A figure had watched the two women and, as soon as they were gone, left the seat facing the War Memorial and approached the double grave.

“What am I doing here?”

The man was only in his twenties, but his hair was already peppered with grey. His face was pale and had the haunted, weary look of the young in whose eyes is encapsulated a century’s worth of sorrow. He stood looking down at the piles of earth in silence.

“It was the full moon last night, Prongs,” he finally whispered in a hoarse, cracked voice that sounded rusty and out of use.

The full moon. And for the first time in years, he had spent it alone, howling for his pack.

Throughout the news of the deaths, the realisation of the betrayal, and the cold-blooded murder, he had remained upright and impassive. His eyes had been dry during the funerals and memorial service, during the period in which his entire world had exploded, and its torn fragments had cascaded to his feet like blood-soaked confetti, mingled with the pieces of his still-beating heart. But now, the steely shred of self control which had been pinning him together snapped.

Remus Lupin sank onto the damp grass. He had felt a surge of jealousy when the younger woman had reached out to comfort her mother. There was no one to offer him solace. His parents had died at the hand of Voldemort several years before; their years of self-imposed exile from the wizarding world -- his fault -- had not saved his Muggle-born mother and pureblood father. Lily, the woman who had mothered him -- who had mothered all of them, not just Harry -- was dead. James, who had discovered his secret and transformed his life, who had been a husband and a father and one of his best friends, was dead. Peter, the one person who had ever envied him -- poor, stupid, loyal – had not even been granted a grave. And Sirius…Sirius, who could make them all laugh, even during the darkest of times. Sirius, who had said he was prepared to die for the Potters. Sirius, who they had believed the most loyal of all: Sirius had betrayed and murdered them and left Remus to die the slow and painful death of living.

“He’ll spend the rest of his miserable life in Azkaban, James. He’ll never leave, never be let out. But it’s too good for him. He’s not good enough for Azkaban. He deserves to…”

He trailed off, unnerved by his own uncharacteristic outburst. An image of Sirius -- the liveliest person he’d ever known -- shackled, contained, imprisoned, swam before his eyes. He saw the man he’d believed to be his friend captured inside himself, being driven to insanity as all inmates of the wizard prison eventually were, and was furious at the rush of sympathy and sadness that the picture produced. For the millionth time since it had happened, a fundamental part of himself rejected the idea that Sirius could have committed such an atrocity. He knew Sirius; Moony knew Padfoot. Sirius had always hated the Dark side; he was the most open person Remus knew. Thought he knew. He forced himself to picture Sirius bowing to Voldemort and calling him Master. He imagined a Death Eater torturing a Muggle child, pulling back his hood to reveal Sirius’s laughing face. He saw Sirius’s expression of satisfaction and glee when he betrayed Lily and James.

And Harry. Sirius had betrayed Harry, his own godson. A memory, one of hundreds, cut through Remus.

“James? Lily?”

Remus stepped through the door and was hit at once by the warmth of the Potters’ cottage after the cold night air of December. The room was brightly lit and seemed to him a haven where all was safe, comfortable, and happy. He looked around for his friends. Instead of James and Lily, however, he saw Sirius, sitting uncharacteristically still in an armchair by the fire.

“Sirius, what…?” Remus began, only to be stopped by his friend silently lifting a finger to his lips. He tipped his head towards the sofa, which faced the fire . Remus crept forward and leaned over it. He smiled in amusement and affection at the sight. James’s eyes were closed, his head tilted back, and he was snoring gently with his mouth open. Lily made a prettier sleeper. She was curled up with her head resting on her husband’s chest, her hair spilling across both of their shoulders like a vibrant shawl. He had his arm drawn loosely around her. The worry that infiltrated day-to-day life had seeped from their faces, and both of them looked innocent and youthful.

“We need a camera,” Remus murmured, smiling at the peaceful scene.

“Well, yes, I did think of taking a photo, but…” Sirius gestured at the bundle on his chest. With his luminous green eyes shut, Harry looked more like his father than ever, although not yet five months old.

“It’s a shame he sleeps like James,” Remus commented, taking in the baby’s open mouth and snuffly breathing.

