Althea gave a disappointed sigh as she examined herself in her dressing table mirror. I am getting old, she thought as she examined her under eye closely. She squinted her eyes to accentuate the fine lines. She took her gaze from her under eye to the roots of her hair. A single grey hair stood sentinel among thousands of raven strands. She sat down in front of her dressing table and began to comb her shoulder length hair. Is thirty-three too young to have grey hair, she thought and placed the comb back on the dressing table next to a silver picture frame. Althea picked up the picture frame and held it carefully in her hands. Her fingers lovingly stroked the glass covering the photograph, which was photographed in the last month of her seventh-year at Hogwarts. It was a beautiful afternoon when the photograph was taken. She longingly gazed at the photograph with a bittersweet smile as Sirius winked and smiled back at her, and a younger, smiling version of herself knelt behind him with her arms around his neck. Next to Sirius sat James with Lily mimicking Althea. God, how I miss you, Lily, she thought as she placed the picture frame on the dressing table. It should have been me, not you. She continued to look at the photograph and shivered as the young Althea kissed Sirius’s cheek. He couldn’t possibly have been a Death Eater…could he? If anyone should have known, it should have been me, she thought as she stood and walked to her bed.
Althea pulled back the plush burgundy blankets covering her bed and slowly slid underneath them. Resting her head against her soft pillow, she thought more about Sirius. Why had he waited twelve years to escape? What did he want? Did he really want to hurt Harry? She remembered the day Harry was born. He was just as excited and happy as James was as he saw the newborn Harry. He loved Harry, and took his role as godfather seriously. What had changed?
A knock at her door jolted Althea from her thoughts. “Just a moment,” she said loudly as she sat up from her bed and reached for her dressing gown. Althea opened the door and smiled. “Remus,” she said happily. “Come in.”
“I’m sorry. Am I bothering you?” Remus asked as he stepped through her doorway.
“No, no,” she replied as she stifled a yawn as she walked toward her bed. “You’re always welcome,” she added as she patted the edge of her bed. “Please, sit.”
“Thanks,” he said as he sat next to her. “I, unfortunately, have terrible news.”
“What? Is there something wrong? Is everything all right?” she asked, resting her hands on his forearm.
Remus smiled warmly as he rubbed his chin. “It’s nothing like that. I just can’t spend Christmas with you and Gran,” he said and sighed longingly. “It’s that damn full moon again.”
Althea frowned from disappointment. Stupid full moon, she thought, why must it ruin our Christmas? She was anticipating Christmas with Remus, as it would be their first Christmas together in a few years.
“Oh!” she gasped, realizing that she did not have to cancel her Christmas plans. “I’ll tell Gran I won’t come. I’ll stay here with you, then,” she said brightly, stroking his arm. “You won’t be alone.”
“No, really. I’ll be fine,” he said reassuringly, placing his hand over hers. “I have to catch up on things around here anyway,” he continued and sighed sadly. “You shouldn’t cancel your plans—Afina would be devastated.”
Althea studied her friend for a moment. She knew Remus well enough to know that he was not fine. She knew that loneliness very well.
Althea leaned close to him and whispered, “I’ll sneak away. You can’t stop me. It’s only one night and I’ll greet you in the morning with presents and sweets.”
Remus smiled. “You don’t have to,” he said and squeezed her hand. “Although, I’m led to believe you have an ulterior motive.”
Remus looked ahead of him. “I have the convenience of a full moon.”
Althea understood what he was implying. “Well, Gran will be disappointed,” she said and smiled mischievously. “She was looking forward to reminding you what a good grandson-in-law you’d be compared to that last one.”
Remus laughed. “I know she would,” he replied and winked. “She’s been reminding me for the last five years.”
Althea mockingly frowned. “Just the five? I thought it was longer.”
“Are you sure?”
Althea ran her fingers through her hair. “Who’d have thought she’d want a werewolf as a grandson-in-law?”
“Gran is a strange woman,” he remarked and sighed with amusement. “I distinctly remember her telling me, at the last dinner I had with her—”
“You have dinner with Gran?” she interrupted, raising and eyebrow.
“It was the last time the three of us had dinner,” he answered, smiling wryly. “Don’t worry, I’m not conspiring against you.”
“Anyway,” he continued, “you had left the room and she said, ‘Remus, life is much too short. You’re a good-looking, eligible, young man. Don’t spend you’re life alone—marry my granddaughter.’”
Althea threw herself back on her bed in a fit of laughter. Her grandmother had become bolder in her attempts to marry off her granddaughter. “You know what the next step is,” she began and stared at the ceiling.
“A Howler at breakfast,” she replied, shifting her gaze to watch his reaction.
Remus fell back onto her bed and covered his face with his hands. “Oh, she won’t stop there,” he groaned and peaked at her between his fingers. “She’ll take out an advertisement in the Daily Prophet.”
Althea rolled onto her side. “Just the Daily Prophet?” she asked and frowned mockingly. “She won’t stop, Mr. Lupin, not until I become Mrs. Lupin.”
