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A/N: The idea of this one-shot came to me a while ago, but I'd never until now taken the time to really write it down. Thanks to my wonderful beta-reader Rosie!


Stars don’t cry


“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend”─ William Blake



***

“Remus!” Moody grabbed him by the shoulder that evening, ignoring the startled looks on Molly and Arthur’s faces. They had been eating in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place and Mad-Eye had just banged the door open, entering without invitation or so much as a preamble, each step he took producing a loud clunk on the tiles.

“You─ what the?” Remus blurted out as Moody dragged him outside and away from the pleasant dinner table. The door shut behind them and Remus found himself by the dark staircase, his eyes inches from the scars on Moody’s face and struggling to break free of his grip.

“Calm down!” Moody groaned with irritation.

Remus caught his breath, thinking that Mad-Eye had better explain quickly what the problem was─ since it seemed to be more important than his delicious dish. “What’s going on?”

“Dumbledore sent me to get you,” Moody let go of Remus’s arm at last. “They’ve caught Peter.”

Remus stopped dead.

“Take some Floo Powder and go to his office at Hogwarts,” Moody said authoritatively. “Now.”

***

“Where is he?” Remus questioned even before Dumbledore had had the time to turn around from the window. His faded grey sweater suddenly felt too tight; the air in Hogwarts was thick and suffocating and, had it not been for the snow he could see outside thanks to the moonlight, Remus would have sworn it was a sunny, warm summer night.

Dumbledore turned unhurriedly to face Remus, taking in his haggard appearance, from the dusty shoes to the aging features on his face. There was an unmistakable air of sadness about the way he stared at the man in front of him; as though he would have liked nothing more than to give him a reassuring hug. “Remus, have a seat.” The tone was unusual and not at all like the one Remus was accustomed to. It was both understanding and cold, and that unusual combination of seriousness and compassion made Remus uneasy.

Then Dumbledore took a couple of steps forward in a manner that indicated he had all the time in the world ─ which, Remus knew, was not at all the case─ and designated the chairs.

“There’s no time for that, where is he?” Remus’s slightly trembling voice sounded quite unlike him as it floated across the room, filling every corner of it.

Dumbledore heaved a small sigh and went to sit at his desk. Remus felt compelled to imitate him and, though he was bubbling with impatience, begrudgingly took the wooden seat that seemed to be waiting for him. He noticed on the way that the office had not changed at all since he had entered it for the first time.

He could still remember both his incredulity and the way his breath had caught in his throat when he had glimpsed the magnificent, undisturbed beauty many years before.

Too many years before.

True, there were maybe a few brittle silver instruments on the rickety-legged tables that had not been present in the past; the chandeliers were tarnished and the portraits had aged. Even Dumbledore’s beard was whiter and longer than before. But the quiet, peaceful atmosphere was still the same, and Remus would have loved to come there anytime with a good book.

Not today though; his mind was not on philosophy. “Where’s Peter?” he asked again, his tone becoming more urgent. He bent forward a little; his anxiety mixing with anticipation─ how could Dumbledore bear remaining so calm? They were losing time and Peter, meanwhile, was up there in the tower…

“He was apprehended on the grounds before he managed to enter the castle,” Dumbledore explained calmly. He had brought the tips of his finger together on the desk near a round, sculpted candle that emitted a bright golden light and illuminated his beard. “He was not aware of the latest defences that had been set up, and therefore did not succeed in entering Hogwarts, as was unquestionably his one and only ambition.” The light flickered so that a shadow passed momentarily in front of the headmaster.

“Why did he come?” Remus asked, slightly baffled by Peter’s desperate attempt to enter one of the world’s most secured places─ a task doomed to failure.

“I do not think he had a choice; it was either that or suffer Voldemort’s wrath. Peter knows of no useful information nowadays and is worthless. It was a good way for Voldemort to get rid of him: send him to his death to gather information inside Hogwarts when he no longer needs him.”

“Whatever,” Remus said, trying to place in his tone an airiness he was far from experiencing; his hands were clammy, sticky with sweat. “Can I go see him now?” He bit his lip and stared at Dumbledore’s eyes through his half-moon spectacles, although he thought he knew answer already.

