Chapter 19 : Halcyon Days
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abyss @ tda
Lily was the first to react, though not necessarily the most coherently.
“Marlene...” Was all she said.
“You’re alive,” Dorcas breathed. “And okay.”
Marlene smiled a strange, cracked little smile. “Yes,” she said weakly. “Yes, it would appear that I am.”
And then the brunette launched herself at them, pulling the both of them into a group hug, full of sobbing and apologies and everything-is-going-to-be-all-right-nows.
“What happened?” Lily finally asked, when the three of them had broken apart, and Dorcas had a warm pot of tea brewing.
“I’m not sure,” Marlene confessed. “It’s kind of a haze, parts of it, so I had to get Remus to fill it in for me--”
“Wait, Remus?” Dorcas asked, eyes growing wide. “He was there?”
“Yeah, he was part of the rescue team.”
“Rescue team?” Lily repeated. “So the Ministry pulled through?”
“Sort of. He was the getaway vehicle. He apparated me to his house while James and--” Her voice cracked. “While James and Sirius held off Snape.”
“James and Sirius?” echoed Dorcas. At the names, Lily stood up suddenly, though she was not quite sure why.
“Yes. Are you guys going to let me finish my retelling, or are you going to keep interrupting me?”
“Both,” Lily said wryly, still overcome with a mixture of emotions: relief that her friend was all right, mingled with shock that James had been involved in all of this-- not that she should have been surprised; he was a part of the MLE after all, but, well, he’d been so cold when he’d dismissed her. Not to mention the leftover fatigue and despondency, part of the inertia of the past couple of days. She just felt confused, like a tangled mess.
Marlene once again gave a weak smile. “Yeah, well, I guess I’ll start from the beginning.”
The coolness that James had emanated when he’d been informed of the case by Lily had just been a calculated act. As soon as he’d left he’d gotten into contact with Sirius and Remus. They knew that cases at the Ministry could get awful slow sometimes, that things like these might take weeks and months to complete, and by then it might have been too late, so they had to take matters into their own hands. They’d gotten ahold of Marlene’s parents, and learned that they were instructed to send their letters to the post office, which meant that Snape, or someone else, must visit the post office at least once a day to collect them. So they’d tailed him from there, even though he was usually disguised; with their special ability, it was easy to follow Snape around undetected.
“Special ability?” Dorcas interrupted. “What do you mean?”
“They’re Animagi.” Lily wondered, once again, how Marlene seemed to know so much about them. She doubted that Remus would have spilled all their secrets to a girl they had only just rescued. But now was not the appropriate time to ask.
“Finally, they were able to find out the location of where he was keeping me,” Marlene continued. “And, well, at first I thought it was a dream,” she was blushing vaguely, “but it wasn’t. Remus apparated me to his house, like I said, and I stayed there this whole day, recovering. I was in a right state when I left, could barely walk two steps without wobbling, but they’re really good at dealing with these types of things. Eventually, I got the okay to visit you guys. Meanwhile, James and Sirius have been dealing with Snape. He’s in the holding cells at the Ministry right now while they’re forming a case against him, and hopefully, soon enough, he’ll be shipped off to Azkaban.”
Lily shuddered, thinking of the prison. “At least we’ll never have to worry about the likes of him again.”
How are you? I regret that my stay in Pemberley was cut short. I enjoyed myself there, and I was glad I had the chance to get to know you better.
Merlin--that sounds so stilted and formal. Sorry, I’m rubbish at letters. (And isn’t it funny, that we’re here again?) I just wanted to say thank you so, so much for your help finding Marlene and getting her back to us. I’ll have to admit, that surprised me: you seemed closed off when I told you about what happened, and I never would have thought that that might be because you were already scheming up a way to help. I’m touched by what you did.
I truly am sorry for misjudging you before, and I’m glad that I was able to get to know the real James Potter. Even though we don’t have excuses to see each other again, I would very much still like to remain friends. I really did enjoy your company and it’d be a pity if we fell out of contact again. I’d love to grab coffee with you sometime, and you know where I live if you ever want to stop by.
The melancholy in his eyes was enough to break her heart. “Please don’t make me repeat it, Dorcas.” He turned back to look at the water.
