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Stairway to Heaven by gryffindorseeker
Chapter 22 : First of the Gang to Die
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 30


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The title is a song by Morrissey, from the album You Are the Quarry on the label Attack/Sanctuary. It’s pretty much one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard. I listened to it while writing this epilogue.

~

Something had been gnawing at Harry Potter for the past few weeks. He had discovered it right before his last return to the Dursley home and hadn’t had a chance to ask Remus Lupin about it until the night before Bill and Fleur’s wedding.

Lupin sat in the living room of The Burrow, reading, when Harry came in.

“Sorry, but do you have a minute?” Harry asked politely, clutching a large book. It was the scrapbook that Hagrid gave him at the end of his first year at Hogwarts that contained photos of his parents.

“Of course, Harry,” Lupin replied, setting his book on the table. He rubbed his tired eyes and glanced at the clock. It was nearly midnight.

Harry opened the scrapbook and began leafing through the pages. “It’s just that—I found a photograph stuck between two pages. I had never seen it before, and I only found it right after school got out this year.”

“You did, did you?” Lupin asked with his typical reserved interest. What had happened to Harry at the end of his sixth year had immense implications; it seemed logical that he would turn to looking at the photos of his parents during this time of uncertainty.

“I figured that you would be the only person still alive who might have known the person in it,” Harry said, pulling out a photograph and showing Lupin.

The sight of it almost took Lupin’s breath away. “I have not seen that face in a very long time,” he admitted slowly.

The faded photo showed a smiling young witch standing outside of Hogwarts Castle on a glorious spring day. She laughed as she spun around, the sunlight catching her golden hair and shining eyes. The girl winked as she stepped forward and covered the lens with her hand. The animation immediately began again and repeated itself, as the animation of all moving photographs did.

Harry noticed that Lupin was struck by the picture, and decided to proceed with caution. “So…you knew her? Or still know her?”

“Knew her,” Lupin specified sadly. “She died a little over seventeen years ago.”

“Oh—I’m sorry,” Harry said quickly.

“You needn’t apologize, Harry,” Lupin said kindly. “It’s perfectly appropriate for you to ask about Rhian.”

“That was her name?” asked Harry.

“Rhiannon Clark was your mother’s best friend,” Lupin explained. “I imagine that’s how a photograph of her snuck into your scrapbook.”

“She was at Hogwarts with my mum and dad?” Harry asked.

“She was at Hogwarts with all of us,” Lupin answered, “and in Gryffindor too. Rhian was your mother’s maid-of-honor and I’m sure she would have been your godmother. I remember—she always talked to Lily’s stomach when she was pregnant, completely convinced that you could hear her.” He smiled softly.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” Harry said carefully, “can you tell me a bit more about what she was like?” He was actually quite curious about the woman in the photo, because he had never met a friend of his mother’s.

“Where to begin?” Lupin asked himself. “Rhian was…Rhian was many things, I suppose. She was kind to everyone she met and never passed judgment unless she or one of her friends had been hurt. Rhian was smart too—much smarter than she ever admitted. The only subject that ever gave her trouble was Potions…I guess she was a bit like you, in that sense.” Lupin grinned.

Harry returned the smile and continued listening intently.

“She was incredibly funny, as well. I suppose that a sense of humor goes along with intelligence,” remarked Lupin. “Sometimes, though, Rhian would make these obscure Muggle references that she had intended to be funny but no one understood. She was really unique in her personality. This really made her stick with people, if that makes any sense. No one ever forgot Rhian.”

“Sorry,” Harry interjected, “but…if she was such an individual, and if she was my mum’s best friend, then why haven’t I heard about her until now?”

Lupin sighed. “A completely logical question, Harry. But before I answer it, I need to explain a few more things. Another, and possibly the most important, aspect of Rhian’s character was that she was loyal and brave to the point of recklessness. For example, she nearly killed herself trying to catch the Snitch while executing a Wronski Feint during our sixth year—actually, I think she nearly broke her neck twice in a three minute period.”