But Dumbledore did not say no. The tip of the headmaster’s fingers trembled a little on the desk while the headmaster watched Remus closely, scrutinizing his face as though dallying with the idea.

“Yes, you can,” Dumbledore muttered finally. “I have not called the Aurors yet; however I will as soon as you will leave my office. That grants you five minutes─ ten, at the most.”

Remus reached the door in an incredibly short time─ but then stopped dead in his tracks. He had guessed even before he tried it that the door was locked and, although he didn’t yet know why, Dumbledore’s silence made his heart race in his chest. The feeling of triumph that had been so prompt to rise through him at the idea that Peter was finally caught vanished, and Remus walked back to the desk with resentment.

“Let me out.”

He realised as he said the words that his voice was now devoid of warmth; it had become more adamant and sharper with every second that had passed since he had arrived in Dumbledore’s office, so close─ and yet so far─ from Peter.

“There is one condition,” Dumbledore replied in an equally dour tone. “Your wand.” He brought his fingers apart and held out a hand in request.

Remus, far from doing as he was told, leaned forward on Dumbledore’s desk. Again, the flame of the candle flashed, threatening to extinct itself when Remus said with batted breath, “You can’t do this to me.”

“Be reasonable, now,” Dumbledore replied severely. He still wore the maddening patient air of his, but Remus sensed a growing irritation. Somehow he didn’t care─ contrariwise, he was taking a strange, unhealthy pleasure at seeing the man being so agitated. Dumbledore did not truly understand what Peter had done… the betrayal had not affected him the way it had Remus…

The candle died suddenly, and Dumbledore’s face darkened. Remus balled up his fists. “You don’t need my wand,” he said coldly.

“I don’t deem it necessary that you keep it with you. This is not the time to pay off old scores.”

Remus made a derisive sound. “What are you afraid of? You think I might kill him?”

Dumbledore’s eyes narrowed momentarily. “Will you?” He did not even glance at the candle but kept his gaze fixed on Remus’s dumbfounded expression.

“Why not?” Remus replied. How could he give a sincere answer when he didn’t even know himself what he was going to do? Ever since he knew the truth he had wanted to be alone with Peter to─

To do what exactly?

Anything. But he didn’t want to hand over his wand.

“You are not a murderer.” Dumbledore’s brow had clouded.

“What do you know about that?” Remus replied in a scathing retort, banging one of his fists on the desk. A sharp pain erupted in his hand. “Don’t─ Stop telling me what I─” He was fighting hard against himself to maintain his collapsing façade but his anger was gradually winning over the struggle. Eventually he could no longer keep him calm pretence. His face changed, the relaxed expression becoming rage, pure rage, deep rage that he had kept inside for too long.

“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!” Remus burst out.

Fawkes, who had been perched on a silver telescope by the window, let out a low cry as if daring Remus to keep shouting, and then flew over to his cage beside Dumbledore. Stroking the bird’s feathers fondly, Dumbledore gave a sad nod in Remus’s direction, before he said at last, “Oh, yes, I’m afraid I do.”

“NO YOU DON’T!” Remus went on. Dumbledore knew nothing. “DO YOU EVEN REMEMBER WHAT HE’S DONE?”

The corners of Dumbledore’s mouth twitched bitterly, and he stopped stroking Fawkes. “Lily and James were your friends, Remus, I am aware of that─”

“ARE YOU?” Remus was so mad he didn’t notice Dumbledore’s piercing eyes losing their usual twinkles, nor did he see the headmaster’s knuckles turning white as he gripped the armrests of his chair tightly. “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT FEELS LIKE! YOU DON’T GET IT BECAUSE YOU WERE NEVER WITH THE ONES WHO TRULY FOUGHT OUT THERE! THE NIGHT THEY DIED─”

“Enough!” Dumbledore bellowed suddenly. His face had blenched. “I understand more than you think, Remus.”

“How could you?” Remus laughed humourlessly.

Dumbledore raised weary blue eyes to Remus and whispered, “Because I was there.”

“You were there?” Remus repeated diffidently, his heart beating in his ribs; strangely he now feared Dumbledore’s next words, because he already knew they would shatter his world. “There… Where?”

