Chapter 1 : Loss
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Remus did not have the will to get out of bed. The sun shone through the tread-bare curtains of his bedroom. Birds were singing outside. A dog was barking somewhere. It was time to get up. But he could not bring himself to do it. What lay ahead of him today? The usual monotonous agony filled with hunger, a pathetic, invisible existence and that perverse circle of attempt and failure on the finding a job front. He could not bring himself to get up and go through all that again, as he must every day. He just did not have the strength.
Instead, he chose to lie in bed, caught in that wonderful place between sleep and awake, that place where you and slip in and out of dreams at ease, that wonderful place where reality is what you make it, where there is no hunger, no loneliness and no lost friends. Memory and dreams had become his refuge, his great escape from the dark, isolated and pitiable existence that he had to endure for over four years.
He did not know how long he lay in bed, drifting in and out of sleep, becoming lost in happy, pure thought and retreating off to that otherworldly place where memories float around like leaves in autumn. Dumbledore had always preached that it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live*2, but right now, Remus would choose dreams over life any day. Dumbledore did not know what it was like to be a werewolf in prejudiced society. Dumbledore did not know what it was like to lose all the people you loved all at once. Dumbledore did not know what it meant to be truly alone, with no one, no friends, no family, no loving face to smile at the sight of you. No, Dumbledore knew none of that. How could he? He spent his time surrounded by students, colleagues and friends every second of every day at Hogwarts. No one who knew Remus’s loneliness would say that life was better than dreams.
He turned over under his decrepit blankets. The old bed-springs moaned in protest at his sudden movement. He ignored this, and chanced a glance at the clock on his bedside locker. It was half twelve in the afternoon. He knew he should get up, but he honestly just did not possess the will. His half-shut eyes then landed on the calendar that stood beside the ticking clock. Remus’s heart jolted. A wave of realisation washed over him, ripping open the old grieving wound, pouring hot blood out onto his soul.
31st October 1986.
It had been five years today, five long, lonely years, since it happened.
His thoughts instantly fell on James and Lily. They died five years ago today. He strained his mind back and tried to picture them in his head, picture the two of them together, happy and whole, the way they should be. There was only one problem; Remus couldn’t remember what James looked like. He knew he had been tall and that he had had messy hair that used to stick up at the back, but he could no longer picture James in his mind. He had become blurred and indistinguishable, as though viewed through a vale. When Remus thought of James, he saw in his head a faceless person who was tall and had black hair. What colour eyes did James have? Remus closed his eyes and thought hard. He couldn’t remember.
And Lily, what about Lily? She too was beginning to fade. Remus knew she had had green eyes, but he couldn’t remember the shade. He knew she had had a kind smile, but he could no longer picture it. What did her voice sound like? He strained his mind back years and years. He heard nothing. He couldn’t remember. Lily was fading. James was fading. It had been five years and already he was beginning to forget.
Panicking, Remus threw back the old bed-covers and half-ran to his wardrobe, his heart hammering in his chest. He pulled the doors open with unnecessary force. They groaned, before falling off their rusted hinges. Remus ignored this, he would fix them later. Everything in his house was old and, at this stage, had been repaired so many times that he was surprised that everything hadn’t disintegrated into dust. He glanced at the mess inside the wardrobe, at the hoard of objects thrown incongruously together: old toys, books, clothes, shoes, odd boxes, broken radios, yellowed newspapers and ruffled quills. He began to pull out old robes at random and throw them to the floor in his haste to find the box he was looking for. Dust swirled around the room, illumined by the ray of October-sunlight streaming in through a hole in the curtains covering the window. After a moment’s frantic searching, in which most of the contents of the wardrobe were discarded to the floor, Remus’s fingers enclosed around a box that was hidden in the back of the top shelf. He took it out, sat on his bed and opened it.
The battered, soft-cornered box contained several old photo-albums, their leather covers were caked in dust. Remus pulled out the first one and flicked feverishly through it, searching for a photo near the end. His eyes glanced though the dog-eared pages, not taking them in. He finally found the picture he was looking for. It was of four boys: the four Marauders, the Masters of Mischief, Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. Remus ran his hand over the photo, every fibre of his being wishing he could just turn the years back around again and fall right into the scene before him.
He stared down at his fifteen-year old self. He looked so young and much less shabby back then. This photo was taken back before his face started to display the lonely, haunted look that could be found in his reflection of late. His eyes were alive and happy here, not lost and despairing as they were now. Things were so much easier when he was fifteen. The full moon was all that worried him then. Oh, to go back and just have that one, single burden on his shoulders would be the greatest blessing in the world.