“She was a Seeker?” Harry asked.

“Rhian was probably one of very few Seekers in the history of Hogwarts who could have given you a run for your money. But the point is that she didn’t know where to draw the line between being dedicated and being too obsessed for her own good. You-Know-Who killed her father when she was seventeen, and it really shook her up.”

Harry clenched his teeth. He understood.

“Her mum died in a car crash only a year later, and she went through a bit of a dark time after that, but she emerged on the other end swearing to devote her life to defeating You-Know-Who. Rhian joined the Order of the Phoenix and the Auror training program when she graduated from Hogwarts,” Lupin said.

“She was an Auror?” Harry asked, excitedly. Rhian seemed to have so much in common with him.

“Not quite,” Lupin said sadly. “The final years of the first war were very chaotic and frightening. There were mass Muggle murders at least once a month and even Order members were being targeted. Your father’s parents passed away suddenly of a wizarding disease and your mother’s mother was killed in an attack by You-Know-Who. Lily’s father was killed just six weeks before you were born, Harry. But four months before your birthday, Rhian’s passing unnerved all of us to the point where we were forever changed.”

Harry nodded. The casualties of the second war were becoming as serious as that of the first, and thousands of wizards and Muggles alike were being affected. “If it’s too much,” Harry saw that explaining all this was emotionally draining for Lupin, “you don’t have to tell me what happened.”

“You need to know, Harry,” Lupin insisted, “and I think I’m the only one left who has the faintest idea what happened to her. The Ministry forensics team wasn’t able to deduce much from the evidence left behind. None of us ever truly knew how she met her fate. The only fact we know is that a little after midnight during the March before you were born, Rhian’s body was disposed of at the front door of the Hog’s Head Inn.”

“But why—?” Harry began to ask.

“It was our headquarters at the time. The Order’s, I mean. At least it was until the corpse of one of our own was unceremoniously tossed in the dirty, melting snow with a sick, sadistic note. Resistance will be met with more mudblood slaughter,” Lupin spat. “I’ll never forget those words. It’s ironic, too, because Rhian always complained that the Slytherins bullied her for being a Muggle-born when she was actually a half-blood.”

“So…the Death Eaters…” Harry trailed off.

“Personally, I don’t think even the most powerful Death Eater could have killed Rhian,” Lupin admitted. “Dumbledore always thought that You-Know-Who himself murdered her. But we were still never able to figure out why, which made this entire ordeal even worse for your parents, Sirius, and me. Did he ambush her in an alleyway? Did he break into her flat? Or did Rhian finally snap and go after him? The Muggle police found her boyfriend’s body in their flat a few days after we found Rhian, but were never able to give a proper cause of death because he seemed perfectly healthy, except for the fact that he was dead. He must have been murdered with the Killing Curse.” Lupin paused. “Will was a Muggle, and at that point in the war, You-Know-Who only killed Muggles in mass numbers. I personally did not know him nearly as well as I knew Rhian, but he was probably the only man on earth who deserved her. Hearing that he had been killed too…it was more than a crime that two such good people went at almost the same time.”

“It sounds like a horrible experience to go through,” Harry admitted. It seemed like Lupin and Rhian had been really close. Harry couldn’t imagine losing Ron or Hermione or…Ginny.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of her before,” Lupin said slowly. “I suppose—I suppose it’s because of how bad things got after she died. Several Order members died before Rhian, but she was the first one of us—your father’s friends and your mother’s friends—to be a casualty. We knew we weren’t invincible—the horrors of war had made us less naïve than most young people—but we were still more hurt than we could have imagined. Your mother was very depressed for a few weeks after it happened, but because you were on the way, she had to get over her grief. James stayed strong for Lily’s sake, but I always thought that he was shaken a lot more than he led on. We had been out of touch with Peter Pettigrew for a few months and he only had just started to reach back out to us, probably on You-Know-Who’s orders. It makes me sick now to think that I felt relief to have his friendship back,” Lupin shuddered. “A few weeks after Rhian’s funeral, we couldn’t talk about her anymore. We were all still in mourning, I’m sure, but remembering the good times only made us think of her gruesome and early death. I guess we got used to not talking about her, because of how much it hurt to do so. Then your parents passed away, and Sirius went to Azkaban, and…I had no one to talk to about Rhian, when I was finally ready.”