“I was in Godric’s Hollow the night they died.”

There was a long, heavy silence. Remus could not move; he was paralysed, rooted on the spot, hoping against all hope that he had misheard. “You were there,” he finally muttered. “You were there the night─?” Sudden comprehension dawned on him. “You mean you arrived too late, right?”

“No.” Dumbledore paused before he declared, “I was at Godric’s Hollow when the Potters died.”

Remus took a step back from the headmaster, pushing the empty chair aside. He had never felt so lonely, so empty─ and so livid. This couldn’t be true─ and yet, if it wasn’t, why was Dumbledore so white and agitated? Why had his voice sounded so choked, as though overridden with shame and emotion? And why, why had Dumbledore looked away with something in his gaze that closely resembled repentance?

“Wait─” Remus crossed his arms on his chest. “The man in front of me is telling me,─” he said in a strangled voice, “that all I’ve always believed, all I’ve thought was true my whole life… is a lie.” He did not let Dumbledore the time to interrupt him; his desperation was too immense. “And the wizard in front of me, the greatest wizard in the world, is telling me that he was at Godric’s Hollow the night my best friends died, that he watched them being murdered under his very nose,” Remus gritted his teeth, “and that he did NOTHING!”

The syllables lashed the air, sharp and accusatory, and from that time on Remus knew things would never be the same again because they were words that remained unforgettable─ and unforgivable.

“Remus, I understand how much─”

“NO YOU DON’T!” Remus roared. Why did the headmaster keep asserting that he understood? Remus was looking at Dumbledore from above, seeing him in a new light, feeling more infuriated than he had ever before in his entire life. Above anything else he hated the unruffled voice of the one who had just shattered his beliefs so strongly that it felt like his world had crumbled. All he had built in a lifetime, all that he had relied on for the past twenty year had died barely a minute ago, when Dumbledore had spoken. “WHY DID YOU LET THEM DIE THEN?”

Dumbledore’s face had regained its usual composedness, though it was still whiter than normal. “I had been at Hogwarts in this very office, talking with Professor McGonagall, when Severus Snape interrupted us,” he explained. “Severus had only been spying on Lord Voldemort for me for a few days. Frantic, he told me that Voldemort had found out about the Potters’ hiding place in Godric’s Hollow. He had not been there in person when Peter had sold the Potters to Voldemort. Naturally he assumed Sirius had betrayed them. So did I. We were both wrong.”

“But─”

Dumbledore raised a hand to silence Remus. “When Severus told me where Voldemort was heading I left at once, and arrived before anything had happened.”

Remus was speechless. Dumbledore had been there, and Dumbledore, the only one Voldemort had ever feared, had done… nothing. To know the truth, to know that Dumbledore had not avoided the murder of Lily and James wasn’t even the worse part of it. No. To crown all, Dumbledore had chosen to lie to him for all this time and it felt like a second betrayal. Remus had built himself a well-orchestrated, well-organised life on the remains of his dreadful past, starting from scratch after Lily and James had died and Sirius had been taken to Azkaban. It was Dumbledore who had laid out the new bases, the new pillars of his entire existence and taught him values he still believed in.

“Severus was not responsible for the deaths of Lily and James,” Dumbledore continued. “He did everything he could to save them. He spied on Voldemort─” he averted his eyes. “And he called me.”

Remus said nothing. It was so absurd.

And yet... it fit. He had always wondered how Dumbledore had learned about the Potters' deaths so quickly. He had sent Hagrid to get Harry, but how on earth had he known?

His eyes blurred. “If you were there, why didn't you save them? WHY?”

The headmaster raised his head, his eyes set as they bore into Remus’s. “Because I am weak,” he stated.

Cold washed over Remus, a shocked expression settling onto his features. Dumbledore was not weak, he could not be weak. He had no right because he had always been─ and thus still was─ the most powerful wizard in the world. Dumbledore had been the one Remus had admired all these years, the one he had relied on, the one he had deemed most highly of. If Dumbledore fell─ he would fall, too. “You are not weak,” he said desperately.