They were sitting on a bench overlooking the Serpentine--she had thought it was a nice, neutral place to meet. Dorcas wasn’t sure what she had expected from the meeting. She had been touched by Marlene’s story and his role in it, had been reassured by Marlene and Lily that the events of last fall were not purely his fault. There was more to the story, they had said. (She was a little resentful, actually, that the two of them seemed to know more about his secrets than she did.) So she had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. She had gone in the meeting expecting--well, closure, perhaps. Or explanations.
When he had said that he had something important to tell her, she hadn’t been expecting this.
Merlin. A werewolf. The explanation made sense--what he said made sense. She couldn’t fault him for leaving that day. Not after that conversation at the party, when she had mentioned her dead father. That didn’t excuse the fact that he could have actually had a conversation with her instead of making assumptions. But she’d be a hypocrite if she faulted him for having doubts and insecurities. Merlin. A werewolf, though. She really didn’t know what to say.
“I was bitten when I was five,” he continued quietly. “By Fenrir Greyback--yes, the very same one.” A touch of irony laced his tone. “My dad’s work at the Ministry had upset him, and he was out for revenge.”
She noticed that he still wouldn’t meet her eye. He sounded so sad that she couldn’t help it. She reached out and took his hand in hers. “My father had upset Greyback too,” she offered. She didn’t like to think about it, but, well. If Remus could face his monsters for her, she could do this. “I guess we have so much more in common than we even realized.”
There was another lapse in conversation, during which he looked forlornly at her hand intertwined in his, knowing it wouldn’t last. “Dorcas, I--I understand if you don’t want anything to do with me now that you know. I wouldn’t expect so much of anyone--least of all you, because of your father. I left that day because of that.” His eyes met hers at last. “That, and I wasn’t sure you felt the same way about me that I did about you. But I realize that that part was wrong now. I’m sorry that I broke your heart, and if I were anyone else, I would ask for a second chance. You’re amazing, and any guy would be lucky to have you. But,” his voice cracked ever so slightly, “I don’t deserve you. I can’t ask you to date a monster.”
This was the first time they had properly broached the topic of dating in a conversation they had had, and she caught on. Despite the solemnity of the situation, she couldn’t help her lips twitching upwards. “Remus Lupin, that must be the most backwards way someone has ever asked me out.” When he just gaped at her, she squeezed his hand. “Stop. You’re not a monster, and no one in their right mind would say you are, okay?”
The levity once again disappeared as she was pulled back into reality. It was all still a shock for her, and she honestly didn’t know what to think. All she knew was that seeing this man, this broken man in front of her--how could she call him a monster? He was Remus, her Remus, dear sweet thoughtful Remus. Remus who always put others before himself, Remus who would let himself suffer if that meant others would be happy. Remus, whom she loved. She hadn’t realized this coming in, but the thought was crystal clear to her now. Lycanthropy be damned.
His jaw was set. “Even so, a werewolf killed your father. You said so yourself: if you were ever around one, all you could think of would be him.”
“Fenrir Greyback killed my father,” she corrected. “And Fenrir Greyback bit you. Fenrir Greyback is, quite frankly, an awful scumbag of a human being,” she looked at him pointedly when she said those last two words, “who only knows how to ruin lives, and I was wrong for generalizing all werewolves with his lot. It wasn’t your fault, Remus. None of it was your fault, and how can I blame you for that?”
He looked like he was about to protest again, so she cut him off. “When I look at you, I see Remus Lupin. Sweet, caring Remus Lupin, who always puts others before himself and would probably win least likely candidate to be a monster in an accolade.” She might not know where she was going with this at the beginning, but now she saw what she wanted to say with resounding clarity. “You made me feel happier than I’ve ever felt before. You made me feel like my insecurities were insignificant, that I was special. I was, and still am, very much in love with you, Remus. I don’t know how to react to a lot of things right now, but I do know that for a fact.”
But she wasn’t finished. “I’m done being a doormat, and I’m done moping over things that are beyond my control. And I think you should be done, too. So stop calling yourself a monster and realize that you’re brilliant, and that there’s a brilliant girl who wants to be your girlfriend still, despite the fact that you’re kind of a masochistic, self-pitying, insecurity-ridden mess.”
He couldn’t help it: he laughed at that. As she spoke, his shocked expression had slowly morphed into a wider and wider grin, and this made him genuinely chuckle. He honestly couldn’t believe his luck. In all the ways he had imagined this conversation to go, he never imagined it to go so well (he had always been a pessimist when it came to things like these). “Dorcas Meadowes, you’re brilliant.” He didn’t deserve her, really.