“My mother?” he joked and Althea playfully nudged his upper arm.
“No, your wife,” she explained, smiling. “You have no other choice—you have to marry me,” she teased and winked.
Remus rolled onto his side as well. “Are you proposing?” he asked—a small, amused smile emerging across his face.
Althea mockingly thought for a moment. “I’m not really proposing. I’m more forcing you to,” she quipped and poked his shoulder.
“I’ll take my chances on the Howler,” he remarked and winked.
“It’ll come around May, I suppose,” she replied and attempted to sound cheerful.
Was she a little disappointed that Remus would not take her on the offer? Did she really mean to make an offer? What am I thinking, she thought, her smile fading.
Remus sensed her change of mood. “Is everything all right?” he asked.
Damn you, Remus, for being so damn observant, she thought as she looked at her friend who was filled with concern.
“No, actually,” she sighed as she traced the outline of the elaborate embroidered pattern on her duvet. “Before you came, I was thinking about Sirius,” she said, which actually was not a lie, but it was not the reason for her immediate despondency.
“Oh,” he said quietly and furrowed his eyebrows. “What about?”
“That I thought I knew him,” she replied, looking at her finger as she continued to trace the embroidered swirls and flowers of her duvet.
Remus placed his hand upon hers—briefly stopping her tracing. “I thought so, too,” he said, with a small amount of perceptible bitterness.
Althea remembered the shock of the situation. Unlike Althea, Remus had known about the Fidelius Charm and that Sirius was the Secret Keeper. The news of his deliberate betrayal of Lily and James stunned them. If it was not for Remus saving her from the threshold of madness, Althea might not have lived to see Christmas 1981. She felt guilty and believed she prevented Remus from grieving because he had to focus his energy on her fragile mental state.
Althea sat up and moved toward the head of her bed. “I still don’t believe he could ever willfully betray James,” she said, and rested her head against the warm tapestry that hung behind her bed.
Remus sat next to her. “You’re not still thinking—”
“Of course, I am.” She sighed deeply.
Remus shook his head in disbelief. “It’s outrageous—”
“Just as outrageous as Sirius the spy for Voldemort,” she interrupted and turned her body toward Remus. “There were times,” she began and looked at her folded hands, “that I thought he loved Harry more than Prudence.”
Remus sighed and rested his hands on top of hers. “Don’t Althea,” he said and squeezed her hands. “Let’s not—”
“It’s true,” she responded and clenched her jaw to keep from crying. “He would have died for James and for Harry…. I just got in the way.”
Remus placed his hand on Althea’s chin and gently raised her head to look in her eyes. “Don’t ever forget what happened to you—he didn’t care for you or Prudence. You didn’t kill Lily—he did.”
Althea took Remus’s hand and held it in hers. “There were just so many things,” she said softly, massaging the palm of his hand. “You remember when Mr. and Mrs. Potter died—he was devastated.”
“You obviously forgot his viciousness,” he replied, placing his other hand atop hers. “You haven’t forgotten how he treated you for the first five years that you knew him?”
“How could I forget?” she replied and quietly laughed to herself. “I was just as brutal to him.”
“He had a fight with James two days before they died,” Remus reminded, looking into her eyes.
“One fight with James did not cause him to betray his best friend.”
Remus shook his head. “What about our seventh-year—when he found out about us? You saw how reckless and explosive his anger could be. He would’ve killed me if James hadn’t stopped him.”
“I remember,” she replied quietly and sighed sadly. “I remember all of it, but I can’t hate him. Remember where my hatred led me?”
“I remember,” he replied, stroking the back of her hand. Althea observed Remus pondering her. “I know I haven’t asked you this in twelve years, but…do you still love him?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
The color drained from Althea’s face. “No,” she replied awkwardly, fighting her anxiousness. “I feel sorry for him.”
Remus frowned and placed his hands on Althea’s shoulders. “You give him more than he deserves.”
She lowered her head and stared at her indigo velvet dressing gown. “If I had done what he did, I couldn’t live with myself. I’d hope the dementors would Kiss me,” she said sadly. “There is no justification for what he did—trading my life for theirs. I should have been the Secret Keeper—I would have died for Lily,” she continued and lifted her face to look at Remus.
Remus rested his hand against her cheek, wiping away small tears with his thumb. “That wouldn’t have happened. You know how protective they were of you,” he explained and stroked her cheek.
Althea sighed and rested the side of her face against his shoulder. What were those she loved protecting her from? She was not feeble—she proved she could handle terrible, grave things. If anything, they should have protected me from myself, she thought as Remus gently stroked her back. I was my worst enemy. I proved it countless times.
“If only I could go back in time,” Althea said longingly, as she closed her eyes. “I’d tell myself to stay away from Sirius.”
Remus rested his head against hers. “I wish I could, too,” he whispered sadly, holding her close.