Now Dumbledore had imitated Remus and had stood up too. “Oh, yes. I am weak. That night at Godric’s Hollow, I doubted for the first time that I could defeat Voldemort as easily as I had always pretended─ and thought─ that I could. Voldemort was at the height of his reign; he was more powerful in the Dark Arts than any man had ever been. Meanwhile there was the prophecy, the one about he and the child that had been born a few months before, the one prophecy that could be his downfall…” Dumbledore drew in a breath and straightened his glasses. “I must admit, I was curious to see─”

“Curious…” Remus repeated, his eyes dim with tears of grief and anger. “Lily and James were about to die and you were CURIOUS?”

“A wrong choice of words, you are entirely right,” Dumbledore said, shaking his head quietly. With a snap of his fingers he lit the candle on the corner of his desk again, then said with a slight hint of weariness, “sadly my mind is not as sharp as it used to be. All I meant was that I saw that night the one opportunity to see the Dark Lord defeated.”

“YOU TOOK A HUGE RISK THEN!” Knowing that Dumbledore had merely wanted to see what would happen was even worse than being taught that he had assisted to the murder of Lily and James. “YOU JUST SAT THERE HOPING THAT HARRY WOULDN’T DIE JUST LIKE HIS PARENTS!”

“Yes, I did,” Dumbledore said. For the first time ever Remus heard self-disgust in his voice as the headmaster walked around the desk. “The prophecy said─”

“THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STUPID PROPHECY!”

“As a matter of fact, it has got a lot to do with it. It said Harry would be given the power─”

“MIGHT be given,” Remus corrected hotly, Dumbledore very close to him now.

“Very well, might be given the power to defeat the Dark Lord.”

All desire to fight suddenly abandoned Remus. The chair seemed a lot more welcoming than before, and as his vision became unclear he sank into it, burying his head in his hands. He took in two deep, shaking breaths before saying with exhaustion, “They were my best friends... They wanted to be happy, they wanted a family… they had a son─ hang on─”

Remus had just realised something. “Is this why you care so much about Harry? Because you were the reason he has no parents? BECAUSE YOU AS GOOD AS KILLED THEM?”

Dumbledore did not answer.

“Why don’t you tell Harry the truth then?” Remus said, his temper rising again. “Are you too weak for that? God, his parents are dead! DEAD!”

Dumbledore brought his face inches from Remus’s. “Tell me I was wrong,” he said, his usually soft eyes unexpectedly overbright.

Remus was taken aback by the aggressive tone. “What?”

“Tell me I’m a murderer,” Dumbledore stared at him in the eyes. “Tell me I was wrong to want to defeat Voldemort, tell me I killed Lily and James, tell me I made a mistake in sacrificing two to save a hundred thousand others.”

For a moment Remus was too stunned to answer. Where was the man who had taught him all about respect and dignity, loyalty and devotion? Where was the Dumbledore clever and wise, the wizard so sure of himself, the peaceful philosopher who remained calm in the midst of danger?

“Say I made a mistake, Remus!” Dumbledore seemed furious at himself. He was waiting, one of his hands tucked inside a pocket of his cloak, the other laid flat on the polished wood of his desk. “That would only mean that I am human!”

Fawkes spread its wings. Seconds passed, precious as gold.

“The one who made the greatest mistake,” Remus finally articulated, “is Peter. Now give me my wand back.”

Dumbledore seemed strangely satisfied for a second, and then he became again the man Remus knew so well. “You won’t stoop so low as to kill him.”

“I… Don’t… GIVE─IT─BACK!”

“No.”

“FINE!” Remus yelled. He wheeled around. The door, when he reached it, was now unlocked. He swung it open.

Were the stairs that led to the Astronomy Tower empty when he climbed them? Maybe─ it was late, after all─ and maybe not. Remus might have passed some indistinct silhouette on his way; he no longer remembered.

It didn’t matter if he didn’t have his wand; he didn’t need one to kill Peter. He would avenge the Marauders.

And then─

And then he would live on; he would survive. As he had always done.

When he emerged on the top of the tower the cold air penetrated his clothes and reached his skin, making him shiver. Everything was covered with white, spotless snow but the sky was clear, the clouds having drifted away. It was hard to imagine how evil could exist when the night was so pure.