“The main thing is that he’s asleep for the first time in ages,” Sirius pointed out, smiling down at his tiny godson and smoothing back his already scruffy black hair. Harry stirred and Sirius drew the baby closer to him, cradling him in his arms and rocking him gently.

Had that affection been fake? It must have been. Sirius had delivered Harry to what should have been death.

“I thought I knew him.” Remus’s breath was ragged; pressure was building inside his chest. He longed to howl, to release some of the pain. He longed to kill, but how could revenge and inflicted suffering ease this pent-up agony?

Harry had been taken to his aunt’s. Knowing how much it would hurt to see the baby among strangers -- to be reminded of his parents by every black hair, by each emerald eye -- it had been with trepidation that Remus had knocked on the door of Number Four, Privet Drive. He had been prepared for the pain of remembrance, but not for the agony of being told by an irate walrus of a man that he was not, under any circumstances, to come near his family. Harry would never be allowed to associate with “freaks” such as Remus. Dumbledore had explained the necessity of Harry remaining with his aunt and uncle, and the last tatter of Remus’s frayed hope had been shredded.

He vaguely noticed that rain had started to fall, its savage drops suiting his desolate mood. He couldn’t believe that all that was left of Lily and James were these blank graves, which would later be marked by a stone. He’d see to that. But how could they be cast onto an inanimate slab of cold marble? They were not names and dates but people: his friends, his only family. Where had their life forces gone? What had happened to the amused sparkle that shone in Lily’s eyes? Could James’s exasperating habit of running his hand through his hair just vanish with him?

How could he explain to anyone what they had been? Not just to him, but to all around them: their son, their friends, their acquaintances. You could write “beloved” on a stone, but how did you show people that these two had inspired love in so many, that at least two people would have died for them? And one of them had. And the other wished he had, as death seemed so preferable to life. The one who they had believed loved them most had sent them to their deaths, and Remus was disgusted that he even shared this earth with him. It all came back to Sirius.

“Did you know?” Remus asked quietly. Had Lily realised, as Voldemort pointed his wand at her, that she would die because of Sirius? Did James have time to work out that Sirius must have betrayed him? The one man they knew would never tell, the person who swore he would withstand any torture to protect them, callously handed their lives away. Why did they have to choose him? Why not Peter, why not Remus himself?

He knew why. He knew that James and Sirius had always been the closest friends. He had understood; they were so alike, especially when they were younger. They were the pranksters, the daredevils, the ingenious inventors. The stars. He had been the researcher, the Prefect, the moderator. He had also been the mystery, the problem, the reason. The werewolf. Peter had been the indulged tag-along, the loyal side-kick, the bumbling friend. The applause.

“We all misjudged Peter,” he mumbled. Each remembered joke, derogatory comment -- every time he’d laughed at, rather than with Peter -- clouded him with shame. Peter had shown more Gryffindor courage than he ever had. So much more, in the end, than Sirius.

“He loved you two.” Peter the hero. Peter had shown just how faithful a friend he was. Foolish Peter, who had tried to duel Sirius even though he’d barely mastered the disarming spell.

Remus’s sobs quieted. The rain was bucketing down heavily. Remus wished he could be washed from this earth into a friendly oblivion. His thin robes were plastered to his skin, his hair slicked and dripping into his eyes. Cold crept up inside him, yet he couldn’t face moving from his position.

“It’s all over now. You did it; Harry did it. He’s famous throughout the world.” He smiled weakly. “Pretty impressive for fifteen months old.” He thought of the parties and celebrations that were still rife, two weeks after Voldemort disappeared. He hadn’t attended any; he resented people who were happy. “I don’t think Voldemort’s gone for good, but…well, I don’t know. At the moment, it’s what you wanted: a safe future for Harry.”

Harry was important; James and Lily had stressed this when explaining their decision to hide. They hated cowering from Voldemort, yet it was Harry’s future they wanted to ensure. At least some vestige of the goodness, love and laughter that had been James and Lily remained in the world. Harry still had a future ahead of him. Reluctantly, Remus stood up, and attempted (with neither conviction nor success) to brush the mud from his drenched robes. Whether he liked it or not, he also had a future. It might prove to be bleak, lonely and painful, but it was his.  He turned his back on the darkening graveyard and walked away.

 

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