Remus tried to explain that he had made a mistake in marrying Nymphadora, one that he very much regretted, especially now that he had gotten her pregnant. But when Harry crossed a line and very brashly suggested that Remus was simply dumping Nymphadora and the kid to go on an adventure with him, Ron, and Hermione, the words snapped something inside Remus, with a virulent anger so sudden he leapt to his feet, glaring with the teeth-baring wolf behind his eyes—and something in Harry’s face suggested that he could see the wolf, and for a moment he withdrew, uncharacteristically and rather apologetically meek.
In his ire, Remus kicked aside his chair.
He tried to make them understand, understand what he had done to his wife and his unborn child, what he had really done, what it really meant to have done what he had done.
But how could they? How could they ever hope to? Not even James and Sirius had ever really understand, nor Lily.
And their baby—
Remus grabbed his hair and pulled at it he became so distraught at the very thought, the shame of it.
Hermione tried to placate him by asking how any child—especially one of his—could be ashamed of him?
Ron was anxiously nodding in agreement, his eyes flickering bewilderedly between Harry and Remus.
But Harry’s own temper had returned, he had forgotten his apprehension and was steeling himself: he said that he would be pretty ashamed of Remus if he were his child.
Remus let go of his hair and slowly lowered his hands, numb as though Harry’s hand had come out of nowhere and smacked him—the way Nymphadora had smacked him a little over six months ago at Christmas.
Harry too had risen to his feet, quivering with anger. He demanded to know what would happen to a half-werewolf whose father was in the Order if the new Ministry regimes thought Muggle-borns were bad enough? He demanded to know how in the world James could possibly agree to Remus going on an adventure with him and his friends rather than be there for his wife and child when James had given his life to protect his wife and child?
Remus felt his own piquing anger swoop through him like thunder, take him over as he had never allowed to before, save for once before, when James had crossed a line.
And now his son was doing the same.
The presumption of him! Thinking he knew James better than he did! No less, thinking he knew the true weight of what had been set upon his shoulders with this child’s imminent birth, with his marrying Nymphadora—if he knew how it would be if he was in this situation, if he knew how much it had torn him up inside….
What a fool he was, thinking he knew so much more. How dare he? How dare he?
What did he know of being thought of as a monster? For all of the ostracism he had gone through, nothing could compare to what Remus endured as a werewolf.
And who was he to talk? Didn’t he end his relationship with Ginny on the grounds that he needed to protect her? Remus was doing the exact same thing, and here was Harry calling the cauldron black!
And Nymphadora? He loved her more than life itself, loved the child—both of them were his life, he knew, and that was precisely why he had to leave! But how could he possibly get that through this boy’s thick skull?
Scarcely able to contain his fury, glaring lividly into Harry’s face, so terribly like his father’s, he hissed, so angry he could hardly speak: “How—how dare you? This is not about a desire for—for danger or personal glory—how dare you suggest such a—?”*
And Harry shot back: “I think you’re feeling a bit of a daredevil. You fancy stepping into Sirius’ shoe’s—”**
Remus barely heard Hermione’s plea for Harry to stop while Ron stood apprehensively by ready to hold his best friend back. Only Harry’s glare existed for him, and he found that his mind was doing a strange flicker between the past and the present, and he was back in the dining room, and James had dug at Remus’ own hopelessness—what did he know either?—and they were squaring off across the table—
“You got aproblem you’d like to share with the rest of the class, Lupin?”
“Yeah!Idohave a problem, Potter!Lilyis the problem!”
“You’ve got a problem withher, then?”
“I loved her…! Istill love her! And I gave her up …my one chance probably at ever having a real beautiful bird of my own! I gave that up…foryou! You lucky bastard…!”
—And then James’ face resolved into Harry’s.
And Harry took a step forward, fists clenched as if he intended to hit him, his green eyes boring into him, and then James shouted at him across the table—
“Well, I’m sorry, Remus, but that wasyour choice, notmineorLily’s! It’s notmyfault you’re as goddamn noble as a bleedin’ Hufflepuff—!”
