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Remus had managed to talk himself into believing that this was for the best, even though every now and then, the image of his sleeping wife would steal back to the fore-front of his mind. He pushed the thought away again, certain the sooner he forgot about it all, the sooner the longing would go away. She was better off without him, and hopefully look at it after some time as a careless fling. He would always shut up the nagging little voice that told there was still the tiny little detail of their marriage and their child. The thing that always worked with that was when he recalled that it had been Umbridge in the first place who came up with the laws which complicated it for werewolves to marry and find employment; he’d heard that she was still in high favour with the new regime. Shouldn’t be too difficult for her to get a divorce. As for the child … He shuddered again, his mind going blank. It would only lead him back to the point of telling himself that he shouldn’t have allowed this to happen. A romantic relationship was one thing, but a marriage and a child?

After several hours of wandering around aimlessly, he decided he might as well go look for Harry, maybe he’d be of some use in whatever it was the boy was doing. He certainly felt like he wasn’t of much use in any other aspect of his life.

Hogwarts and Godric’s Hollow had been his first bet, but school was not in session, and there wasn’t anything or anyone there for him at the moment. And he doubted any of the three teenagers had ever been to Godric’s Hollow before, he had not found a trace of them in any case. What he did see, however, were Death Eaters on the lookout. That’s when he had thought of Grimmauld Place, however much Harry might detest the place, it was actually his, and in addition to that heavily protected by magic. Alastor had also cast additional protection against Snape after Dumbledore’s death.

Tthere were Death Eaters stationed outside as well where he could clearly see the old Black house, whereas they apparently couldn’t. Watching them, he saw what they saw – from time to time, they would jump up after catching glimpses of a hand or occasionally an elbow suspended in mid-air. Remus, in contrast to them, would also see the door open and close seconds later. To his frustration, their constant presence also meant he could not just go in.

Finally, it was the third day he had been watching Death Eaters and the house alike, the pair watching the space between numbers eleven and thirteen seemed to grow bored with their task and took to play a few heated rounds of Exploding Snap. Concentrating very hard on the top step, he turned on the spot, appearing moments later where he had wanted to be and tapped the door in the complicated pattern that had always opened the door before. It creaked open ominously, and as soon as he stepped over the threshold, an invisible gust of wind picked up, and dust rose up all around him. His tongue felt like it was folding up in his mouth, and the figure of Albus Dumbledore rose out of the shadows and dust. He managed to disable the enchantment, but was stopped in his movement by a firm voice coming out of the dark. “Don’t move!”

With his eyes a bit more adjusted to the diffuse lighting in the hall and the dust still swirling around, he could now make out the three people he’d been looking for. He raised his hands and said his name. Hermione and Ron averted their wands, shutting up Mrs Black’s portrait as she had started screaming obscenities again at hearing the voices. Harry, however, did not lower his wand, and asked for further identification. With an appreciating nod, he moved in the light, and listed off various facts about himself. Apparently, it was good enough, as he was allowed to move forward, and then they rushed towards him. ‘Thank God, they’re okay,’ he thought, and rushed into an explanation how he had got there, and then suggested going down into the kitchen. He was rather curious what had happened after they left The Burrow, and he could tell they were just as curious.

Pulling out several bottles of butterbeer he had bought during a stint to the Leaky Cauldron, he started his inquiry. He almost choked on the sip he’d taken when Harry told him they’d run into a couple of Death Eaters on Tottenham Court Road. “What?”

After hearing the tale, he could absolutely not fathom how Death Eaters could have found them as fast as they did. It was something that really worried him; it reminded him too much of others being caught in the exact same unprepared way.

The matter was cast aside when Harry asked what had happened after they left. He told them about the interrogations, and the failure of the wards. Seeing the disbelief on their faces, Remus pulled out a copy of the Daily Prophet he had picked up that morning, which held an article about Harry as suspect in Dumbledore’s murder.

“The coup has been smooth and virtually silent,” he said. Officially, it had been announced that Scrimgeour resigned; and had been replaced by Pius Thicknese. Although the Order strongly supposed the latter was under the Imperius Curse.