“What about after Sirius escaped from Azkaban?” Harry asked. “You both could have talked about Rhian then.”

“I’m not going to lie to you, Harry, because you’re no longer a child, but that doesn’t mean I’m not ashamed of what I’m about to say.” Lupin rubbed his temples. “Sirius and I both fancied Rhian at school. From sixth year on, we harbored a mutual animosity that exploded when she died. We couldn’t even stand to be in the same room in each other for very long. We both actually blamed each other for her death and your parents’ betrayal.”

“I didn’t realize that you and Sirius…sort of hated each other,” said Harry, disbelieving it himself. He always associated Lupin and Sirius together, probably because he had met them both during his third year.

“We didn’t hate each other, by any means,” Lupin clarified. “I suppose you could call it fraternal competition, since we Marauders always considered ourselves brothers. And when Sirius finally escaped from prison, he was a bit preoccupied with staying in hiding, and I didn’t want to bring back any bad feelings, so…I guess I wasn’t able to apologize for my actions before he died. But you mustn’t blame Rhian for any of this, because she never forgave herself for unintentionally dividing us. Anyways, it’s irrelevant now. I’m the only one left,” Lupin’s voice trailed off, sadly.

Harry nodded. Wormtail might still be alive, but that traitor was worse than dead to him and Lupin. “I wouldn’t blame Rhian for dividing you and Sirius. I think I would have liked to know her,” Harry stated simply.

Lupin smiled. “She loves you, and I mean to say that in the present tense. Rhian loved you before you were born, and even though she wasn’t around to hold you or play with you as a baby, she loved you then too. I don’t know what’s beyond the veil, but I’m certain that she’s watched you your entire life and couldn’t be prouder of you.”

Harry thought for a moment. “But why aren’t there any other photographs of Rhian? She’s not in any of the Order.”

“Let me see your scrapbook.” Lupin reached for it and Harry handed it to him. Lupin leafed through the pages and a dawn of realization spread across his face. “Her camera,” he muttered. “Harry, Rhian was the one who took all of these pictures. She got a camera for her birthday one year and loved taking candids in her free time.”

Harry turned his head as he saw Ron and Hermione entered the room. “Harry,” Hermione said, concerned, “it’s late, and we’ve got Bill and Fleur’s wedding tomorrow. You should get some sleep.”

“Hermione’s right, Harry,” Lupin said in a very uncle-like voice. “You should all get to bed straightaway. I’ll put the light out in here.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, knowing that Lupin would know what he was thanking him for. He exited with Ron and Hermione, and the three headed upstairs.

“Who’s that?” Ron asked as he pointed at the photo of Rhian. “You’ve never shown us that picture before.”

“I only just found it,” Harry explained. “It’s—she’s my godmother. She was my godmother, I suppose.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Hermione said, correctly assuming that Rhian was dead.

“I never knew Rhian,” Harry rambled more to himself than to his friends, “but I can’t help but feel as if I do know her.”

“Erm—you can explain that in the morning, I suppose,” Hermione said, stopping at Ginny’s door. “Well, goodnight.” She opened the door and quietly shut it after her.

“So, you had another godparent?” Ron asked.

“Not quite, technically,” Harry admitted. “She died before I was born. But Lupin said that my mum wouldn’t have picked anyone else.”

“Screw the technicalities, then,” Ron said. He pointed at the picture. “She can be your godmother if you want, mate.”

