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Chapter 50: Fifty
On a beautiful afternoon in late June, witches and wizards from all over the country gathered in Godric's Hollow Cemetery to honor those who had fought and lost their lives battling Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. The Ministry was about to reveal a large memorial to remember these heroes, something many thought should have been done years ago.
Remus Lupin and Sirius Black led their family up the hill to a place they'd been far too many times over the last twenty years. The first few rows of chairs were reserved for members of the elite Order of the Phoenix and their families. Remus nodded hello to his friends and sat beside Molly Weasley and her children. He patted her on the shoulder and smiled down the line at the rest of the Weasleys. Hermione gave a small smile back.
"It's about time they did something like this," Sirius grumbled, leaning forward to talk to Remus. "The Ministry always acted like it wasn't important."
"We know, Sirius," Emmeline said with a smile, bouncing Alex on her leg. "I only hope they've done it right."
"How could they mess this up?" Naomi asked. "It's not like they don't have a list of exactly who's died."
Remus only shook his head and smiled. He leaned back, trying to see Harry beside Naomi. "All right over there, Harry?" he said only loud enough for the boy to hear him.
Harry looked back and nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said quietly.
It was mostly because of Harry that this day was happening. Minister of Magic Amelia Bones had wanted to give Harry yet another Order of Merlin, First Class, but Harry had requested he not be credited for anything. When asked what he did want, he'd told her to do something for the real heroes of the war, those who weren't around anymore to celebrate its end. The Minister had agreed and worked with Albus Dumbledore to comprise a list of those to be honored.
The press, of course, was doing everything they could to talk to Harry. They were making him out to be a hero, much to the boy's never-ending annoyance—he didn't feel like a hero and anyone who made a big deal out of it like he was made him a bit uncomfortable. Sirius now spent his mornings before work jinxing every reporter that had hid out in the forest outside the cottage attempting to spot Harry.
As Minister Bones and Dumbledore walked up on the stage set up in front of them, the crowd quieted themselves quickly. "Good afternoon," Bones said to them. "Today we gather to remember those who lost their lives to keep our world safe. Behind me, you will soon see a memorial has been prepared to honor the casualties of this dreadful war, not only those who fought, but those who were innocent victims. Sadly, the latter list is far too long to read in a single day—once the ceremony has been completed, you will be free to see the names yourselves.
"To honor those who defended the wizarding community at great cost, I ask Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Albus Dumbledore to speak. Over the last twenty years, Headmaster Dumbledore has led a group that dedicated themselves every day to keeping the rest of us safe. The Order of the Phoenix is a group of people I believe to be heroes, even though they may not think it themselves." Bones looked to the three rows that contained the people she was speaking to. "You have done things the rest of us wouldn't have thought about in our worst nightmares. And to see so many of you with us today is a personal privilege."
The Minister's speech was interrupted by the applause that broken out. Those in the Order ignored it, though Sirius and Remus exchanged a grin.
"Now, I introduce the leader of the Order of the Phoenix, Albus Dumbledore."
The Order joined in the applause this time as their leader approached the podium. Sirius even stuck his fingers in his mouth and whistled loudly. "Hundreds of lives were lost due to the beliefs of one man. I, along with my most trusted friends, have indeed dedicated ourselves to avoiding this, though we were not always as successful as we wished to be. The loss to our own ranks has grown to a number I wish hadn't been necessary. But those who have lost their lives did so fighting for something they believed in. I would be greatly surprised to hear one person say they haven't lost someone dear to them due to Lord Voldemort's cause. Whether your family was involved directly with the war, or you were only trying to live your lives, you have been affected. I have been asked here today to announce the names of those we have lost. I am afraid, however, that I cannot read the names on this piece of parchment."
Sirius raised an eyebrow and looked at Naomi. She shrugged, then looked over at Remus who had passed John over to Molly and seemed prepared to stand.