Peter was burbling under his breath when Remus arrived, and screwed his face when he glimpsed him. He was curled up in the dank, dusky cell, his bulging eyes filled with fear.

“R─Remus─” His voice was accompanied by a mist as his hot breath met the freezing air.

Without realizing it Remus had reached him and the heavily locked gate, hypnotized by the sight of Peter, whose decayed features were repulsing. He swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. He hated to admit it, but knew nonetheless that it mattered to him, even now, what would happen to Peter. A part of him wanted him dead; the other…

The other was the part of him that wished that one day Peter would become again the Marauder he had once been, and the friend that had shared his life for more than nine years. Somewhere in the back of his mind Remus had nurtured the hope that if he went to Peter now then everything would be back to normal─ but he had been way wrong. Never again would they share secrets, and never again would he understand what went on in Peter’s head─ because Peter was a murderer.

“Please,” Peter whinged, managing to get up. His face was scratched and drops of blood were dripping from a large cut on his chin; he wiped it out with the back of a hand and added filth to the sleeves of his tattered shirt. “Remus, my friend…”

Remus let out a bark-like laugh not unlike the ones he’d been accustomed to with Sirius, but in his mouth it sounded very unnatural. “I’m no longer your friend.”

“Don’t be callous...”

Callous? Do you even know what callous means? We were friends, Peter. We were four Marauders, four, before you destroyed all that for us!”

Peter cringed and Remus hated himself for saying the words, but somehow he could not longer stop himself. A wave of disgusting, nauseating anger was rising through him. “WHY ON EARTH SHOULD I HELP YOU? YOU BETRAYED US ALL, OR HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THAT!” He gripped the cold bars of Peter’s cell, letting out his fury on them, clutching the steel so hard that his fingers became gradually numb.

Eventually Remus let the bars go. “Sirius was locked in this very cell,” he said abruptly. “Did you know that, Peter? Sirius was locked here three years ago, and you were the one responsible for it.”

“I’m sorry!” Peter cried. “Remus, I’m so sorry…”

Remus swallowed. It was his fault if Peter had betrayed them toVoldemort. He knew it. If he’d been a better friend Peter would have stayed with Lily, James, Sirius and him. He should have been a better friend. “I’m sorry too. I’m sorry we never managed to keep you on the right side.” Remus let out the guilt he had been feeling for all these long years.

“Then open the gate, Remus.” A glint of hope sparkled in Peter’s worn out eyes. “Just… open the gate…”

When Remus did not answer the optimism in Peter’s pupils vanished. “You’ve become like them, like─ like Sirius and James, ha─ haven’t you?” Peter’s lips shook. “You want to claim you’re the one who g─got me because you’re l─ looking for pride? Is that why you’re fighting, R─Remus?”

“No, Peter.” Remus shook his head tiredly. “We’re all fighting for something greater than any of us. Even if it’s hopeless. Even if we’re all going to die. We’re fighting for a cause that you have failed to understand, for a cause that wants nothing more than to put an end to this all.” He gazed intently at the effete shadow before him, his eyes trying to penetrate deep into the soul of the one whom he had once called a friend. “We’re fighting, Peter, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Peter was breathing hard, as though he had just run a race. “I wanted to stay with you and Sirius and James … only he made me do it… the Dark Lord is so powerful, you have no idea…”

Remus stared at his feet and said without looking up, “It doesn’t matter; you should have stayed with us.”

“I know… Marauders, right? We were four, and we were together since the beginning…” Peter said more quietly. “The day we first met… You can’t have forgotten…”

Remus froze and shut his eyes, trying to make the words go away, trying to ignore the last two sentences Peter had spoken. But they wouldn’t leave him, and he couldn’t pretend he didn’t remember... In fact he recalled perfectly the day they had first met…

“Who are you?” It was Sirius who had spoken first. The four of them had found themselves inside the same compartment on board the Hogwarts Express even before their first year had started.

“I’m James Potter,” James had replied politely but with an underlying pride.

“P─Peter. Peter Pettigrew,” had answered a much more hesitant voice.

Remus had merely stared at Sirius with a slight crease between his eyebrows, as Sirius returned the glance with mild interest. Tall, even for a first year, the boy with black hair and a handsome face seemed to be quite a troublemaker; not at all Remus’s first idea of a friend.