“I’ll tell you and Hermione about her after the wedding tomorrow,” Harry said, entering Ron’s room.

Ron made a sort of a grunting noise, as if the wedding would be more a chore than an enjoyable experience. And with Phlegm the Bride, it probably would be.

“Cheers to that,” Harry joked, putting away the scrapbook. He got into his bed, said goodnight to Ron, and turned out the light.

As he lay down, a sharp pain erupted on his forehead. Like he had been for almost as long as he could remember, Harry was still very connected to Voldemort. Rhian’s vendetta against him resulted in her premature death. How would Harry’s own battle against Voldemort end?

As he tried to fall asleep, Harry rubbed his lightening-shaped scar.

THE END

~

See, the last word really was scar! I really hope JKR ends Deathly Hallows with that word. I wonder what the last sentence’ll be…hopefully (fingers crossed!) like Harry and Ginny got married and but he always had that darn scar. Yeah, Jo probably wouldn’t say “darn.”

I always wanted Remus to eulogize Rhian. And he was the perfect person to tell Harry about Rhian, because he’s awesome and, well…Remus. Plus he’s the only one from “back in the day” who’s still around. And, I didn’t say specifics about Harry’s summer thus far and the wedding and all that because I know as much as you do about what’ll happen in DH and I want this story to be readable from July 21st onward.

Something in me changed the moment I wrote the sentence in which Rhian died, and something else changed the moment I finished this final chapter. I guess I put a little bit of myself in Rhian…I hope I don’t seem like I’m schizophrenic or anything (not that there’s anything wrong with being schizophrenic), but…okay, what I mean to say is that I hope this story’s touched you in some way, because I’ve loved writing it. I think it’s safe to say that your reviews and support have inspired me to pursue authorship (maybe fiction, maybe non-fiction) as either a primary or secondary career. I know I’ve got a long way to go before any publisher would sneeze in my direction, so to practice…I’ll be writing more fanfiction! The working title of an Oliver/OC fic that I’ve started is The Adventures of Saskia Lin! It’s a lot more lighthearted than the end of Stairway to Heaven, I guarantee. It’ll be a bit like To Love a Marauder, but more Gilmore Girls meets The O.C. meets The Office meets…Harry Potter. And I don’t know when I’ll get that up…I mean, I want to make sure it’s as good as it can be. But I still get my chappies posted super duper quick, due to the fact that I can type 90 words per minute.

I’d also like to thank my reviewers, because you guys ROCK. Actually, you are the definition of ROCKING. I dare you to look up ROCKING in the dictionary, my dear reviewers, because you will find a mirror (like the Time Magazine Person of the Year cover, which was kind of lame but still quite creative) because YOU ROCK. I’m going to give a shout out to a bunch of you (if I miss someone, I’m so sorry! I ain’t perfect, as y’all know!) because I love you and have I mentioned that you ROCK? Alright, in the order of who’s most recently reviewed as of my writing this: Translationplease, danasea boscheck, Samhaina, prongs_and_padfoot34, Cuddlz, Witchweekly, theatregrl02, LadyNightstalker, wicKeDwitch1316, SnowyBella, kellynoellek123, padfootprongslover, shihtzu71894, SiriusDogStar, sbfan09, hogwarts_girl_5, the5thmarauder, sel et poivre, lovesiriusgirl4eva, xmusicismylife0x, prongsy_baby, ,ljmjho, hidden_truth, Behind_this_mask, Clally, PearloftheOcean, Sabi, grey_eyes_are_sexy, Jahaira101, TP, eevis, rachel_n_ron4ever, AuroraLamia, & ax2snakes! Okay, hope I didn’t miss anyone or duplicate any names. I’m admittedly a bit tired. Four hours of sleep last night, I had. So, please check out The Adventures of Saskia Lin! or whatever the final title ends up being, and I hope the Rhiannon Clark trilogy has entertained you for at least one minute, because then my work here is done.


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