"The reason I cannot read these names is simple: The Order of the Phoenix has done much more during the wars than I myself. They would spend great deals of time away from their families, often during holidays, completing missions that were necessary to bring an end to the war. They were some of the people most affected in this war. They watched their friends and families die and very rarely complained about what they were being asked to do. These people are my heroes, and to represent them, I have asked a man who, by all accounts, helped keep the Order together to read the names of those lost. Remus Lupin, please come forward."
Sirius raised an eyebrow at his best friend as he made his way down the row and to the podium without looking at him. Since his release from St. Mungo's, Remus had been forced to use a walking stick. The knee that had ailed him since childhood had been irreversibly damaged. He was just thankful to be alive.
"Thank you, Headmaster," Remus said, inclining his head respectively to Dumbledore. "Good afternoon to you all. I have been given the privilege and yet unfortunate task of reading to you the names of my friends and my family who were lost. Privileged, in that these were fine witches and wizards, and it is an honor to stand here before you, to help commemorate them and their sacrifices. Unfortunate, in that the world has lost such good people, and so many. First, however, Headmaster Dumbledore has asked me to read the names of those who survived this war, those who fought to keep our world and our way of life, from being destroyed."
He looked to the Order. "When I read your name, please stand." His lips twitched a little as he looked at the glare Sirius sent him. "Naomi Black. Sirius Black." Since Sirius couldn't stand, Remus discreetly waved his wand to raise his wheelchair, causing the crowd to laugh and the Head Auror to once again glare at his best friend. "Elphias Doge. Albus Dumbledore. Hermione Granger. Rubeus Hagrid. Emmeline Lupin. Myself..." He smiled very briefly. "Olympe Maxime. Alastor Moody. Harry Potter. Severus Snape." It briefly went through Remus' mind how odd it was to have those two names said together as he looked toward the very back of the crowd where Snape stood, as though hoping not to be seen. He let it go. "Andromeda Tonks. Nymphadora Tonks. Ted Tonks. Bill Weasley. Charlie Weasley. Fleur Delacour-Weasley. Fred Weasley. George Weasley. Ginny Weasley. Molly Weasley. And last but most certainly not least, Ron Weasley." Remus looked at the crowd. "These are the people who have fought for you, even though you may not have known it. You may have never even heard their names and they may not have known yours, but they did everything in their power to keep you safe."
Remus waited for another round of applause, this the loudest of all, to end. Once it had, he waved his wand again, lowering Sirius' chair to the ground a little harder than he'd intended. "Git," Sirius said louder than intended, causing the crowd to laugh.
"Thank you for that, Sirius," Remus said, chuckling. He cleared his throat, losing his amusement immediately. "And now, to those who have lost their lives in the war against Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters." He took a very deep, shaky breath before beginning again. "Edgar Bones. John Dawlish. Caradoc Dearborn. Jason Evans. Benjy Fenwick. Arabella Figg. Mundungus Fletcher. Alice Longbottom. Frank Longbottom. Hestia Jones. Marlene McKinnon. Minerva McGonagall. Dorcas Meadows. Peter Pettigrew." Sirius' head snapped up in shock. Remus didn't look back. "Fabian Prewett. Gideon Prewett. Sturgis Podmore. James Potter. Lily Potter. Julia Sedler. Kingsley Shacklebolt. Arthur Weasley. Percy Weasley." Remus paused. He'd never actually listed his old friends like that, and to do it now, after everything that had happened... He wondered how it was that he wasn't more emotional.
"Before we continue on with the ceremony, with the permission of Minister Bones, I'd like to ask Head Auror Sirius Black to come up to read the names of the Aurors lost." He looked to the Minister who nodded her approval. "Sirius, if you will."
Sirius' chair hovered past the others in their row and up the stairs of the podium. Remus once again used a hover charm so his best friend could see over the podium and use the Sonorus charm that had been placed on it. The list of Aurors lost was much longer than that of the Order—they'd been on the front lines far more often. Dawlish, Evans, Kingsley, and James were obviously also on this list. When he reached the end, Sirius' voice was very choked up, and his tears were streaming from his cheeks. He didn't waste any time leaving the stage—Remus grasped his shoulder as he passed—and getting back to Naomi.
