Brianaís Christmas List
All characters and settings the property of JK Rowling.
"We all get involved in a moment of emotion, and then we cannot get out."
- Graham Greene, The Quiet American
"Iíve been invited to a dinner, up at the castle," said Tonks. "After the funeral. For the Aurors, but we can bring guests." She paused. He only widened his eyes and stared at her. "I take it you donít want to come with, then?"
"Not particularly, no."
"All right then."
The funeral had just ended. People were gradually fading back to the village, castle, forest, lake, or wherever they had come from to attend Dumbledoreís send-off. Remus and Tonks sat at the edge of the lake, watching the sun set and the squid flop his tentacles on the surface of the water.
"Will you go back to the inn, then?" she asked.
"I was thinking of taking a walk around the grounds."
"I havenít been here in so long. Itís nice to be back."
"Hmm. Iíll meet you in about two hours, then?"
"Here, you think?"
"Right at this spot."
"Are you all right?"
"You look upset."
"I feel fine. Donít worry, Iíll see you in a bit."
"In a bit," she repeated and, sighing, walked away.
After the funeral ended Dean said good-bye to Seamus, whose mother was dragging him home directly after the ceremonies finished.
"No mourning time at all, you realize that?" Seamus muttered to Dean as the merpeople finished their salute and Mrs. Finnegan began discreetly looking at her watch and tapping her foot. "She acts like we actually have someplace to be. Maybe she does, but I donít, not anymoreÖ."
Dean watched Seamusí troubles detachedly but rather worriedly. He wondered if his own mother would make such a fuss if she knew all that was going on, if he hadnít purposely kept her in the dark. He stared fixedly at the ground and then at Dumbledoreís bright white casket.
After everything was finished and the crowd of mourners began dispersing, Seamus shook Deanís hand and then, to probably both their surprises, hugged him.
"I might not see you for awhile," said Seamus, "but weíll keep in touch."
"Yes," said Dean, trying very hard to believe it.
Now he was alone. He didnít want to go back to the common room, at the risk of meeting Ginny or Harry. Ginny had been so cheery at him lately he didnít think he could stand it. He almost wished she would just ignore him, it would make it easier to be in the same room with her. As it was, he got a funny prickly feeling on the back of his neck, so when he saw Neville and Luna making their way across the lawn back to the school and called to them.
"Hello," Neville said. Luna Lovegood nodded in Deanís direction absently but was still staring at the lake. "Nice ceremony, huh?"
It seemed an awkward thing to say, but Luna didnít notice and Dean simply nodded. He supposed you werenít expected to be very chatty after funerals, but then he wouldnít know. Heíd never been to one before.
"Are you going back up to the dormitory after this, Neville?" he asked suddenly.
"Er, yes. I suppose."
Dean started unbuttoning his dress robe, which he had bought secondhand before fourth year. It was now too short but still nearly unworn. "Could you take this and put it on my bed for me?"
"Youíre not coming inside?" asked Neville. Luna continued to watch the surface of the lake, blissfully unaware of their conversation. Dean followed her line of vision and slowly shook his head. "Itís getting dark, you might get cold."
"Iíll be all right. Iíll see you guys tomorrow." He turned toward the lake and the forest.
"Be careful, Dean," came Lunaís voice suddenly. He turned sharply to look at her, but she still seemed lost in whatever it was Luna was always looking at. He nodded and ran away.
It was cold, so he started jogging along the path to keep warm. The bare skin of his arms still felt prickly and his cheeks were freezing, but otherwise he felt fine. The sky had just started turning from a deep blue to purple when Dean thought he saw someone else along the path, which ran between the lake and the forest. The figure was only standing still, staring into the trees, as if expecting something to jump out at him. As Dean drew near he recognized the figure and called out. "Professor!"
The man didnít turn.
"Professor Lupin?" and now the man did face Dean, a pleasant, mild sort of smile on his face. The corner of his eye was still watching the trees, Dean noticed. "Whatís wrong, did you see something in the woods?" asked Dean.
"No. Nothing I shouldnít have expected, at least. Hello, Dean, how are you?"
"Iím fine. All right."
"What are you doing? Just walking?"
"Yes. And you?"
"Oh, same. Waiting for someone, actually."
They both paused. Dean opened his mouth to speak, but Lupin cut him off.
"Should you really be out here, all alone? Itís getting late."
"Itís probably not the best idea. Why?"
Lupin grinned. "Why donít why I walk with you back to the castle? You can tell me all the trouble youíve been up to."
"Me? I havenít been up to anything. Nothing, really. And Iíll be fine. You donít have toó"
"Come on," he said, and Dean reluctantly followed him. Lupin did not hurry him along the path towards the school, however. They fell into a leisurely pace, and Lupin began in a conversational tone by talking about the D. A. "Thatís certainly what Iíd call being up to trouble, wouldnít you?"