“Who are you?” Sirius had repeated in Remus’s direction. Remus had answered at last, and from that day on they had been friends, and the Marauders had indeed been the best friends in the world.

These words were a part of him now, a melody that rung in his ears, because who are you? had once been the very symbol of their friendship. It was the one question they had kept repeating just for fun, when they woke up to greet each other, during lessons or night errands, the same way others said “hello” or “what’s up” or “guess who”. Remus kept that memorable mental image of Sirius whacking James playfully over the head on the way to the Quidditch pitch─ James had turned one of his Quidditch posters into a portrait of the Slytherin Quidditch team’s captain─ and then of James replying with mock interest, as though he’d just noticed Sirius behind him, “who are you?”

Now the words brought a chilling sensation in the pit of his stomach, because James and Sirius were both gone, and because many, so many things had changed. “Who are you, Peter?” Remus said hoarsely, finally looking up.

Behind the bars he thought he saw Peter’s features soften momentarily and his expression change. For a flickering second that felt like eternity time no longer counted. Remus knew Peter had in mind that very scene he had just remembered himself; and it was as though they had suddenly been thrown into the past, where reckless fun existed and where friendship had a true meaning.

They stared at each other for a long moment, Peter and Remus, Marauder and Marauder, betrayer and betrayed; and finally it was Remus who turned away, wishing he had never spoken because it was just too hard, seeing, in his mind’s eye, scenes from his memories and comparing the cheerful Peter from the past to the ragged, bloodied rat-like man in front of him.

Or was he still a man?

Remus took a couple of steps away and towards the battlements, looking anywhere but at that dark cell, feeling sick. Peter called his name, begging for Remus to let him out for old times’ sake, pleading for a hand. Remus ignored him, staring at the thick stones of the tower, wondering how Peter could still ask him for help after what he’d done─ because he was not Peter any longer; he was not recognizable.

And meanwhile, in the background, there was still─ always─ that terrible prospect, that horrible and unanswerable question: what should he do? What would he end up doing? Time was flying by, leaking, drop after drop, from the hourglass that counted unstoppably the minutes, the seconds left before the Aurors would show up to take Peter away.

Remus fell to his knees under the star-filled sky; looking at the night, hoping for a stroke of inspiration or praying wordlessly for solace in the immutable greatness of the stars. For an incredible minute he forgot Peter’s whimpers or the Aurors to become a little boy again, and through his child’s eyes he could make out the outlines of the constellations far, far overhead…

There were, at the apogee, Cassiopea, the mother of Andromeda, easily recognizable because its five stars formed a clear W in the night, and Perseus with its fairly bright stars. Then there were Aldebaran, Orion and Betelgeuse to the Southeast with, further away, Sirius, the Dog Star. Remus turned away from it as a chill ran along his arms, and stared instead at Pegasus, the winged horse in the West, and at the twin brothers Gemini in the East. Some of the outer stars were indistinct, covered by those of other constellations that had crossed the ages, spread across the vault of heaven: Leo, Andromeda, Cancer, Cygnus, Aquarius… all with their fascinating legends; all with their own history from the Greek mythology.

They were all there, they hadn’t changed; they, had least, had not turned their backs on him. They remained the solid, familiar anchor in the tumultuous sea. Remus had learned their names by heart long ago while waiting for the moon to rise every month; stars were the friends of the full moon, they were his companions… Dark Lords rose, men lied, friends became traitors and enemies were victorious but the bright, white dots in the immense firmament were ever-lasting. Stars never deceived, stars never weakened.

Stars never wept.

Remus’s eyes met earth again as he lowered his drained eyes onto the horizon. The grounds were displayed before him over the battlements; the greenhouses for Herbology, Hagrid’s solid wooden hut, the vegetable patch that was only a dim, barely visible dot in the distance, and, further away, bathed in moonlight, the Forbidden Forest. The edge of it was a clear, cleanly cut line that stood out; white over black with unreal glints of silver; untouched, frozen snow in front of the moving shadows of a huge mass of trees.