Remus went back to the podium. "And now I will, along with the rest of you, watch the unveiling of the memorial I feel does great justice to, not only the Order of the Phoenix, but all those who were killed during the two wars. Minister, Headmaster..." Remus nodded to both and went back to sit with his friends and family.
"That was lovely, Remus," Molly said quietly, handing John back over to him.
Remus gave her a smile and turned back to the stage. Emmeline took his hand and briefly squeezed it before going back to assuring Alex didn't fall off her lap.
Bones and Dumbledore each grabbed a handful of the curtain that hid the memorial. With a sharp tug, the curtain fell, revealing a huge bronze plaque. On one side was an engraved phoenix and below, it listed the names Remus had just read to the crowd. Beside this, a pair of wands crossing one another, and a much longer list, bearing the names of every person killed either by Voldemort or one of his Death Eaters, Muggles were included.
For ten minutes, the crowd stared at the plaque, then one by one, they silently stood and made their way forward to see it more closely, many bearing flowers or other trinkets, which they placed at the base of the memorial. The Order remained in their seats, staring at the side that listed their fellow members. Not one eye was dry, not even Mad-Eye's. Once there was a bit of room to move around, Mad-Eye led the Order to the front where the group stood for an hour or so before slowly beginning to leave.
"I can't take anymore," Sirius said quietly to his family, nodding his head towards the exit of the cemetery.
June led to July, and July led to Harry's eighteenth birthday, the first reason for a true celebration anyone in the Order could discover. The party was held at the cottage for the first time in two years and Harry had never seen so many people show up just to wish him a happy birthday.
Later in the evening, once only the Weasleys, Hermione, the Tonkses, and Harry and his family remained, Sirius called all the attention to himself. "I have an announcement," he called to the group. "Harry, Ron, will you both please stand?"
Bewildered, the two best friends exchanged a look and did as requested.
"Earlier this week, I received the decisions for this year's Auror trainees. After what happened over the last months, I will understand if either of you decide to forego a career as an Auror—I would be more than happy to write a recommendation for any other department within the Ministry, if you wish. Otherwise, I would like to welcome you both to the Auror squads."
Harry and Ron stared at Sirius while their families gave them congratulatory hugs and pats on the back. Hermione's congratulations to Ron was a long kiss that ended when Fred threw a piece of cake at his younger brother. After Ron fired back, a long cake fight commenced. Mira smashed her father in the face with cake, which forced him to do the same to her. The cake fight lasted half an hour until all the cake was destroyed.
Sirius and Remus were called to Dumbledore's office in early-August. "I have one last mission for the two of you," the old wizard said. "Since the loss of Minerva, I have unfortunately only had contact with Narcissa and Draco Malfoy through their house-elf, Dobby. Now that I am confident the threat to them has been lessened, if not removed, I feel it time that they return to wizarding society. Other than Minerva, the two of you were the only ones aware of where the Malfoys were taken. I believe that, by the look on Sirius' face, the two of you are already aware of what I ask of you."
Sirius' face was contorted in a mixture of dread and loathing, but mostly the former. "You want us to go see Narcissa," he said resignedly.
The Headmaster's lips twitched and his eyes twinkled. "Indeed, that is what I ask of you. Will you accept?"
Remus spoke before Sirius had the chance. "Of course we will, sir," he said, smacking Sirius in the back of the head.
And this was why the two friends were making their way across the British countryside. "Why can't Dumbledore just send that bloody house-elf to tell them they can go back?" Sirius complained.
"Sirius," Remus said with amusement, "she's your cousin. She's not as evil as Bellatrix and not as likeable as Andromeda, but she is still your cousin. And her son deserves a chance of freedom—imagine if Harry had been in that position."
"Okay, the next time you compare Harry to Draco Malfoy, I'm going to curse you so badly, your wife won't even recognize you," Sirius warned. Remus only rolled his eyes. "You're doing all the talking..."