"Oh, you know about that?" Dean said, trying to hide how surprised he was.
"Most of it. I was impressed by all of your organizational skills, the lot of you."
"Hermioneís organizational skills, you mean. And youíre a teacher, should you really be condoning that sort of thing?"
"Iím not a teacher anymore, Dean. Besides, I was impressed at your attempts to educate yourselves. Very wise of all of you."
Dean snorted before he could stop himself. "Fat lot of help I was in the end."
"How do you mean?"
"Itís reallyó" he began, and then stopped. He wasnít certain if he really wanted to tell Lupin everything that had been running through his head over the past week, but in the end he explained.
"Itís kind of dumb, I suppose. Last year Hermione gave everyone in the D.A. these Galleons that she could charm them so weíd know when the next meeting was without Umbridge finding out. Umbridge was completely terrible, did you know that?"
"Well, this year obviously Harry didnít bother having anymore meetings. Since we had a semi-competent teacher. Finally. Snape was terrible too, though, did you know that?"
"Right." Dean looked at Lupin, who noticed the resentment in the boyís voice but resolved only to stare at the ground and listen attentively. "Well, there were no meetings so most of us got out of the habit of looking at our coins. I think some people probably accidentally spent them or something. But not Neville. He kept it on his nightstand. I think he checked it every night, just to be sure."
Dean paused. Lupin stared straight ahead, but out of the corner of his eye he saw Dean screwing his eyes up at the ground, his mouth twisted in a slight grimace.
"I guess Luna did the same thing. Theyíre the only ones who noticed when Hermione called for help, at least as far as Harry knows." Dean paused, perhaps expecting some reaction, but Lupin only continued walking and listening. "But I saw my coin. The night Dumbledore died. I just happened across it while looking for something in my bag. Hermione wanted all of us to meet her in front of the Room of Requirement again, but I didnít come, obviously. I shouldíve, but I didnít." Deanís grimace was even more pronounced now. "Itís not like I couldnít have helped. I did as well as the rest of them, I guess, and Harry was a decent teacher. Still, heís just a kid. He can only do so much. You can only learn so much, or at least feel like you learned so much, when youíre learning something so important from just a kid like you, you know?"
Dean kicked a stone as they walked along. It was fully dark now, and the brilliantly-lit castle was still a long way away. "I donít know how I could have helped, but I shouldíve tried. I donít know why I didnít. I didnít help at all."
Lupin kicked the stone as well and didnít say anything at first. When he did he spoke slowly and thoughtfully.
"I suppose itís natural to feel guilty, but you shouldnít bother. Thereíll be other times, and perhaps thatís as good of news as it sounds. Youíll end up involved, Dean. Everyone ends up involved, Dean. Even the ones who will try not to be, theyíll end up up to their necks in it, they wonít be able to help it in the end."
Dean paused. "Are you up to your neck in it now?"
"Oh, yes. Yes, yes. I saw my first thestral, here in the woods tonight."
Deanís breath caught in his throat.
"Iíve gone through all of this before, twenty years ago, and it was twenty times worse back then than it is now, but still I have never seen a thestral until tonight."
Dean couldnít think of anything to say to that, but Lupin obviously wasnít expecting anything. Dean thought he heard twigs breaking, as if something were following them, hidden in the forest. He walked faster, then, and Lupin was forced to match his pace. Doing so seemed to break the older manís reverie, and when he spoke next he told Dean more conventional platitudes about what bravery would be and how when the time came he would know what was right and do it.
All through these words of encouragement Dean couldnít help but think of the faraway look in Lupinís eyes when he had spoken of the thestrals.
He looks so old, he thought. His hairís completely grayÖ.
And suddenly Dean felt very scared. The thestral (or he thought it must be a thestral, the one Lupin had said he had seen) continued to follow them as they made their way to the castle. Even when they had left the forest behind them Dean thought he could feel it just over his shoulder. Eventually they reached the front doors of the castle. Lupin said good-bye, saying he was waiting for a friend and would stay outside.
"At any rate, Dean, it was good to see you again."
"You too. Thank you for the advice." He paused, trying to think of the proper words. "AndÖtry to keep out of trouble, too, all right?"
It was dark, but he thought he saw Lupin smile. "Iím not a professor anymore, Dean. I probably never will be."
"Do you know if theyíre really going to close the school?"
Another pause. "I donít. Itís possible."
"Well, then who knows? If Hogwarts closes, you could end up a professor again. Anythingís possible."
"Not that possible."
Dean grimaced again. "Well, see you."
"Good night." Lupin watched Dean go inside, then turned and walked back towards the lake.
The night was very clear. Every so often an owl would dart past like a shooting star. Sitting by edge of the lake he saw a small, pink-haired figure staring into the water. He called to it. As he approached the forest again he thought he again heard the thestral, but as a grinning Tonks stood up to berate him for being late, he decided he mustíve imagined it.