The Letting Go
Remus wished he could forget the last few hours. Or, even better, wake up and realise that it had all been a nightmare.
That wasn't going to happen. Not this time.
He stood at the parlour window, watching as the sky began to lighten to the east. Outside, Grimmauld Place was waking up to a brand new day.
A young couple, clearly running late, dashed down the street towards the bus stop. How could they not know that Sirius was dead? How could the world not realise that Sirius was … gone.
And once again Remus was left alone. He laughed bitterly. It was almost obscene to have outlived his friends - and he was still some distance from his fortieth birthday.
Somehow, he never thought he would be the only one left. Even when Sirius was in Azkaban, at least that meant that he wasn't the last Marauder.
Now the unthinkable had happened.
It was light outside now. The street lamps had been turned off and there were no car headlights shining on the main road, further proof that the world outside his window would keep turning - as if he didn't already know that.
Remus finally moved away from the window and went into the kitchen. Still on the table were the remains of supper. It had promised to be an enjoyable evening - Tonks, Kingsley, Moody, Sirius and himself. Snape's call had changed everything.
Mechanically, he began to clear the table. He needed to do something to try and take his mind off what happened earlier. Even as he worked he knew it was a vain hope.
After the dishes had been dried and put away, Remus made tea. As he sat down at the table, the door opened, and Kingsley came in.
"How are you doing?"
Remus didn't acknowledge the question. "There's fresh tea in the pot," he said quietly. "Why don't you pour yourself a cup and join me?"
"I feel like something stronger than tea," Kingsley commented, as he sat opposite Remus.
Remus looked up from the table for the first time since Kingsley had entered the room. "So do I, but even I know that's not a good idea."
They sat in silence for a long time. "How are Moody and Tonks?" Remus asked suddenly.
"Both need a day or so in Saint Mungo's, but they'll be fine," Kingsley answered. "I'm more worried about you."
"I'm fine. After all, it's not like I haven't been through this before." Remus finished his tea and got up from the table. "I'll survive." He laughed ironically. "I always do."
Kingsley laid his hand on Remus' shoulder. "It doesn't matter how many times you've lost a friend, it's never easy to deal with. It shouldn't be. Else we're no better than they are."
"I know, but …" Remus broke off.
Kingsley nodded. "There are times that I think I've been doing my job for too long," he said quietly. "I remember James Potter - hell, I worked with him for a couple of years. To watch his son duelling Death Eaters." He shook his head. "No, it doesn't seem fair."
"I'd forgotten that you worked with James," Remus admitted. He poured another cup of tea. "About the only good thing to come out of last night was Fudge and the Ministry seeing incontrovertible proof that Voldemort's back."
"Bring on the paranoia," Kingsley said, with a sigh. "Once that bit of information gets published in the Prophet, the Aurors will be kept frantically running from one Death Eater sighting to the next."
"And naturally eighty per cent of the sightings will be from people panicking and not necessarily accurate."
"At the very least." Kingsley shook his head. "We're in for a very difficult few months. We're already chronically under funded and understaffed and now we're facing another war." He shrugged.
"Sounds like the complaint of every Government department," Remus commented, "although in the case of the Aurors, I'd have to agree that they definitely have reason to complain."
"That we do," Kingsley said. "Listen, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to go back to the Ministry. I'm sure you can believe that all Hell's broken loose there tonight - this morning."
"I'm sure it has," Remus said. "I'm not really good company at the moment, anyway." For the first time he noticed the way Kingsley was holding one arm. "You were injured."
Kingsley shrugged. "Got in the way of a curse from Bellatrix Lestrange," he said laconically. "Nothing too serious - just haven't had the time to have it seen to yet." He stood. "I'll try and stop in later today or tomorrow and let you know what's happening at the Ministry, but things will be a little mad there for a few days."
Remus waved a hand. "I understand." He shrugged. "I can't imagine that I'll be too far away."
After Kingsley left, Remus went back to the parlour window. There he could watch the world and try to forget for a few minutes what had happened the night before. But even he knew that that was a hopeless cause.
Remus had no idea how long he stood at the window. Finally, he turned away and faced the room. There, sitting on the old fashioned sofa near the door, was Dumbledore.
"Remus," Dumbledore said, standing up. "How are you?"
"Everyone wants to know the answer to that," Remus commented. "I'm fine. How is Harry?"
Dumbledore sighed. "He's angry," he said heavily. "I told him everything."
"I think it's about time," Remus said. "The most ironic part of all of this - mess is that, by not telling Harry what he needed to know, tonight he ended up in the one place we didn't want him to be." He sat down on the sofa and buried his head in his hands. "And Harry especially has paid a particularly heavy price."
Dumbledore laid a hand on Remus' shoulder. "To a certain extent, we have all failed Harry," he said, "but the majority of the blame is mine."
Remus raised his head and looked at him. For the first time that he could recall, Dumbledore looked old. "We've all made mistakes over the last fifteen years."
Dumbledore shook his head. "But the most grievous mistakes were mine," he repeated. "If I had told Harry about the prophecy, then this might not have happened."
"We've all made mistakes," Remus repeated. "It doesn't matter who should have done what; we've all contributed to what happened. Now - now, we just need to make sure we learn from our mistakes so this doesn't happen again." He shrugged. "At least Fudge can no longer deny that Voldemort's back."
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes," he agreed. "It's not really much of a consolation, but I'll accept it - for now." He stood. "You will forgive me, but I must go back to Hogwarts. There is much work to be done to mend some of the excesses of Dolores Umbridge's reign."
"I imagine there would be," Remus said acidly. "She hasn't exactly made it a good year for anyone at Hogwarts."