"Fine by me," Remus said. "I remember the last time you tried to talk to Narcissa..."
"Are you referring to third year when she and I were calling each other names in French?"
"I believe I am."
"I'm just glad McGonagall couldn't speak French—she would have had both of us in detention for life..."
Remus chuckled and thought of the address they were visiting—the small cottage appeared. Sensing Sirius' reluctance, Remus was the one to knock. To both wizards' surprise, Draco answered the door—they'd expected Dobby. The boy looked nothing like he had six months ago. His hair was longer and he had none of the arrogance he once did. "Hello, Draco. We've come to speak with you and your mother."
Draco nodded, glanced at Sirius and his wheelchair, and led the wizards to the kitchen. "Mother..." he said quietly. "We have visitors."
Narcissa turned and placed the Daily Prophet she was reading on the table. "Dobby found it," she said shortly at Sirius' look. Due to the threat against the two Malfoys, they hadn't been allowed to receive the newspaper by owl since they arrived in their new home. If an owl had somehow visited them, it could have led a Death Eater to it as well. "To what do we owe this... pleasure?"
Remus sat at the end of the table with Sirius beside him. Draco took a seat next to his mother. "Since you seem to have been receiving the Daily Prophet, I'm certain you've realized the war has ended," Remus began.
"I have," Narcissa said. "I have also received news that my husband was killed."
Sirius shifted uncomfortably. "Only because he was a threat," the Auror said.
"No excuses are necessary, cousin," Narcissa said. "Long before his death, my husband became something unfortunate. He was far too close with the Dark Lord." She too glanced at Sirius' wheelchair. "Might I ask what caused your injury?"
"The wizard Lucius was with when he was killed cast the Torchier Curse on me," Sirius said. "The curse left me paralyzed."
Narcissa nodded once, but didn't comment any further. "What is it you've come here for?"
"Headmaster Dumbledore has asked us to inform you that you are free to leave whenever you please," Remus explained. "Minerva McGonagall was killed, which is why he sent us."
"By my husband," Narcissa said, nodding. "My sympathy for the loss. Minerva treated my son and me with only the utmost respect when she visited. She even tutored Draco when she had a free moment."
"We can leave now?" Draco blurted out.
"You can," Remus confirmed.
"What of the Dark Lord's followers?" Narcissa asked, placing a hand on Draco's arm to keep him from asking anything further. "Have they been captured?"
Sirius nodded. "The ones who were at the battle have been captured and sent to Azkaban. We're still working to locate the rest. Minister Bones decided to get the dementors back on our side to keep them there for the time being until enough wizard guards can be hired. Many Death Eaters have been sentenced the Dementor's Kiss for their crimes."
"She is one of them, yes," Sirius said. He watched his cousin's face for any sign of emotion. There was none.
After a few moments, Narcissa nodded. "Very well. We will leave in two days. Does anything remain of our old home?"
"Er, not really," Sirius said. "It was destroyed when Lucius was killed."
"It is for the best, I am certain," Narcissa replied. "Draco and I will disappear to further ensure our safety. I wish to thank you, Sirius, for agreeing to keep us hidden. Minerva informed me that you were the deciding factor in this."
"Don't mention it," Sirius muttered, backing from the table. "Can I tell Andromeda where you've gone? She has spoken her interest in seeing you, or at least corresponding with you again."
"I will contact her once I've decided where we will go." Narcissa stood and stuck out a hand to shake the two wizards' hands. "Thank you for your help. Both of you."
Sirius was slightly surprised that she extended this to Remus. "Take care of yourself, Narcissa," he said to his cousin. He turned to Draco. "And you as well, Draco." The boy hesitantly shook the Auror's hand.
Narcissa led them to the door and opened it for them. "Oh, before you leave..." she said as they were half out the door. "I wonder if you have any use of a house-elf..."
