Chapter 16 : The Beginning of the End
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But soon he could no longer keep his eyes open. Hungry though he was to rip open another note and discover the meaning of his mother’s hospital visit, he was even more desperate for sleep. He lay there, drifting quickly off into sleep, surrounded by destruction and ruin and dreaming of riotously happy thoughts.
“Hello Harry,” he flipped over quickly, terrified.
It was his father, standing there, appearing not to have aged a day since he had died. He gasped, unsure of what to say.
“I love you, and I’m proud of you,” James said with a soft smile.
“Dad? I don’t know what to-”
He quickly realized that he was talking to nothing. Where his father had just stood was a large tree, visible through a gaping hole in a section of the wall. Whether it was a smaller part of a larger dream or simply a hallucination, he was unsure. He curled up in a ball on the floor, feeling like he had been the victim of a broken promise, and felt like bitterly weeping. But he was no match for the deeper desire of sleep.
“What do you mean he just disappeared?”
“That’s what that Muggle he lives with said. He was cleaning out the room and just vanished.”
“Vanished? Disappeared? Like Dursley actually saw him disappear or what?”
“He just said he ‘disappeared’ and nothing else.”
“How long has Potter been missing?”
“It’s unclear Sir. The Muggles he resides with haven’t been very cooperative. No one really knows what time he left, or was taken, or whatever.”
“Do you believe foul play was involved?”
“How could anyone not? Dumbledore’s gone and times seem worse than they ever did seventeen years ago. Potter’s disappearance is no strange coincidence.”
Mad Eye Moody scoffed. Seventeen years ago the fresh-faced punk standing before him had probably been in diapers. He had been called out of retirement and at that moment was pacing in a small office at the Ministry. He was beginning to feel exasperated with the trainees in the office. It seemed as if no one could conduct a simple investigation anymore or do anything aside from point out the obvious.
“Let me tell you something. Potter’s a kid. He didn’t want to return to that house, especially in light of recent events. He’s got a much bigger chip on his shoulder than ever before, a long history of leaving premises he’s been told to remain at, and your investigation so far has turned up nothing rather out of the ordinary.”
“But Moody, he’s Harry P-”
“Potter, yes. I’m not insinuating we take this case lightly. There is a lot of work to be done. But before you run off and tell the Daily Prophet Potter is missing, let’s be sure he hasn’t taken a walk around the block and stir up panic where it’s not warranted.”
“It may be a bit late for that.”
Both men turned to find Kingsley Shacklebolt casually leaning in the threshold of the doorway with a copy of the Evening Prophet.
“What’s it say?” Moody asked tensely.
“Skeeter broke the story about fifteen minutes before this was set to go out. Didn’t have time to actually investigate everything before the print deadline, so it looks as though either she knows for more than we do or she’s been coloring in the details with her vivid imagination.”
He tossed the paper down on Moody’s desk. The headline read Ministry in Chaos Over Likely Potter Slaying.
“What makes her think of this garbage?”
“Well, you weren’t wrong about starting a panic. Molly Weasley is downstairs and frantic, Remus Lupin’s sent word from Romania and will be here in about fifteen minutes, and please, don’t get me started on Rubeus Hagrid.”
Moody slumped down into his chair and frowned, picking up the publication with severe disdain.
“Shouldn’t you be out looking for Potter whatever your name is?” he barked.
The trainee left quickly, leaving Shacklebolt alone in the room with Moody.
“When I said ‘you,’ I meant the both of you.”
With a roll of his eyes Shacklebolt left the office. Moody titled back in his spindly seat and stared at the ceiling.
“Where have you gone Potter?” he whispered.
The sun was high above his head when he woke again. He stood slowly, wondering what he should do. As he massaged the frames of his glasses straight after having slept in them, he remembered the last dream, and felt a surge to visit another letter. He did wonder if the Durselys were looking for him, or even noticed if he was missing.
He carefully picked up a letter from the stack and instantly noticed the change of handwriting. He began to read.
“I think I know what I have to do, and it hurts so badly.”
The familiar jerk behind his navel hit him again and he was tossed backwards into his parents’ past. As he stood up, beginning to think he was becoming accustomed to the feeling of being thrown around by these memories. He was standing in the middle of the room he had just left, though it admittedly looked much better than it had just moments ago. His mother was sitting on the bed, facing away from him, and held her face in her hands.
“Is the child mine?”
Harry whipped around to find Lupin standing there, emaciated and looking rather tired.
“Lily?” Lupin asked again.
His mother began to cry and Harry was feeling sick to his stomach. In all the things he had ever heard about his parents, nothing like this had ever come to light. Whatever the outcome, the memory of his mother would never be the same.
“Lily?” he repeated.
“I don’t know,” she sobbed. “What am I going to do?”
“We should tell James,” Lupin replied, looking as though he would be sick.
Lily, though she was still gasping from the tears, looked at Lupin very sternly.
“He can’t ever know about this. He’s lost so much already. His parents died just two weeks ago and what with the funeral, the move, my hospital bills, the baby and the stress of the Academy and everything that’s gone on lately with Dumbledore, I don’t think he wants to know that his wife has been unfaithful, and with one of his closest friends. Remus, I could lose everything.”
“I can’t lie to him. I can’t.”
“Remus, please,” his mother begged.
Silence followed, and Harry was still in shock. His mother seriously thought that the baby she carried was Lupin’s. Everything that had occurred with Lupin had been bad enough until now, but it was becoming surreal. He couldn’t possibly be Lupin’s child; he looked too much like his father. Aside from that, the dates hadn’t matched up. So if his mother wasn’t pregnant with him, where was his half-brother or sister?
“You’re not going to lose everything, no matter what you do,” Lupin finally answered.