He continued to stare at the picture. To the left of his younger self was Peter. Merlin, he was so small, Remus had almost forgotten. But poor, shy, meek Peter had been brave in the end, a true Marauder and a true friend. Even still, he shouldn’t have gone after Sirius. Sirius could always best him in a fight. No, Peter should have left Sirius to Remus or to the Ministry. But Peter was probably so torn by grief that he wasn’t thinking straight. He didn’t deserve what happened to him, blown to bits in a street full of Muggles. No one deserved that, especially brave, heroic old friends. Remus shuddered slightly at the thought, before directing his gaze to Sirius.
Sirius, my old friend, why did you do it? What possessed you? Peter was harmless, wouldn’t have hurt a Billy-wig.
The Sirius in the photograph was handsome and carefree, with a mischievous grin on his face. No one could have predicted that he would become a back-stabbing traitor from looking at this picture. Was he plotting, even then, the destruction of his two best friends? Had he already planned on joining Voldemort, on betraying James, when this picture was taken?
Sirius, why did you do it? What did he offer you that was worth more than the lives of your best friends?
After a moment of staring at Sirius with accusatory eyes, Remus finally let his gaze fall on James. He had his arm around Sirius. They were laughing. Remus stared at the tall, lean boy staring up at him. That was James alright. There was no mistaking him. There he stood with his hazel eyes, long, thin face and wind-swept hair. That was James, his best friend, the man who died, along with his wife, Lily, five years ago today.
Remus stared hungrily at the photo for a long time. He looked at James and Peter’s faces, bidding his brain to memorise and remember them. He wanted to lock both boys away in a special place in his head, a place where they could never be forgotten. He closed his eyes. James was there, just as he was in the photo. Remus could picture him with his lazy grin and messy hair. His heart calmed a little. He flicked through the other photo-albums. He saw scenes of himself and his three friends together at Hogwarts, in the Potter’s at Christmas, at an England qualifying match for the Quidditch World Cup against Ireland (the latter having won by a margin that Remus did not want to remember) and just lazing around London during the summer. These pictures housed scenes that appeared to be from someone else’s life, not his own. It was hard now to think that of these four friends, two were dead, one in Azkaban and the other alone with nothing for company but memories and dark thoughts. So much had changed so quickly.
Lily started appearing in photographs as the years moved on, with her fiery-red hair and bottle-green eyes. How could Remus ever forget the colour of Lily Potter’s eyes? How could he ever forget her blazing look and kind smile? He saw her and James on their wedding day, with the rest of the Marauders. There they all were laughing and grinning in dress robes, Remus’s were noticeably much shabbier than everyone else’s, but no one cared. That was the beauty of having friends; those stupid, superficial things like appearance did not matter, all that mattered was the person themselves.
Remus continued to stare at the various photos, his heart filled with a terrible ache, half grieving sadness, half tragic joy. There was James and Lily with Harry the day he was born. The boy was so small. He had hardly any hair and no lightening scar. Remus had not seen Harry since the boy was little over a year old. He had never seen the lightening scar that marked the lad’s forehead, but he, like the rest of the Wizarding world, knew the lightening scar was there. Harry was marked by Voldemort on this very day five years ago. Voldemort had killed James and Lily, but he could not, for the life of him, kill Harry. No one knew why.
Almost instantly, his thoughts wandered from the photo-album to an imaginary Muggle house in Surrey. Remus had never been in Lily’s sister’s house, so he had no idea what it looked like. He wondered what Harry was doing at this very moment. He was six years old. He was probably deciding on his costume for Halloween and just enjoying his week off from Muggle school, that is, if his aunt and uncle had decided to send him to a Muggle school. Remus was sure they had. It was best for Harry to fit in with the Muggle world for the time being. When he was old enough, he would rejoin the Wizarding World, and then, and only then, would Remus finally be allowed to contact him.
He tried to picture Harry in his head, what the boy looked like now that he was six years old. James in miniature probably, with Lily’s eyes and her kind smile. He wondered if Harry was sad today, wondered if he knew that today was the anniversary of his parents’ deaths. Surely, his aunt and uncle had told him, if not the whole story, than some less violent, easier to understand version of the events. Harry must miss James and Lily as much as Remus did, probably even more. It was cruel that he, Remus, got to spend so much time with James and Lily and Harry so little. But even the time Remus had been allotted was not nearly long enough.
They died five years ago, today.
