He slept until about 10 a.m. the next morning and not long after he’d eaten breakfast, Lily stepped through the portrait hole, alone.
“I hoped you would be up. I know you usually are at breakfast by this time on weekends, so I just guessed you might be up. I told you I’d come by and visit you again, but if you’re busy, I can come back later.” she said nervously.
“No, it’s fine. I’m glad to see you. Have you had breakfast? I just finished, but if you want, you can eat here.” he offered.
“I already ate, thanks for the offer. Did you sleep okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, I did…a lot better than while I was at home. I had nightmares every night there. I’m so glad I didn’t have any last night.”
“I’m sure that was a relief. Hopefully you’ll be rid of them. I’m sure sleeping better will make the rest of your situation easier to deal with emotionally. I know you and Professor Dumbledore worked out a lot of the practical parts of it , but I’m sure it will take you a while to heal from so much hurt at one time.”
“Yeah, I’m sure it will. Dad really hurt me with what he said. Even though he was drunk and grieving, he still seemed to mean what he said. I don’t know what hurts more, the things he said or the fact that he lied to mom and me for so long. It’s hard to accept that he could do that, and that my own father doesn’t care about me; that he believes I’m worthless. It’s also hard not to believe him, at least a little.”
“I can understand that it would be hard not to believe your father. After all, we grow up trusting our parents and accepting what they tell us. But in this case Remus, you can’t do either. He’s proved by his actions- throwing you out of the house and lying to you for so long- that he can’t be trusted. So if you can’t trust him, you shouldn’t believe what he says either. I know it’s hard to think of it that way, but maybe it will help.”
“I guess you’re right, but I hadn’t really thought about it like that. I spent most of yesterday talking about what happened, but mostly just going over the details of it. I know I need to talk out my feelings, but I don’t want to dwell on it too much. Even though I’m hurt, life does go on.”
“You don’t need to dwell on it, but you shouldn’t ignore your feelings either. I’m here for you, if you want to talk to me- whenever you feel you want to.”
“I appreciate that. I am just not sure where to start, beyond saying that I’m hurting. Like I said earlier, it’s gonna be hard not to believe what he said to me. But your point of view makes sense. It reminds me of the kind of thing my mom would have said. She really believed in me and loved me. She was incredible…she took care of everything. She taught me everything I know, she always made me feel good about myself, she soothed the hurt when I lost the friends I’d had as a kid, she tended my wounds every month, and sometimes stayed up all night when I was transformed, just so I wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor. She never wanted anything but the best for me, that’s why she wanted me in school, and wanted me to stay once I got accepted. She never tried to convince me life would be easy, but she didn’t want me to give up without trying either.”
“It sounds like she was well equipped to raise a werewolf son…and she did a really good job with you. I know you miss her, and always will, but I think you should try to remember her words and lessons more than your dad’s.”
“I guess so. She never wanted me to pay much attention to critics either, and I don’t think she would have felt differently just because it was Dad. In fact, thinking about it now, she may have been concerned that he would say something like that to me- that may be why she reminded me so often to ignore the critics and doubters.”
“That’s certainly possible. She may not have known exactly how he felt, but she wanted you to be prepared for criticism wherever you might encounter it. I suspect if she could, she would say to you pretty much the same thing I’ve said- don’t believe what your dad has said. You are not worthless, or a monster. You are a brilliant, kind, loving young man that any parent should be proud to call their son. The fact that you’re a werewolf is not your fault, and doesn’t change the person you are. The only thing it means is that you have a condition that requires managing, and you do that much better than most other werewolves do. You value human life and don’t want to harm anyone, even by accident. That says a lot about your character, Remus.”
“I hadn’t thought about it that way. I guess it’s easier to believe the bad stuff, especially since society reinforces those ideas. I appreciate what you’re saying; you always do know how to make me feel better about myself.”