“If I tell him, he’ll throw me out. He’ll divorce me,” Lily said nervously, standing up and turning to face Lupin.
She walked over to him, passing right through Harry on her way. They were standing inches apart and Harry felt a boiling anger welling up inside of him. For a moment he thought they would kiss, but they just remained there, their faces awkwardly staring at one another.
“If I tell him, I’ll lose the only friends I’ve ever had. James would hate me, Sirius and Peter would probably too. James would forgive you. I don’t see how he could possibly forgive me. I think I’m the one with more to lose, and I’m trying to do the right thing.”
“We can’t tell him,” Lily repeated.
“And then what? Live a lie?”
“It wouldn’t have to be that way. If we just-”
“What? Kept sneaking around behind his back? I don’t like making a whore out of you.”
Lily recoiled and her face was beginning to turn red.
“I am not a whore,” she whispered dangerously.
“Then why do you insist on living like one?”
Harry felt as furious as his mother looked. She lifted her hand and slapped Lupin right across the face. She reached back to hit him again, but he caught her by the wrist and pulled her closer to him and she began to scream and cry. He held her still, but she fought back.
Harry felt like murdering Lupin. If he only had his wand he felt like he would have hexed him into next week, though it obviously wouldn’t do anything. These memories had never left him feeling so helpless.
“You are not a whore,” Lupin whispered to her. “You’re not.”
She didn’t answer. She shrank into his arms and Lupin kissed her on the forehead. They embraced each other and Harry felt his fury coming to a boiling point. He wanted to leave this memory, but he didn’t know a way out until it the memory itself stipulated that he should leave.
“Lily, you are so beautiful,” Lupin said softly. “I hate seeing you like this. I hate seeing me like this. You know we can’t keep on this way, and if we do, we won’t have to tell James because he will find out. It was awful enough to have to modify Sirius’ memory. We can’t just go around for the rest of our lives going behind their backs and throwing around memory charms whenever we do get caught.”
“What am I supposed to do?” Lily said, turning to face Lupin. Her face was pretty badly tear-stained and her hair a mess. “I love you both.”
“But you have to make a choice.”
“How can you ask me that?”
“How is it you can ask me how it is that I can ask you that? Whoever you decide to be with deserves to have all of you. Your child also deserves the truth. We can’t keep going on like this.”
“You’re starting to sound like a broken record.”
“You know I’m right.”
They sat in total silence for what felt like hours. Harry strongly considered leaving the room because he felt nauseous at what might happen, but the slam of a door downstairs signaled that his father had come home.
Lupin and Lily immediately separated. She rubbed the makeup from her face quickly, and both did their best to look as inconspicuous as possible. They left the bedroom and by the time she reached the top of the stairs James’ smiling face was visible on the floor below.
“How are you honey? How’s the kid?”
“Fine,” Lily smiled.
“Moony, how’re you?”
“Also fine. I came by looking for you and your wifey here said you’d be home in a bit, so I thought I’d wait. But I’ve waited too long. I’ve got to get going before it gets dark, for obvious reasons.”
“Right, full moon tonight,” James smiled. “Sorry you can’t stick around for dinner.”
“Yeah, I promised James lasagna. I can save you some for when, you know, you get better.”
“That’s alright,” Lupin smiled weakly.
“Do you want me and Sirius to catch up with you later?” James asked, coming up the stairs.
“No, I think I’m going to stick out this month alone,” Lupin replied. “I’ve got to get going.”
“Alright, stop by in a few days. We’ll be having another meeting.”
“Alright, I guess I’ll see the both of you later,” Lupin said meekly, making his way down the stairs past James.
Harry noticed a horrendously guilty look in Lupin’s expression as he left. Harry hoped he felt horrible.
“So when’s dinner?” James asked, playfully hugging Lily and rubbing her belly.
“Alright you,” she answered. “Give me a few minutes.”
Several hours later, after they had eaten, Lily and James curled up on the couch. His father rested his head in his mother’s lap, and she stroked his hair lovingly. Harry sat in a love seat across from them, watching, somewhat irritated and feeling again incredibly deceived.
His mother and Lupin had just played it off, and his father didn’t seem to know a thing. It was so unfair, so dishonest, and so wrong. He had always looked up to Lupin, and though he could hardly remember her, he just imagined her as being perfect. It was a hard thing to watch the people he had idolized as heroes make grave mistakes.
“What do you think if it’s a boy?” James asked.
“I hadn’t really thought much about names,” Lily answered quietly, poking James’ nose with her finger playfully.
“I know Sirius has been hinting that he’d like a little Sirius, but I told him that if we did that then we couldn’t let down Peter and Lupin either, and before we knew it we’d have a pack of children running around the house just so that none of our friends felt left out. Like, could you imagine little Lupin Potter?”
Harry almost laughed out loud at the irony. Lily balked a bit at the suggestion.
“How do you know it will be a boy? What if it’s a girl?”
“Hmmm,” James gave in reply.
“I don’t know what I would do with a daughter.”
“I don’t know what you would do with any child, but something tells me you’re going to be a great dad.”
“Thank you,” James responded.
They sat quietly for a long time, and Harry began to feel bored watching his mother stroke her fingers through James’ hair.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” she said at long last. “James?”
His father had fallen asleep in her arms. She kissed him on the forehead and gave him a very awkward hug. She carefully got up and placed a pillow under his head and a blanket over him. She walked over to his father’s desk in the corner of the room and picked up a quill. She sat with the quill positioned over a piece of parchment for so long that she would reapply ink several times, but would never write. She continued to look at James and Harry noticed quiet tears begin to run down her face again. After a long time, she began to write.
Harry felt the tug behind his navel again, and was sent reeling back into the present.