She smiled. “I know.” She was liking this new taking initiative thing. “So go out with me, Mr. Lupin?”
They sealed it with a kiss.
Marlene McKinnon had had as many jobs as she had boyfriends--and that was saying a lot.
It wasn’t that she couldn’t keep a job. It was that she didn’t want to. She hadn’t found her calling in life, the way that Lily and Dorcas had seemed to. The witch had tried all sorts of odd jobs, some of which had exciting prospects at the start, but the passion soon fizzled out, and she inevitably grew bored.
Bartender, barista, Quality Quidditch Supplies shop attendant, Sleakeasy’s sales representative, Muggle motorbike mechanic: she had tried it all. Her latest endeavor as a waitress at Madame Puddifoot’s had been a disaster, never to be spoken of again.
Her parents lamented that she was wasting her Hogwarts education by picking up those blue collar jobs. What they didn’t understand was that after seven years at Hogwarts, perhaps she was sick of that dreaded white collar. She didn’t want to go through life being a robot just to fulfill other’s expectations of her. She had thought that she could just follow her gut, and find adventure and a more exciting life elsewhere.
And where had that got her? In a dead-end job with no prospects, exactly the situation she had wanted to avoid.
It was true that once upon a time, she had dreamed of working for the MLE. She had the grades for it, the awards for it--she was the reigning Hogwarts dueling tournament champion of two years, mind you. Lily might have been Head Girl, and Dorcas might have been Teacher’s Pet, but Marlene? She was a bit of a rebel, but she wasn’t too shabby herself.
Not that the Marlene of the past few years had anything to show for that. Too adamant on straying off the beaten path, she realized that she had gotten lost in the jungle: and that she was no longer queen of it. The incident with Snape was a rude awakening, one she had desperately needed. The lifestyle that she was living was not sustainable. Whoever would have thought that fearless, dueling champion Marlene would be stuck in that kind of situation? Gullible and helpless because of a bloke, sitting around waiting for other people to save her? Her seventh year self would have guffawed at the thought.
Damsel in distress be damned. She was going to take the reins again--and take the reign again. Determination brewing in her eyes, she told herself that she was still young. It was never too late to start picking up broken dreams.
Once Marlene McKinnon got an idea in her head, there was no stopping her. She was a force to be reckoned with. It was this force that caused her to push open the doors to the MLE and barge up to the counter, without really thinking about the consequences. Act first, deal with the aftermath later; that was always how she had dealt with life, and that hadn’t changed.
“Hi,” she told the receptionist. “My name is Marlene McKinnon, and I’d like to sign up for the Auror training program.”
It had been two weeks and he still hadn’t responded to her letter, and Lily had no idea why. She didn’t sound too obvious at the end, did she? She didn’t think wanting to keep in contact was too forward at all, especially considering how well that they had gotten along at Pemberley. She had been so sure that there was at least some chemistry there.
Maybe he didn’t want to have anything to do with her anymore, after realizing how messed up her life was. Well, if that were the case, the least he could do was at least drop a line saying something like, No thanks, you crazy bint, I’m out. At least then she would know definitively either way.
She was starting to feel a bit like how Dorcas must have felt after Remus left without saying anything when they had been doing so well before. Though the metaphor was no longer accurate, now. The two had tentatively started seeing each other again after everything had been cleared up. It had been Dorcas who took the initiative, actually. She was proud of Dorcas, really she was, and was happy for the two of them.
At least someone got their happily ever after, she sighed.
Lily Evans wasn’t bitter. Nope, not a little bit. How nice of Remus Lupin to actually reply to the letter Dorcas had sent to reach out to him, so that they could meet up someplace and have a cathartic chat. How decent and courteous, responding to letters when you were sent them!
All right, maybe she was a teensy bit bitter. And, well. She couldn’t blame James Potter for not responding, really. She knew that this was only her own doing. She had been too quick to judge him the first time around, and had blown her chance when she had it. And she wasn’t entitled a response, or anything at all from him, really. He had given her so much already. All she could do was look back on the days at Pemberley with nostalgia, and wish things had gone differently.
Wherever he was, she wished him well.
A/N: Officially updating from Europe this time. :D Not that where I update from is pertinent to the plot, but traveling is fun and I'm a little bit too excited. :') Thank you for all the continued love for this story. ^___^
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