Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay
- one, two, three, (four), and we all fall down
She is a Gryffindor. There is courage in her blood that sings like victory bells, but tonight there is no triumph in their defeat. There is nothing but a dull, quiet roar.
She is a lion. There is a fierce loyalty written in the thin lines of her mouth, in the protective curve of her arms around shoulders slumped with the weight of the world. Tonight, there are no words to describe the grief that threatens to cripple her, for they are gone, and she has failed them.
She is a mother who has lost her children.
-- one, two
The Potters were first.
Minerva’s vision blurred with tears as she watched the two mahogany caskets being lowered into the ground. Hundreds of people were crowded into this small cemetery in Godric’s Hollow to say farewell, to thank them for their sacrifice.
They were war heroes, but they didn’t think about saving the wizarding world when they died. They fell, their bodies bowed in defeat against Dark magic, to protect their son, a product of their love for one another. She knew she would have done the same.
She thought there must have been something more she could have done, more spells she could have taught them. Dirt slowly filled the graves and her heart clenched painfully in her chest. She should have protected them. A war was no place for children who had only just begun to live.
War meant death and there was no peace until there was a victor that stood above all else. As she watched Remus out of the corner of her eye, standing stoically beside her, fists clenched angrily by his thighs, she knew that both sides of this war had lost.
In the end, there was nothing she could have done to stave off the sharp, bitter sting of betrayal.
Peter Pettigrew was a foolish boy, falsely brave, but true at heart. He held his cards close and only when it mattered did he show his Gryffindor colors. But Peter stood no chance against Sirius, who stood laughing on the edge of a crater despite the blood on his hands. The scene was captured by reporters and plastered all over the front page of the Daily Prophet; even the photographs couldn’t hide the madness.
There was no body to bury, except a single digit, evidence of the brutality and violence of war. This was no simple Killing Curse. This was not painless. This was the culmination of years of lies and deceit, woven into a mask so perfectly worn that no one had even suspected Sirius. Still, she thought she should have seen the signs; she knew them better than anyone.
Millicent Bagnold, the Minister for Magic, was speaking now, offering her condolences and praising Peter’s bravery. Heroic confrontation, she said. Minerva thought it was sheer stupidity that placed him on that street with those Muggles, thinking he could take on someone whose greed and thirst for power could so easily eclipse ten years of friendship.
Peter’s mother sobbed loudly, her breath stuttering as she gasped for air. Professor Dumbledore handed her a purple handkerchief and patted her on the back as she blew her congested nose. Her hands shook, crinkling the certificate and the medal she had clenched between her fingers.
Order of Merlin, First Class, awarded posthumously.
In the end, it was always too late.
Sirius wasn’t dead, not really, but she still felt his absence as much as the rest of them. There was an ache in her chest that swelled and threatened to burst with fond memories of four boys, always cherished, adored, bound by a friendship that ran deeper than blood. She wondered what lies Voldemort whispered in Sirius’s ear, what promises were made to seduce a boy who once thought James hung the moon.
Five days after Peter’s funeral, she found herself sharing a cup of tea with Remus. His kitchen had seen better days: There were take-out containers littering the countertops and dirty dishes teetering precariously in his sink. She thought about saying something, telling him to take better care of himself. Lily, James, and Peter wouldn’t have wanted his grief to encompass him and render him incapable of surviving without them.
He said, “It’s Sirius’s betrayal that hurts the most.”
Sirius was a reckless boy, his true intentions often hidden by smoke and magic. There was an anger just simmering beneath the surface and sometimes, when she least expected it, she caught glimpses of it in the hardened steel of his eyes. But he was a good boy, a brilliant wizard, and this – this betrayal was almost worse than death.
She saw the defeat in the slump of Remus’s shoulder, in the frown lines around his mouth, and she gave his forearm a gentle squeeze, offering him what her words could not. She was their mother: Reassuring, always constant. She only wished she could have done more to save them.
In the end, Remus was the last one standing, but in another decade, another war, she would lose him too.
Author's Note: and we all fall down was take from a common nursery rhyme, Ring Around the Rosie.
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