The request was a strange one, but after a few moments of talking with Narcissa, Remus understood why she was offering the one house-elf left to the Malfoys. She wanted no memory of her time with Lucius. The three decided to send Dobby to Hogwarts—the kitchens could always use more help. The house-elf was freed and sent there immediately.
"That was a strange meeting," Sirius muttered as he and Remus walked back to the Apparition point. "I'm surprised at the way she reacted about Lucius."
Remus shrugged. "I wasn't. I'd always gotten the feeling that if she could have left him long ago, she would have. Narcissa isn't stupid, she never was, and I wonder if, had she had the choice, she might not have married Lucius."
"I'm not sure about that," Sirius argued. "She and Lucius were perfect for each other. And our families only encouraged it."
"That's what I mean. What if Narcissa had the same chance as you? What if she hadn't been sorted into Slytherin?"
"Then the world would have ended," Sirius said dryly.
Remus laughed. "Come on, let's get home. Harry wants help selecting dress robes for the wedding."
"It's not for another bloody year!" Sirius said loudly. "Why are they planning this so early?"
The werewolf shrugged. "Because they've only got a few weeks of seeing each other before Ginny goes back to Hogwarts, I assume. Then they'll only have Christmas holidays before she graduates. The wedding is only a week after that."
"When did that kid grow up, Remus?" Sirius asked. "Why couldn't he stay the little boy who used to beg me to change into my Animagus form?"
Remus only smiled. When they reached the Apparition spot, they disappeared in an instant.
Parents and students arrived at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in mid-August to celebrate the graduation of the seventh years. The four school tables were lined up in the front of the Great Hall and benches were setup behind them for the families. Before they'd left the cottage, Remus, Emmeline, and Sirius were held up by Naomi's morning sickness, indicating that the baby was in fact just fine. They still arrived on time in the Great Hall with smiles. Sirius had known the school would reopen once Voldemort was gone, but to actually see people filling the hall made him happier than he'd been in months.
"Dumbledore's saved us seats in the front," Remus said quietly, leading them forward. Their seats were just behind the Gryffindor table, and in front of them were Harry, Hermione, and Ron. "Hello, Molly." Remus took his seat next to the redheaded woman and her other children.
"Oh, good, you've made it," Molly said to them. "I wondered if you'd forgotten what today was..."
"How could we forget?" Sirius asked, sitting at his part of the bench at the end of the row with Mira in his lap. "It's all Harry's been talking about."
"Not to mention Sirius has been threatening to kick Harry out of the cottage the moment this is over," Emmeline said, grinning at Sirius.
"Eh..." The Head Auror shrugged. "He's been talking about moving out anyway. I'm only helping him along."
"By packing his things last week?" Naomi checked. "Is that what you're going to do with our children, Sirius?"
"Probably." Sirius' brow furrowed as he pretended to be concerned. "What do you think, Mira? Won't you be sick of Mummy and Daddy by the time you finish Hogwarts?"
"Mamamamama," Mira babbled.
"I'll take that as a no, thank you very much," Naomi said, winking at Emmeline.
"Shh..." Remus said. "They're beginning..."
Dumbledore stepped forward to the podium. "Good evening, students and families. Instead of my usual speech, I would like to introduce this year's Head Boy and Girl, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger of Gryffindor."
The two students stood and made their way to the front with nearly ear-shattering cheers from the Gryffindor table and their family. Hermione stepped to the podium with Harry beside her. "The class you are saying goodbye to has had a rather tumultuous time since the beginning of our career at Hogwarts," the young witch began. "We've had tragedies and losses, laughter and love, and through it all, we students overcame it all. Our final school year was very unfortunately interrupted after the tragic loss of our Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, and during the time we were at home, we continued our studies with the help of our friends and family members..."
"You don't think she's going to mention anything about Harry, do you?" Sirius asked Naomi.
"I highly doubt it," Naomi said. "Harry doesn't even look like he wants to be up there, let alone get even more attention drawn to him, and Hermione would know that."
Sirius nodded and turned back to the students.