Even on his knees, painfully cold in the glistening snow, Remus had the frightening impression that he dominated the quiet surroundings and that from where he stood he was in complete control of the world.

And yet… that world had never been so far away from him than in that moment. No, he was wrong. Maybe the world was not at his feet for him to command but simply under his feet, in another unreachable universe, as it had always been. The earth was spinning without him, events occurred he could never change, for he was lost, an insignificant soul who could but cower before those who detained the real power in the magical, illogical world that had become foreign to him.

Peter let out a scream that was higher than the others and that shook Remus out of his reverie. It was a horrifying shrill of agony and terror, a plea for mercy that froze him to the bone more surely than any snow could ever have done. It reverberated through the night, echoing from one of Remus’s ears to the other, poignant and unforgettable like all the frightening sounds that can haunt a man.

The Aurors had arrived. They were six. Six to take away one single wandless silhouette shaking helplessly on the hard, glacial stones. Remus meant to get up but one of the Aurors gave him a swift glance and held out a hand to stop him.

“Stand back, sir. For your own safety.” He then turned around, leaving Remus to stare at them all as they unlocked the gate and entered Peter’s cell, their boots making muffled thumps in the snow, their faces wearing hard, impassive expressions when they grabbed Peter by the arms, making sure he could not transform back into a rat.

Remus had stood up despite the Auror’s warning. He was behind them but could have been miles away, because his mind was no longer connected to the rest of his body.

He was unable to detach himself from the past and forget, yet also unable to think of a future─ none awaited him. The present, crushed between these two abysses of time that were menacing to swallow him whole, was a nightmare. Nothing counted anymore but him and Peter. Him and Peter─ and that wand that the Auror was holding at his side as he concentrated hard on Peter’s every move.

Remus stood there, both his feet firmly planted in the inch-thick snow, transfixed, gazing intently at the wand and failing, for the first time in his life, to make a decision.

Then it was too late. The Aurors had turned around. Peter was shrieking as they led him down the stairs; then the footsteps became stifled and Peter’s cries faded away until they were gone.

Remus could have grabbed that wand and could have killed Peter. He should have killed Peter. They would have taken him, Remus, to Azkaban; but who cared? He wasn’t afraid of death,; not after having faced it so many times before.

He knelt again─ or maybe his legs gave away, but did it make any difference? The answer as to why he hadn’t killed Peter was both simple and terrible. He was weak. Dumbledore, you’re not the only one, he thought sourly. I failed too.

He had wanted to tell Peter things he had never wished to say before to anyone, so he would understand at last that it hurt to grieve. But somehow words hadn’t seemed to be enough─ whoever spoke them and however sharp they were, words would never be enough to describe Peter’s horrendous betrayal. They would never be enough to depict such cruelty or to justify the fact that a once very straight boy had chosen to side with Voldemort, had decided that something he didn’t even comprehend was worth forgetting years of friendship to join heartless assassins and cruel Death Eaters.

Maybe a scream would have been better.

Or a tear.

One single tear that would have run down his cheek slowly and taken away with it his anguish and rage. A lonely tear of sorrow that would have undone some of the evil that had been triggered and would have shown Peter, and the entire world with him, what it felt like to lose everything.

Because he had lost everything. He had even lost that sentence.

Who are you?

It had lasted longer than Peter; now, it was disappearing into the dark night. They had been four Marauders, one prematurely dead, one innocent prisoner who had fallen behind the veil, one traitor who would soon be gone, screaming in his cell in Azkaban. And him, Remus Lupin.

The words were fading away at present, a beautiful but unattainable illusion. Who are you? They had slipped out of his grasp, and Remus knew, with unspeakable certainty, that something had broken, that something greater than him had disappeared.

It dawned on him and penetrated into his mind, the one and only truth, inevitable, unbearable, the one he had constantly refused to acknowledge for all these long years.

Who are you?

They had been James Potter. Sirius Black. Peter Pettigrew. His friends weren’t coming back.

The words had vanished completely now, lost into the night, totally and thoroughly out of his reach just like the stars; and finally Remus knew, as a solitary tear rolled down his cheek, that whatever he would do from now on would never change the fact that he was alone, well alone, for the Marauders were gone.


The End.



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