“I’m glad to know it helps. I’m just telling you how I honestly see you, Remus. Maybe someday the rest of the wizard world will be able to see you for the person you are, not for the form you take one day a month. Maybe someday the healers will come up with things that will make your life normal, or at least nearly normal.” she said.
“I hope so… that would be wonderful. I’ll try to remember what you’ve said. I really think seeing the situation, and myself, the way you do can help me heal. I’ve also decided I’m gonna go back to the dorms today…staying in here won’t really help me. I think I’ll do better to get back to the routine of school and just talk to you, the guys, or Professor Dumbledore whenever I need to.”
“You might be right, getting back into a routine will keep your mind off it, at least a little bit, and it might help you heal from this. As you said, life does go on, no matter what happens.” she said.
A moment later, Professor Dumbledore came into the room, so Lily told Remus goodbye, then left to go to the common room. Professor Dumbledore spoke to Remus
“How are you this morning? I hope she didn’t leave just because of me.”
“No sir, I think she was going to meet some of her friends in the common room. To answer your question, I’m doing okay. I slept better last night than I have in several days; I didn’t have any nightmares. I also wanted to tell you that I’ve decided to go back to the dorms today. I’ve done a lot of thinking and I believe the best way for me to start to heal is to get back to my life. As long as I’ve got someone to listen when I need to talk, there’s no reason for me to stay here.”
“If you’re sure you feel ready, then you certainly may return to the dorms, and resume your classes on Monday. I’m glad to hear that you slept well last night, hopefully you will be able to continue to sleep without nightmares. Even after you return to your dorms, you can still talk to me or any of the teachers if you need to, as I told you earlier.”
“Thank you sir, I was hoping that arrangement would still be in effect.”
“Of course it is. Do you need some help moving your things to the dorm?”
“No sir, I think I can carry both bags, or I’ll levitate one of them. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Okay. Is there anything else you need to talk to me about?” the headmaster asked.
“No sir, I spent a lot of time talking to Lily this morning and she told me some things that I hadn’t thought of that I believe will help me deal with some of the things my dad said to me. The rest, as you said to me before, is more or less a matter of time.”
“That’s true, and I’m glad Miss Evans was able to help you.”
They talked for a few more minutes, then Remus decided to leave when the headmaster did so that the quarters could be closed up.
On Monday, he returned to his classes, and each teacher gave him the notes and assignments he had missed during his absence. Though news of his mother’s death had spread through the school, it only resulted in a few expressions of sympathy, not the many questions he had expected. The remaining details of his situation had been kept secret, as his friends had promised.
As time went by, being busy and knowing he was doing what his mom wanted kept his mind focused. Lily’s advice to him helped keep his spirits lifted any time he thought of her words. Soon the falling leaves of autumn gave way to the first snows of winter in early November. The rapidly approaching holidays had most of the students excited, but Remus just felt empty. The festive mood just reminded him that there was no one waiting to see him, to welcome him home, and no presents from family under the tree.
However, he was glad to learn that Sirius would be staying at school for the holidays as well. At least the two of them could have some fun together and study if they wanted to. On the evening of the last Quidditch practice before the holidays, it was snowing heavily, so Sirius did not follow James as he so often did. In spite of the inclement weather, Peter followed James to the field, so Remus and Sirius were in the dorms together, talking about the upcoming holidays.
Sirius apparently could sense Remus’ mood, and asked
“What’s bothering you? I have a hunch what it is, and if you want to talk, I’m willing to listen.”
“It’s the holidays…being reminded that I don’t have a home or family anymore. I miss my mom- she always enjoyed Christmas and made it special for us, even when we didn’t have much money to spend on gifts. Even though I’m angry at dad, I miss him too, because he is part of my family. Does that make any sense?”
“Yeah, it does…and I kinda know how you feel. Both of my parents are alive, and so is my brother, but none of them want me to come home. Because we disagree on a lot of things, they’ve practically disowned me; it’s almost like I don’t exist. Regulus is going home for the holidays, they made sure he’ll be there, but they told me it was better if I just stay here. They’ll probably send me some generic, almost meaningless gift, just so they can say they gave me something, but it won’t be anything compared to what they’ll get him.”