—Then Harry came back into focus:
“I’d never have believed this. The man who taught to me to fight dementors—a coward.”***
Remus’ hand flew to his wand quick as lightning and pointed it straight at James—
A bang erupted from the end of his wand—
—as the spell hit James square in the chest and sent him flying backward into the wall—
But it was Harry who was sprawled on the ground, rubbing the back of his head in pain, not James, and it was Hermione, not Sirius, who called for Remus when Remus turned his back in anger and stormed up the stairs to the front hall and out the front door onto the top step of the stoop.
He slammed the door behind him and gave a wrathful cry like the blood-baying of a wolf before he Disapparated in such a fury that the resounding pop! that announced it was like the blast of a gun.
When he reappeared on a lonely hill miles and miles from London, in the middle of a forest of nowhere, he fell to his knees, shrieking like a madman as the lightning flashed and the thunder cracked through him like his ire and his fear.
Soon afterward the rain began to pour, soaking him through in moments, and he felt the pain and the anger and the madness leave him as if carried off by the high winds, and he hugged himself, shaking and numb.
Save for one terrible realization, that he had just gone completely mad. As mad perhaps as Sirius had gone, the lines between the past and the present had become so blurred it had been as if he’d been occupying two different points in time, concurrently, and he’d felt the anger from both of those moments converge, and attacked—
He’d attacked Harry, James’ son…he’d attacked James, and now he’d attacked his son….
He’d attacked him….
“What have I done?” he choked, and buried his face in his hands, sucking in gasps of rasping air that turned into staccato sobs in the droving, droving rain and the flowing, gathering mud, with which he soon became utterly splattered.
The tears intermixed with the loam.
“Forgive me…forgive me….”
He had done wrong. First he had lost control and attacked James, all those years ago, and now he had done the same thing to his son, Harry. And all for very similar reasons, the argument had concerned a woman he loved (though this time a child had been added into the mix), and the argument had caused Remus to lose his temper beyond anything he usually worked so hard to keep in check.
Because they had both tried to make him see what an idiot he was being for leaving behind the woman he loved.
And…they were right.
They were right, and Remus couldn’t see it.
No, he didn’t want to see it, he didn’t want them to be right. Because he was right…
It had been for Lily’s own good that Remus had told her that they couldn’t be together, had nudged her towards James instead, and equally so, it would be for Nymphadora’s own good that he would leave her and the child in the care of her parents, in the protection of her mother’s pure blood.
It was the real right thing to do, because of what he was. Because of what he was, the usual rules to right and wrong could not apply. He had to tweak them, in order to make things truly right.
So why did he feel so guilty?
That’s just how they think you should feel about this, he thought bitterly. They were just trying to make you see you’d done wrong when they didn’t even understand…what it’s really like….
But that other voice inside of him that had the guts to call him a liar and know it could get away with it, it kept agreeing with everything James had told him, that Harry had tried to tell him, though perhaps rather tactlessly when he’d allowed his temper to get the best of him in his delivery.
Leaving Remus adrift in a whirlwind between two decisions, two paths—two questions that demanded an answer.
And Remus had no idea how to answer either one.
“I’m…I’m so lost,” he whispered, and he blinked up at the clearing sky.
The rain had lifted, leaving the rolling grey clouds, hanging melancholically above him.
I’m so lost.
The other painful sting was that Harry, his own former pupil in conjuring a Patronus, a pupil who had looked to him not just as a nephew to an uncle, but specifically and importantly one who admired him—he had called him a coward.
How on earth could he be a coward? He who faced the full moon every month against his will, who was forced to face his boggart, while others could find ways to avoid theirs if they wanted.
They had a choice.
Remus had confronted the bone-stripping pain of the full moon once a month, the monster he always became, and he felt he had come to do so with a certain kind of dignity and grace.