"Our N.E.W.T.s have come and gone, the Quidditch season is over—" A few students—Sirius assumed they were on the Quidditch teams—jeered. Harry and Ron were part of it. Hermione only smiled and shook her head. "—and despite all the hardships we've gone through these last seven years, I hope we will only remember the good times we've had, the friends we've made, and the loves we've gained." She paused and glanced over to Ron with a smile, her cheeks blushing. Sirius could hear Ron's siblings snickering while Molly quietly shushed them. Harry looked like he was trying hard not to laugh himself. "I was told that I wasn't allowed to drone on and on up here," she shot Harry a look while the boy looked back innocently, "so I will finish by saying thank you to every one of our professors for the guidance they've shown us since our arrival here—"
"Speaking of which," Emmeline said quietly to Naomi. "Aren't you supposed to be up there?"
"Probably," Naomi replied. "I asked Dumbledore if I could sit with you lot instead."
"And good luck to every one of my fellow students." Hermione was finishing her speech. "Without any one of you, Hogwarts never would have been the experience it has been. Thank you."
The two Heads made their way back to their table with the same applause and cheering they had before.
"Psst," Sirius said, trying to get Harry's attention. The boy turned. "Why didn't you do any speaking?"
"Why? Hermione wrote it," Harry said, glancing at Remus as he told Harry to turn around. The werewolf shot a look at Sirius.
What? Sirius mouthed to his best friend.
Pay attention, was the reply.
Sirius realized Dumbledore had stood again. "Before announcing the names of those seventh years that have made it to the real world, I have one other announcement to make. As Miss Granger said in her lovely speech, we have lost our Deputy Headmistress this year. While it has not yet been decided which professor will take over this position, it has been decided which professor will take over as Head of Gryffindor House. This professor has only been with us a short time, but I do believe that she has the proper attributes necessary for this position."
Naomi stared straight ahead as her family looked at her questioningly.
"Professor Naomi Black, would you please step forward."
Naomi did and shook hands with the Headmaster.
"Did you know about this?" Emmeline asked, looking over at Sirius.
He shook his head dumbly.
"Each Head of House will announce the students from their house, beginning with Gryffindor," Dumbledore said, stepping aside so Naomi could take over at the podium.
"As I read your name, please step forward," Naomi said to the Gryffindors.
Sirius didn't really pay any attention to anyone but Hermione, Harry, and Ron. He clapped along with the other families, but when those three walked forward, nobody cheered louder than Sirius and the others in his row. Harry turned and rolled his eyes at his family as he made his way to shake the hands of the awaiting professors. As he reached Snape, the moment was tense. After a few moments of staring disdainfully at one another, Snape stuck out his hand to Harry. The handshake was very brief, and as Harry turned and walked away, he discreetly wiped his hand on his robes.
"It will never end," Sirius heard Remus mutter.
The other Heads of House announced their own students, and the ceremony was nearly over. All the students were back in their seats, and the professors had taken theirs. Sirius happened to look over at Harry and Ron when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. It was a wand, and it was in Harry's hand, pointed under the table directly at Snape. Hiding a grin, Sirius carefully looked over at Remus who seemed clueless.
Dumbledore wrapped up the ceremony, but before everyone stood, there was a flash of light, and Snape's head disappeared in a cloud of brownish smoke. When it reappeared, Sirius was sure he was about to die from laughter. The black greasy hair remained, but the rest of his head had been transfigured into a giant plastic-looking potato with large eyes, lips, and a nose. The entire Great Hall was filled with roaring laughter, and though Sirius couldn't see the Potions Master's face, he was certain if it hadn't been a potato, there would have been a sneer on it. When he was able to look up, he saw there was indeed a pair of plastic lips that had been shaped into a sneer—this only caused Sirius to laugh so hard he fell out of his chair. Snape's toy eyes were narrowed maliciously at the Gryffindor table.
"Whose idea was that?" Remus said warily as he approached the Gryffindor table after Dumbledore called an end to the ceremony to assist Snape. "I know the two of you had to have come up with it, but you never could have pulled off the charms," he added to Ron and Harry.