“I wasn’t even thinking about how hard all of this must be for you. I’m sorry I mentioned it.” said Remus
“Don’t be. Besides, I asked you what was bothering you. But this is not new to me, I’ve been dealing with their attitudes for a while. There is a difference too, you’re grieving over your mother’s death- a death you watched slowly happen. That can’t do anything but hurt. You lost the single most important person in your life, then the other person you should have been able to count on kicked you out, so of course you don’t feel like celebrating. I just understand part of what you’re feeling in the sense of missing the sense of family we had until I was about nine or ten. We got along well until then, but then things changed. My family seemed to love and care about me, until I started questioning their opinions and disagreeing with them.”
“How do you deal with it?”
“Well, this year is worse than it’s ever been. They’ve never told me that it would be best if I didn’t come home for the holidays. They’ve been mad at me before and I’ve chosen to stay here to avoid them, but this is a bit different. What has helped me in the past was to just enjoy spending time with you guys, and reminding myself that at least I wasn’t arguing with somebody every day. It helps me some, but I don’t know if it will work for you."
“I guess I should think about what I’ve got to be thankful for. I’m in school, I’ve got great friends, medicines to make my condition easier to manage, and I get along great with all of my teachers. The three of you have accepted me even knowing what I am, and that’s something I never expected. Of course, the fact that the three of you are working so hard on the animagus charm because of me is more than I ever imagined anyone would do.”
“We’re just hoping it will actually be useful for us to turn into animals. James is really sure that we’ll be able to keep you from hurting yourself so much. He’s also thinking that we might be able to run around in the woods and explore the area a bit.”
“We’ll have to be careful about that. Whatever happens, you guys will need to make sure I don’t run off and bite someone. As far as keeping me from hurting myself, I don’t know if it will work or not. It will be great if it does, as long as I don’t hurt any of you.”
“We’ll do the best we can. I just thought of something that might help you a little with the way you’re feeling. You could get Professor Dumbledore to take you to the cemetery. If nothing else, you would get to talk to him, and he’s always got advice. You know he’d probably agree to it.” suggested Sirius.
“I’m sure he would, and I might do that. I don’t really know if it would help, but I have been thinking about that same thing for a few days. I’ve actually spent a few evenings with him, and he’s given me some advice, but mostly what he’s said is that it takes time. Everyone goes through grief a bit differently, and it can’t be rushed. What he’s said makes sense to me, and it sounds like he’s had some experience with it. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing he’s lost someone really close to him.”
“That’s probably true. You know someone his age is likely to have lost some friends or family during his life.”
“Yeah, that’s what I think too. I just thought of something, if your parents don’t want you to come home for the holidays, why aren’t you going to the Potters’ house? I’m sure they wouldn’t mind you being there.”
“I’m sure they wouldn’t mind either, but I’m staying here for a couple of reasons. James is supposed to talk to his parents about me moving in with them, and I thought it might go better if he does that himself. If they’ll let me, I intend to move in permanently- I’ll go home one more time to get my things, then I’m leaving for good. The other reason I’m staying is that I just guessed you might like some company.”
“I appreciate that. The holidays will be more fun with you here.”
Remus’ supposition about the holidays was proven correct. While nothing could replace Christmas at home, he did have fun with Sirius. They explored the castle a little, spent some time outside, and did a lot of talking. Though Remus had known Sirius for four years, he learned a lot about his friend during the holidays. Neither of them had solutions to the others’ problems, but both were glad to have someone to talk to that could understand how they were feeling.