And had he not always given his life to help his friends, to protect them, to rescue them? It was he who rescued James, Sirius, and Aurelia from the Death Eaters holding them captive in that chapel. Had he not been sorted into Gryffindor? Had he not proven his worth against many a foe, no less that heartless maiden the moon in her fullness?
How dare he. How dare he!
Remus wandered down the lonely hill to which he had Apparated, picking his way to the line of trees, the gateway to the wood, his cloak wrapped about him.
Perhaps of course he wasn’t seeing his actions from the perspective of a true coward.
And in all honesty, hadn’t his friends, and his dear and beloved Nymphadora, all had a hand in helping him face the full moon with that dignity and grace?
He thought about going back to Grimmauld Place to apologize to Harry, to make amends, but if any amends were to be made, Harry would point him in an entirely different direction.
Would James have backed him, would he have been more sympathetic? Or would he have been as brutal as his son?
“That’s right, Harry!” said James. “See Remus, even my son agrees it’s unfair…!”
Probably the latter then.
Remus heaved a sigh, the terrible thoughts and flashes of everything that had just happened churning horribly in his head, numbing him to most of what was going on beyond his own skull. Everything was turning out so wrong, everything was falling to ruin, his world shaking and rattling with destructive tremors, and all the while he was desperately trying to grab onto everything to keep it from breaking to smithereens when the tremors swept beneath again, threatening to knock him off his feet, everything to oblivion.
He stumbled as if those very tremors had leapt out of his own imagination into the real world, and he found himself quite surprised to find himself in the middle of a sharply grey forest, the bark darkened from the rain, when he’d grabbed onto the trunk of such a tree to steady himself.
His knees threatened to buckle again, as the weight of his own hopeless situation, his loss of knowing what he should do next, threatened to bear down upon him. But this time, instead of succumbing, he forced himself to stand strong, put one foot in front of the other, and kept going. And for a time, the simple exercise of trudging through the bracken and scrub of the forest was enough to empty his mind and focus it positively enough that his head began to clear some from its numb mist.
What to do? What to do?
Harry had sent him away, more or less. Where else could he go? Where else could he be of use?
Certainly he couldn’t go back to Nymphadora. Harry had no right saying those things to him, he was too young to understand, and anyway, he wasn’t a werewolf. He simply had no right to make the arguments he had made, and that was that.
Still, he had been quicker to anger than Remus had ever seen him before, and that in and of itself was puzzling.
Was it…was it because of his own lack of a father? His own lack of parentage? Did he sympathize with the child in the respect that he would see to it that no child would have to go without a parent if it didn’t have to?
James and Lily had had a choice, and they had chosen to stay, to stand and shield their son from death by giving up their own lives. Indeed they had died and were gone from their son’s life, taken by Voldemort, but though they had chosen to leave in the respect that they had chosen death, they only died because they stayed to protect their son in the first place.
If he thought of it that way.
Remus too, was leaving to protect his wife and his child, which in simple terms would mean that in fact he was no different from James. But then he thought about the way James had been chomping at the bit while in hiding under the Fidelius Charm, the same way Sirius had been when he’d been locked up in Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, and instead of leaving to remedy his cabin fever, James had stayed for his family’s protection, not left. Harry had been the target, and James had stayed by his side, dying to protect him when it was unceremoniously called upon him to do so, and now, in this instance, Nymphadora and the child would be the targets, and here Remus was, wandering around a forest, farther from them than he’d been in weeks.
I just don’t know what to do, he thought miserably as he pushed onward.
The trees began to thin, and Remus came upon a small and quaint village, and the rain faintly dripped off the roofs of the small huddled houses. In the middle of the town square stood a war memorial, and as Remus wandered hopelessly past it….
James and Lily…and Harry….
He had stumbled his way into Godric’s Hollow.