Remus could picture James, Lily and Peter in his mind’s eye now, as the photographs he had just looked at had practically burnt themselves onto his retinas. Yet, despite this, he couldn’t picture them in scenes independent of the ones housed in the photos. Even in his memories their faces were faded, ghostly, blurred by time. This scared him. What he losing his mind? Was he actually beginning to forget? People say it was part of the grieving process, that once the one you loved had died, their face started to fade, you still remembered them; but, what they looked like and how they sounded, that became lost. It was the mind’s way of helping the heart heal. The old wounds of grief were stitched closed with gossamer strands of memory, causing the tapestry-image of the one you loved to lose detail and disappear into the ether.
The only way to move on was to forget.
But Remus didn’t want to forget. For what had he to move onto? Loneliness and isolation in a world where he was hated, marginalised and treated like a filthy animal. No, Remus didn’t want to forget. His memories of his old friends reminded him that he was still human, still a person and not the ghastly beast the world saw him as. He would cling to memory. It was his life-line in this cold, cruel world.
Remus stared down at the picture of Lily and James together in their home in Godric’s Hollow. He ran his finger tips over their faces. He thought of them, and of poor, loyal Peter.
Wormtail, you were a true friend right to the end.
They had no body to bury. The biggest piece of Peter they could find was his finger. How could Sirius blow him to bits like that? How could he do that to a friend? Hadn’t they all agreed, when they found Benjy Fenwick in pieces, that no one deserved such a fate, no one, no matter who they were? And Peter’s poor mother, she had no grave to visit, all she had was Peter’s finger, that’s all they could salvage. Remus looked at James and Lily again. He would go and visit them later, like he had done, every year on this date, since it happened.
In no time at all, he found himself walking passed neat little cottages with crudely drawn ghosts hanging from the windows and carved pumpkins standing sentinel at door steps. Remus ignored all this, ignored all the Muggle children running around dressed as witches and wizards, as vampires and werewolves, trying to become part of a world they didn’t belong to or understand. He walked to their house, and spent a minute or two looking at the ruin, at the place where Voldemort murdered them, at the place where Harry survived. The roof and walls of Harry’s bedroom had been blasted away. Ivy was beginning to creep its way up the ruin, smothering the edifice slowly in its embrace. The grass was long and littered with weeds. Yellow-headed dandelions bobbed in the breeze, their heads bowed in reverence. This dwelling had enclosed happy memories once, but now those memories and that ghost of that once wonderful life haunted Remus in his waking hours. There was no hiding from it. There was no escape. They were dead. Sirius betrayed them. Voldemort murdered them. They were gone.
It was with this horrible truth hanging over him, that he tore his eyes from the wreck and walked to the little graveyard beside the church. He passed the statue of his two friends and Harry in the middle of the square, but he just did not have the strength to look, because he knew that he would never be able to stop looking. He stood at the foot of their grave, and with a swish of his wand laid a wreath of flowers, and with another flick, disposed of the dead, decayed wreath he had left the year before. No one else, it seemed, had visited the grave in the time since. Remus half wondered why Lily’s sister hadn’t come. Why she didn’t visit her sister’s grave. Why she didn’t bring James and Lily’s son to see them. Perhaps, she did not have the strength to make such a journey, just like he, Remus, did not have the strength to get out of bed in the morning.
After all, loss was not an easy burden to bear.
He stood at the foot of the grave for a long time. The laughter and shouts of Muggle children out enjoying Halloween were carried to him on the wind. Faint mutters whispered to him from the church. A breeze rustled the trees, pulling the leaves from them. Remus stood in silence. He knew he should say something, but no words found him. Would James and Lily even hear him if he spoke? What had he to tell them anyway? Nothing of consequence. Nothing of importance. His life was just a dreary existence. He was going nowhere. They had all set out upon this road of life together: he, James, Lily, Sirius and Peter. But they had all left the path without him and he had gotten lost on it, with no helping hand to guide him and no friendly face to share the journey. No, this was not the first time that life had been unfair to him, but it was definitely the one that hurt the most.
The light began to dwindle, as the sun set and the moon rose. How he hated the moon. It was half-full, looking like a grinning face mocking him from the sky. He had spent enough time here in this graveyard. He would come visit again next year, go through this same ritual in twelve months time. Nothing will have changed. They will still be dead. Sirius will still be in Azkaban. And he, Remus, would still be battling on for his life, a life that did not really feel worth fighting for.
With that, he turned on the spot and allowed time and space to swallow him, to take him where he wanted to go: home, though, that word had lost all meaning now. Home was not a place; home was a group of people, a group of people now gone, never to return.
*1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, pg. 334 (UK Edition)
*2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, pg. 157 (UK Edition)