Remus spent most of the next few days at the parlour window watching the street below and avoiding Molly Weasley, who had returned to Grimmauld Place after making sure her two youngest children were recovering from their injuries. He was fairly certain that she would corner him eventually.
And he was right. On Sunday evening he found her standing in the doorway when he turned away from the window. Automatically, he smiled. "Good evening, Molly."
She pointed to the sofa. "Sit down. I want to have a talk to you."
Remus hesitated. "To be honest, Molly, I was just on my way to bed." He did his best to sound regretful, but didn't feel he was particularly convincing.
He was right. Molly's eyes narrowed. "I'm sure you can talk to me for a few minutes," she said sweetly. "After all, we haven't really had a chance to talk over the last few days."
There was really no way that he could politely avoid the upcoming conversation. He smiled, and moved over to the sofa. "What can I do for you, Molly?"
She sat down next to him and, to his surprise, took hold of his hands. "How are you, Remus?"
He shrugged uneasily. "I'm fine. It's been an … interesting few days," he admitted slowly.
Molly sighed. "Remus."
He looked briefly at her then down at their hands. "I'll be fine, Molly." The smile didn't reach his eyes. "I've been in this position before."
Molly was not convinced. "I've never had to go through anything like you're going through," she said slowly. "I lost both my brothers in the first war, you know?"
Remus nodded. "Gideon and Fabian," he said. "Yes, I knew them. Fred and George are very like them, aren't they?"
"Indeed they are - and I'm not letting you change the subject, Remus Lupin," Molly told him. "I can't imagine how it feels to lose your friends, then get Sirius back only …" She shrugged uneasily. "I don't know what to say to you. Sirius and I disagreed on a few things, but I certainly would not wish this on him - or on anyone else."
Remus looked at her. "Why?" he asked. "For Sirius it's all over now. He's gone to a place where nothing can hurt him now - where I hope he's with James and Lily." He leaned back and closed his eyes. "I just feel for Harry. He's the one who will be affected the most."
"That doesn't mean that you're not hurt by his death."
"Yes, of course it hurts." Remus fell silent as he tried to organise his thoughts into something resembling coherence. "I'm going to miss Sirius, but the person that I want to remember is not the person that he was over the last year." He smiled at a memory. "If you'd known him before he was in Azkaban, Molly, you'd understand. That's the person I'm mourning."
Molly nodded slowly. "I can only imagine," she said. "I do know that Harry adored him, and Harry doesn't give his trust easily."
"A friend of mine once described Sirius as the most charming, charismatic person she had ever met. If he wanted to, he could talk you into doing anything," Remus said. "Sirius turned on the charm when he met Harry. Given Harry's background, is it any wonder that he responded the way that he did." He shrugged. "Every child needs someone that'll be there for them no matter what."
"And that's what Sirius was for Harry," Molly agreed. She squeezed his hands. "Can you take his place?"
Remus shook his head. "I'm not Sirius and I can't take his place," he said, "however, I can show Harry that I'm there for him in any and all ways that he needs me to be." He met Molly's eyes. "He needs someone to be there for him, and I'm determined that I'm not going to fail him again."
To his surprise, Molly smiled. "You'll do," she said softly. She nodded. "Yes, I think you'll do very well. Just remember - if you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here."
Remus smiled back at her. "Thank you, Molly," he said. "I really do appreciate the offer."
Remus watched the Dursley family while they waited at Kings Cross for the Hogwarts Express to arrive. Try as he might, he couldn't see the remotest resemblance between Petunia Dursley and her younger sister.
"Is that them? They look like right charmers," Tonks said from behind him making him jump.
"Don't they just?" Remus looked at her. "Should you even be here?"
Tonks rolled her eyes. "I'm fine now, Remus," she said. "Honestly, I've had worse injuries falling down the stairs."
Privately Remus doubted that, but he decided to let the subject drop. "I think the train's arrived," he said.
Students that he recognised were making their way through the barrier from Platform Nine and Three Quarters in groups of two and three. Harry and his friends were among the last to come through the barrier.
"Harry looks dreadful," Tonks murmured to Remus.
Remus nodded. Harry looked as if he hadn't slept or ate in the week since Sirius died and he was definitely showing the signs of what had been an absolutely horrific year. "I just wish it wasn't always Harry."
"If not Harry, then who else?" Tonks asked as they moved over towards Harry.
Remus didn't have an answer to that. He greeted Harry and was slightly concerned at the boy's reaction to his suggestion that they have a word with the Dursleys'. Not for the first time, he acknowledged that Dumbledore had made a fairly major mistake when he left Harry at Privet Drive. It had kept Harry alive, but at the expense of his emotional wellbeing.
The meeting with the Dursleys' went about as well as could be expected. Remus had a private chuckle to himself at Petunia Dursley's reaction to Tonks' bright pink hair and at Vernon Dursley's reaction to Moody. Harry, he was pleased to notice, was looking slightly better after the end of the conversation. After a year where it must have appeared to Harry that they had deserted him to some extent, it was quite humbling to see a flicker of hope in his eyes.
Remus managed to stop himself from gripping Harry's shoulder. "Keep in touch," he murmured, listening as Molly, Ron and Hermione assured Harry that they would have him away from Privet Drive very soon.
He turned his head to watch Harry lead the Dursleys' out of Kings Cross and out of sight. It wasn't any easier to deal with the death of his best friend than it had been sixteen years ago.
He smiled briefly to himself as he left the train station. Letting go for the second time wasn't any easier, but at least this time there was someone else mourning Sirius. This time, however, there was Harry, who had lost the most important person in his world.
This time Remus would be there for Harry.