Pausing for a moment, he turned and looked back in the direction of the hilltop upon which he had just Apparated sometime earlier before making his way through the forest.
Coincidence was it, that he had come in proximity to this place?
But he must have chosen it, in some respect, consciously, otherwise he wouldn’t have landed there when he’d Disapparated.
Remus made his way from the square, taking one last long look at the memorial of James, Lily, and baby Harry, happy together forever in stone, before he vacated it and took a cobbled street that would lead him directly to the kissing gate of the cemetery.
The villagers for the most part were inside, out of the rain and the evening darkness. They didn’t give Remus a second glass in his strange traveling cloak. But the kissing gate was locked, and rather than unlock it with an Unlocking Charm, Remus, exhausted, merely hunkered down at the base of the little cemetery wall and nodded off in the damp of night just to wake aching and groggy in the morning.
His sleep consisted of nothing more than the horrid memory of Nymphadora’s tortured screams.
He tried not to think of whatever Muggle had unlocked the padlock on the gates might have seen him, and rose stiffly to his feet to push open the unlocked gate draped in his dirty and rumpled clothing.
When he reached James and Lily’s grave, he allowed himself to sink to his knees, the entire weight of his grief awakening at the mere sight of their names etched in stone that way. The offering of flowers he had last given to them, as well as the honorary flower offering to Sirius (since there was no grave for him), they had all long since wilted and crumpled.
The last time he had come here, Nymphadora had been with him.
“James…Lily…Sirius…and Aurelia, you too…I’d like to you meet my wife….”
It had been like they’d really been there, he had been able to feel them, and Nymphadora had even very nervously said, “Wotcher,” entirely understanding. He himself had been so giddy with nervous excitement.
Remus reached up and touched the names of his dead friends, missing them so much it hurt, missing them as he had not missed them in a very long time. In some ways the pain of it still threatened to choke him, to kill him, as though it were fresh. As though he were back crouched in front of that crackling wireless, listening to the announcer proclaim their untimely deaths….
“…and all I could think was how bitter we had left things,” he croaked, touching James’ name. “And Lily…she tried to patch things up…but it was too late….”
Two teardrops splashed into the mud at the base of the grave, intermixing with the rainwater.
“…and Sirius…you…and Aurelia….”
Remus leaned forward and touched his forehead to the headstone, his heart breaking again, weeping openly and alone in the graveyard.
“You were all my family…and then…and then….”
And you still have a family, whispered that voice that always sounded uncannily like Lily. A new family. Or you can, if you let yourself have it.
“Lily…” he murmured, “there are times still I wish I hadn’t let you go the way that I did…I wish I’d at least given us a chance….”
Your heart lies with young Nymphadora. She’s your reason, and your life, I can see that.
Indeed. We all can. And anyway, Sirius told us.
That I did! said Sirius, utterly pleased with himself.
You’ve come a long way, said James. You mean so much to the people who matter now in your life. Even to Harry. Especially to Harry.
Remus turned his face up hopelessly towards the sky, feeling feverish. “But I….”
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all lose control, and to be fair, I wasn’t exactly very understanding when you were so angry with me. I should have been, but…well…you know me.
He could hear James chuckle, and Remus managed a watery chuckle of his own.
Look, mate, don’t you remember what Tonks said? said Sirius. You know what the problem is. It isn’t about you taking yourself out of the picture, it’s about the two of you weathering this storm together. I told you once, and I’ll tell you again: watching you two fall in love was like watching old James and Lily here again. And look at what their love accomplished? It saved Harry’s life, it saved their son! Imagine what you and Tonksie could do….
Just think about it, won’t you Moony? James sounded almost pleading.
Please, Remus? Lily put in quietly.
Remus blinked, and the veil of surreality lifted, as did the opaque clouds crowding the sky, and the sunlight pierced through. Remus felt it hit his face, quite literally, and it raised his spirits as if Lily herself had taken his chin in her hand and forced him to look up at her, to look at James, and to look at Sirius, and Aurelia wrapped around him.