Althea knew immediately Remus was thinking of Iphigenia. In their fifth-year, Althea had noticed a cute brown haired Ravenclaw by the name of Iphigenia eyeing Remus on a couple of occasions in the library. With some persistence, due to the shy reluctance of both parties, Althea was able to set up Remus and Iphigenia. Unfortunately, Death Eaters killed Iphigenia the summer after their seventh-year. The Death Eaters not only killed those in the Order and those that stood in Voldemort’s way, they killed their families or anyone the targeted person loved. More often, this happened before that targeted person died. Remus was a werewolf—a supposed dark creature—and did not side with Voldemort as other werewolves had done. Althea remembered Iphigenia’s funeral. Remus was devastated at the sight of Iphigenia in her coffin. It was the first time, since their breakup in the library, Althea had witnessed his usually calm demeanor crack. When Iphigenia’s parents had realized Remus was at the funeral, they threw him out—accusing him of killing their daughter and threatening to turn him over to the Ministry to be sent to a Werewolf Relocation Camp. She had kept his lycanthropy a secret from her parents, but after her death, they discovered it. He had never forgotten this, and Althea believed that was the reason he never had lasting romantic relationship.
“You’re thinking about Iphigenia, aren’t you?”
“What?” he asked distantly.
“Iphigenia,” she answered, pulling away from him. “You’re thinking about her, aren’t you?” she asked quietly.
“Oh,” he murmured, frowning slightly. “No, I was thinking of something else.”
“I was thinking of the night I became what I am,” he continued and took a ragged breath. “I wonder how different things would be.”
“Don’t,” she replied, resting her fingertips against his cheek. “Whatever you might think, Remus, I know Lily never thought you were the spy,” she explained, slowly caressing his cheek. “You know how much James loved Sirius, and it wouldn’t have mattered if you were or weren’t a werewolf. Look, they could have chosen Peter, but they didn’t.”
“True,” he replied, taking Althea’s hand from his face and holding it against his chest. “Peter would have been a better choice, wouldn’t he?” he murmured as Althea felt his heart beating against her fingertips.
“He idolized James.”
“Yes, he did,” he replied as he let go of her hand and reclined on Althea’s bed.
“I still can’t believe Sirius could have killed all those people with a single curse,” she replied, reclining on her bed. Her dressing gown collected at the small of her back and she arched her back to smooth it underneath her. “I could see two or possibly three, but a single curse?” she remarked, turning onto her side to face Remus.
“His power was frightening,” he commented, rolling onto his side to face her.
“I know he was powerful, but—”
“His power as a wizard was increasing—all of us in the Order saw it. He had that ability, Althea, I don’t doubt it,” he explained, solemnly looking into her eyes.
“There was a lot I didn’t know or choose to know, I suppose,” she replied, resting the back of her hand underneath her cheek. “I just wanted him home with me, but it never happened.”
“He wasn’t ready to settle down,” Remus replied, closing and then opening his eyes wide—Althea knew he was very tired.
“I don’t understand why we conceived Prudence, then.” She sighed deeply. “He wasn’t ready and I mistakenly thought I was—”
“He did, at that time, love you,” he said, smoothing the hair away from Althea’s face. “He wasn’t dark then.”
“What turned him?” she wondered, looking into Remus’s eyes for any telling reaction.
Remus furrowed his eyebrows. “I don’t have that answer,” he replied, rolling onto his back. Althea rested the side of her face against his chest and slid her arm around his thin waist. “It was insidious though,” he continued, gently stroking the back of her head. “James didn’t notice, as well.”
“Or he chose not notice, like me,” she whispered, closing her eyes.
“Voldemort had ways of protecting his interests,” he replied quietly, resting his other arm over Althea’s arm.
“Clever son of a bitch,” she murmured and yawned.
Althea awoke around two in the morning. She had not realized that she had drifted off to sleep, and smiled as she felt Remus still holding her. He probably didn’t want to wake me when he attempted to leave, she thought as she opened her eyes and gazed at Remus in the moonlight. The years of transformations had taken a toll on him—premature grey hairs intermingled with the light brown locks, and thin lines formed around his mouth and eyes. Althea giggled quietly as Remus snored softly—his mouth partially open. When did he start to snore, she thought, smoothing the hair away from his face. Althea shifted her gaze from his face to his neck, and noticed something silver twinkling around his neck. Slowly, she lifted her head from his shoulder and carefully pulled out the sliver object. It was a locket—with his family crest—tattered and worn, slightly tarnished. She carefully opened the locket and her heart skipped. I wonder how long he’s worn this, she thought, looking at the photograph of younger Remus and a younger version of herself holding Prudence. Smiling, she closed the locket and lovingly tucked it under the collar of his shirt.
Althea tenderly stroked the side of Remus’s face with her fingertips. “No matter what you may think, Remus Lupin, I will always love you,” she whispered into his ear and softly kissed his lips.
She gently rested the side of her face on his chest and closed her eyes—quietly lulled to sleep by his heartbeat.
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