Still laughing hysterically, Ron and Harry each attempted to point in between them, at Hermione. Hermione looked up at the adults. "I don't know what they're insinuating, but I would never have had something to do with that," she said far too innocently.
Remus wasn't immune to the laughter. Sirius was sure his best friend had broken a few ribs trying to discover who'd pranked Snape without laughing. Now, however, he was having as much trouble with breathing as the rest of the Great Hall.
Following the ceremony, while most everyone else went to the Burrow for a celebratory party, Sirius and Remus led Harry past the Apparition point and down the path leading to Hogsmeade. Harry looked back just as Ginny was Disapparating with her mother. "Where are we going?" he asked the other wizards.
Neither replied. Sirius only patted his godson on the back and continued on his way. They passed all the Hogsmeade shops, the Shrieking Shack, and seemed to be headed to the mountains. Again, Harry inquired about their destination. Remus shook his head with a smile and a glance at Sirius, but again, didn't reply. They began climbing the hills and had gone further than Harry could remember ever being. Finally, they reached a path that had been covered with weeds and grass. It seemed to have been a popular destination once, but looked like it hadn't been used in many years. The path was steep, and Harry couldn't understand the point of this until they reached the top.
Harry looked over the top of the hill and saw just how far and how high they'd come. He could see all the way to Hogwarts, and could even sort of spot the giant squid swimming in the lake. "Wow..." he said in awe.
Sirius and Remus flopped to the ground, Sirius' chair still floating. Harry sat between them. "Now you see why we brought you all the way out here," Remus said quietly, looking towards the sun as it began to disappear.
"We came here after our graduation, too," Sirius said just as quietly. "Remus, James, Peter, and I. The girls went on to wherever they were going—it was just us. One of the best memories I have."
"It was one of the last times we can remember being together and not having to worry about anything," Remus explained. "We joined the Order a week after we left school. Honestly, if I had it to do over again, I would have waited just a bit longer, enjoyed my youth more than I did."
"Why'd you bring me here?" Harry asked.
Sirius shrugged. "Mostly because we wanted to share this with you," he said. "Remus and I were discussing this last night, and we think this may be one of the last times the three of us will be able to just sit around with one another and be together."
"No it won't," Harry insisted.
Remus shook his head, smiling. "Harry, you're about to become an Auror—the training alone will take up three years of your life. By the time you're finished, you'll be married and maybe have a family, or at least thinking about it. Sirius is taking Mad-Eye's place at the DMLE, so he won't be your head of department..."
"So what, you're saying we'll never see each other?"
"No," Sirius said, smacking the boy lightly in the back of the head. "He's saying we're all going to be very busy with life—we'll see each other (Naomi, Mira, the new baby, and I are staying at the cottage, and you'll visit three times a week—that's not negotiable), but it may be possible we won't have the chance to do this again." He waved his arms around, gesturing between himself, Harry, and Remus. "Just to sit and talk, just the three of us with no one else around... That's all we're saying, Harry."
Harry nodded, leaning back with his hands supporting him and his legs crossed in front of him. "So are we here so you two can tell me how much I should value life or something?"
"No way!" Sirius said, laughing. "I think you, of all people, understand that already. No, we brought you here to have a few drinks and laughs with us. Mister Moony..."
Harry looked over to find Remus had taken out a bottle of firewhiskey, uncorked it, and passed it to Harry. He'd had the drink before with his dorm mates—Seamus had sneaked it into school a few years back—but he'd forgotten how horrible the burning was. He swallowed and passed it on to Sirius. The three wizards talked for hours until the sun went down, no subject getting any more serious than Harry's upcoming wedding or the child Sirius and Naomi were expecting in early January (Sirius hoped for a boy this time).
"So, how do I look without that horrendous bloody scar on me head?" Harry asked, unsurprisingly tipsy after the second bottle of firewhiskey had been drained.
"Just like Prongsy!" Sirius said, laying back and staring at the stars. "Just as handsome as your daddy dearest." Then he and Harry burst into giggling while Remus looked on fondly, not nearly as drunk as them.