Or that was how he imagined it anyway.
Perhaps what had occurred had merely happened all in his head, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t really happen, now did it?
More to the point, he wouldn’t have expected anything less from his friends if they had been there, alive or dead regardless. They were right. Harry was right—the young man had a good set of instincts, a good head on his shoulders, for what it was worth, considering his parentage.
This meant of course…that Nymphadora was right.
And this rightness—it was the only true right that mattered.
I’m tired of trying to run from something inside of me. I’m tired of trying to leave behind something that makes me feel more alive than I’ve felt in years. And…even I’m tired…of my excuses.
Remus rose to his feet, and smiled up into the sunshine, into the warm breeze. “Thank you,” he whispered, and when he looked back down at the grave again, his smile widened.
Growing at the base was a very small, and very precious white lily.
Far from being a coward, he was still apprehensive about knocking on his in-laws door in Buckhurst Hill. Nevertheless, he had to hope that Nymphadora’s decision to take him back not only would be inevitable, but would put everything else to rest, and that there would be no argument that either Andromeda or Ted could make that would let her give up on him. After all, she was so steadfast in her faith in him.
He could see now, that she had good reason to be, for in retrospect, he imagined that in all likelihood, even if Harry hadn’t helped knock sense into him, along with his dead father, his dead mother, and his dead godfather, Remus would have eventually come back. Deep down in the hardwiring of his heart, he knew it to be integrally true.
But…no one answered when he knocked on the door.
He presumed they could see him through the windows and were trying to ignore him enough that he would go away again. Well, that certainly wasn’t going to happen. Not this time. He’d stay out here all night if he had to, if only she would take him back in her undying faith and love for him.
As it turned out however, no one answered simply because…no one was home.
Remus turned to see none other than Ted and Andromeda coming up their front walk from the gate. Ted was supporting Andromeda oddly, and then he noticed that Andromeda was limping.
“Ted, Andromeda, what—?”
“Shhh!” Ted looked about quite nervously and then whispered, “Inside, quick.”
“Ted, no! I’m not letting this hound within an inch of our threshold!” hissed Andromeda, and then she hissed again, this time from pain in her ankle.
“Andromeda, for Merlin’s sake, we’re letting him in,” Ted told his wife as he lifted the wards with one hand and opened the door. “Dora said he’d come back, she was dead sure, and look: she was right. So drop it, okay? Remus, get in, quick.”
“After you,” said Remus, courteously stepping back so that the injured Andromeda and Ted could get inside first.
Ted couldn’t argue with that, and so he helped his wife inside and then Remus followed.
When he closed the door behind him, Ted put the wards back up after he settled Andromeda on the sofa in the sitting room. Remus looked about, expecting Nymphadora to come down the stairs or from the kitchen, wondering what all the hubbub was, only to find her mother with an injured ankle and her husband returned after over three days of being gone.
But she didn’t show.
Had she locked herself in her childhood bedroom, shutting out the world, prostrate with grief at the abandonment of her husband? Had she lost her undying faith in him so quickly? Had he killed it so quickly?
Ted returned with ice for Andromeda’s ankle.
“I’m blaming you for this ankle as well,” Andromeda told him, glaring.
“As well as what?” Remus asked, rather dumbly. “Listen, where’s—?”
“It’s the reason I’ve got this twisted ankle,” Andromeda grumbled.
Remus felt his stomach clench. “What—what do you mean? Ted, what does she mean?”
Ted sighed as he administered Muggle remedies to his wife’s ankle: clearly unlike his daughter he was no great shakes at healing, whereas Nymphadora had come to mend broken bones in a trice. She had once mended a broken nose for Harry well enough.
“Remus, it’s Dora—”
The clench in Remus’ stomach tightened, and his throat grew dry. “Where is Dora?”
Ted looked him soberly square in the face. “Dora’s gone missing.”