On Christmas Eve, Remus and Professor Dumbledore went to Mrs. Lupin’s grave. They stood silently for a few moments, then Remus conjured a bouquet of pink roses. He looked around for a vase, but couldn’t find one. Professor Dumbledore realized the problem, picked up a large stone that lay exposed in the snow and transfigured it into a vase. Remus placed the flowers in it, then positioned the vase as securely as he could against the headstone. Professor Dumbledore touched Remus gently on the shoulder, then said
“I’m going to walk over there” pointing to a section of the cemetery about 100 feet away “to look at those graves and give you some privacy. Take your time, but when you’re ready to leave, join me.”
Remus thanked him, and after he’d walked away, Remus knelt in the snow in front of his mother’s headstone. He ran a gloved finger over the letters of her name, realizing this was the closest thing to contact he’d ever have with her again. He stared at the granite for a moment, then decided to talk. He knew his mom couldn’t really hear him, but the idea of telling her everything that had happened, the plans that had been made and how he was dealing with it all was just too strong to resist. Perhaps most importantly to him, and it would have been to her as well, was the assurance he gave that he knew he would be okay. Somehow, saying it aloud helped strengthen his belief in the truth of the words.
After he’d finished, he rose then walked over to Professor Dumbledore. His pace was quickened by the fact that the knees of his pants were soaked from the melting snow. Once he assured Professor Dumbledore that he was ready to leave, they returned to school.
When Remus got out of bed at 10:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, he wasn’t expecting any gifts. To his surprise, there were two packages with his name on them under the tree. He gathered them up then sat in one of the chairs near the fire. Sirius was sitting across from him in the other chair, with three packages of his own.
“Did your parents send you something, Sirius?” he asked.
“Yeah, they did. I got one from Uncle Alphard, and one from the Potters too. Who are yours from?”
“The Potters, and this one is from Professor Dumbledore, I think. I need to read the note.” he replied, opening the envelope and unfolding the stiff parchment inside. He then read aloud
Your mother realized this spring that she might not live much longer. Naturally she did not know everything that would happen, but she wanted to make sure you got something for Christmas. She asked that part of the money she gave me be spent on Christmas gifts for you each year you are here after her death. She didn’t leave instructions as far as what I should buy, she just told me to follow my instincts. I hope the gift I chose this year is one you will like and be able to use.
Remus opened the box, not sure what to expect. He lifted out a thick leather bound journal, a new steel gray quill and a bottle of ink.
“This is really nice. I wonder what made him chose it?” Remus wondered aloud.
“He probably thought you’d be interested in writing a lot. I’m sure you’ll find a use for it. Kinda neat that your mom left you a Christmas gift fund, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is. But that’s the kind of thing she would do. She always tried so hard to make everyone happy. So what have you got?”
Sirius picked up the package from his Uncle Alphard and opened it. Inside were two muggle magazines about motorcycles, and a metal replica of one that was about nine inches long.
“This is cool. Uncle Alphard always knows what to get me. I think I’ll put it on the table by my bed.”
“Is that the kind of motorcycle you want to buy later? I remember you said you hope to get one.”
“Yeah it is the same kind. This is just to look at, it’s a replica. But the real ones look the same, just bigger and of course they’re fast. It makes me glad I didn’t go home- my parents would have had a fit over this. The only way I could have kept it would be to make sure they didn’t see it. Since it came here, I’ll just pack it in my school trunk, and they’ll never know.”
He set it aside and they each opened the package from James’ family. Each of them got a large tin of Mrs. Potters’ homemade fudge. While they nibbled on it, Sirius opened his last package- the gift from his parents. It was, as he expected, a generic gift that they obviously didn’t care whether he liked or not. They had given him a fruitcake. Though he chuckled about the gift, the pain of their obvious snub was apparent in his eyes for a moment. He closed the box and put it aside, promising to give it to the school elves to either eat or throw away.
The remaining days of the holiday passed pleasantly. They spent some time studying in preparation for the new term, and Sirius taught Remus the spell to change him back from his animal form. Then Sirius spent a little time practicing his transformation.
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