After another few hours, they began sobering up slightly—Sirius had gone to "water the plants," as he so politely put it, and was now staring off into the opposite direction—Harry voiced something he'd been wondering about for months. "Remus... could I ask you something?"
"'Course you can, Harry," Remus said, looking at the sky, feeling more relaxed than he could remember feeling in years.
"During the memorial service, you mentioned Peter..."
Remus sat up slowly, pondering his answer. "Well, it was something I'd decided after the battle, when I woke up in St. Mungo's. I never told you what Peter did for me. He saved my life." Harry looked at him with raised eyebrows. "During the battle, a Death Eater had cast the Killing Curse that was coming directly towards me. Sirius yelled for me to get out of the way, but by the time I'd turned around and knew what was happening, I knew it was too late. But out of nowhere, Peter ran up, after he'd called my name, and knocked me to the ground—he was hit instead."
Harry thought about this. "But after everything he did to you and Sirius and my parents... why would you include him in something so important as the Order?"
"There were a few reasons—one of which was that I wanted to remember Peter as he was before he turned spy. He was our friend, no matter what he did later on. He laughed with us, he mourned with us... He was our brother... I believe, whether Sirius agrees or not, that the real Peter died when he joined Voldemort. After a while, he became something none of us knew anymore. He wasn't the Peter who helped us prank the Slytherins or distracted teachers while we snuck into the Great Hall to arrange fireworks to be set off the next morning. And that night in Voldemort's hideout, I realized there was still some of the old Peter in him—he still cared."
"But... what about the Dementor's Kiss?"
"I discussed this with Dumbledore, and he and I are in agreement—do you remember what Naomi said about Peter acting strangely when she visited him? How he acted like he recognized her?"
"Sirius had a similar experience when he went to the castle. There was no doubt in his mind that Peter knew exactly who he was—Peter was even attempting to help him get out of the castle." Remus smiled a little. "We think the Imperius Curse was used so often on Peter that it somehow brought back his old mind—there isn't another explanation we could come up with. I don't know how there he was, but he was there enough to know me and to know I was in danger."
"So that was enough to make up for what he did to my parents?" Harry asked evenly.
"No, not by any means," Remus replied, looking over at Harry. "But I knew your parents very well, Harry. They loved us, all of us, and that included Peter. They would have wanted him included."
Harry seemed to accept this and went back to staring at the stars. Sirius finally returned some minutes later. "Did I miss anything?" he asked, yawning and finishing off the last of the firewhiskey.
Harry and Remus chuckled, earning odd looks from the Auror.
Instead of Apparating right away and risking someone being sick after all the whiskey he'd had, it was decided the trio would at least walk back to Hogsmeade before attempting magical travel. As they walked, Sirius and Harry threatened each other with a prank war while Remus thought. He seemed to be doing a lot of it lately...
One of the thoughts that kept running through his mind was of his family, his original family of Sirius and Harry. All three of them had changed so drastically in twelve years that their old selves were hardly there anymore. Each of them had grown and matured, and it still amazed Remus to think about his family as they once were. He thought about how much they'd gained and lost, and how much there still was to face. Though he wished the wars with Voldemort had never occurred, he realized his life, as it was right at that moment, never would have turned out as it had without them.
He'd achieved everything he'd ever wanted and then some. He had a family—a wife, children, and all the people he loved surrounding him. He had a great job, something he never thought he would have just five years ago. Many of his friends had been lost, but they would never be forgotten. They couldn't be forgotten; if they were, years down the road, another wizard just like, or even worse than, Voldemort could turn up. But the Order of the Phoenix would be there.
Though he did believe that with time he, Sirius, and Harry would drift apart with the lives that lay before them, he knew they'd always be family, and that was something that would never change. They'd fought together, cried together, laughed together... They'd each found love. And no matter what happened in the years to come, Remus knew they would always have the memories they shared.
And none of them would have it any other way.