Devastating as it was for them, it was a clever move on their part, as he also explained when Ron said Voldemort should have just declared himself minister. People would whisper about the drastic changes, but the ministry was still seen as the governing body, not as the villain. Remus pointed out the article about the Muggle-born Register, as he was quiet certain they did not know about that either. His expression darkened when he thought about the letter his father-in-law had received; he was to attend a hearing to determine how he had obtained his magical powers. ‘Invitation to an interview’, they were calling it, but it couldn’t have been clearer what it really was.

Ron’s reaction at this had him smile, it was apparent he would go to great lengths to protect Hermione. She seemed grateful, squeezing his hand affectionately, but dismissed it and aske dabout Hogwarts. That was another thing that worried him greatly, attendance had become obligatory, with required documentation of Blood Status. He’d seen how worried Arthur and Molly had been about letting Ginny go for the school year, and really couldn’t blame them. Yet another reason, he thought, why he should have been more careful.

A lapse in the conversation followed when they all pondered this latest blow. Remus hesitated, then addressed why he had come in the first place; the mission Harry had supposedly been left by Albus Dumbledore.

Harry confirmed as much, but would not budge when asked what exactly that entailed. He’d known he’d receive that answer, but still felt disappointed. Suppressing the feeling, he offered them his company and protection all the same.

Harry seemed tempted; Hermione asked into the pause, perplexed, if Tonks would be okay with that. He staved off the question whether everything was alright between them. Everything is just as it should be, he thought, suppressing every other notion. Almost against his better judgment, he voiced what he hadn’t told anyone before, “Tonks is going to have a baby.”

The response was immediate, the trio broke out in congratulations and well-wishes. Trying to change the topic again, he repeated his offer.

He, as well as Ron and Hermione, looked at Harry. Just as he himself and Sirius and Peter would have looked at James for the final say.

Harry’s voice sounded strangely emotionless as he recapped Remus’s own words, and as the thought of joining them took root in him, he marshalled what he thought the best argument – James. He’d look after Harry for his old friend; as all of the three other Marauders had sworn the day of Harry’s birth.

Harry’s next words didn’t sink in immediately, but when they did, he felt like a bucket of ice-cold water had been dumped over his head.

“I’m pretty sure my father would have wanted to know why you aren’t sticking with your own kid, actually.”

He tried defending his decision, addressing the dark-haired boy as much as his own thoughts or Dora, had he had the courage to tell her in person. He didn’t know when he had actually jumped up, all his fears for this unborn child gathering and pouring out in one breath.

Hermione’s words of encouragement could not reach him, but Harry’s calm words would become engrained in his memory.

“Oh, I don’t know, Hermione. I’d be pretty ashamed of him.”

The rest of the conversation – no, it was actually an argument – seemed too unreal to actually be happening. He stumbled about his words, disbelieving and totally taken off guard by the cutting words he was hearing.

Coward. The word set him off, he had his wands pointed at the boy he thought he knew before he could even process what he was doing. Harry was thrown back; Remus took no head as he stormed up the stairs and out of the house, disapparating the second he reached the top step. It did not matter where he was going; all he knew he needed air. Air and space. His breathing was laboured, even though he hadn’t done anything physically exhausting.

He fell to his knees, not caring where he was, he might have landed in the middle of a Death Eater meeting and he wouldn’t have cared. No, no, no. Shut up. Shut up. Harry’s words would not go away, no matter how hard he pushed his hands against his ears. He was gasping for air, and it still didn’t seem enough. “Shut up. You have no idea what it’s like.” He shouted it, then he rolled up in a foetal position, whispering it to himself like a mantra.

A coward. His son would be ashamed of him. Of course, who wouldn’t be ashamed to call a werewolf father?

Remus staggered to his feet again, grasping his wand tightly, before he disapparated again. He needed something stronger than butterbeer now, the word Coward! ringing in his head once more. His stomach felt like it was filled with lead. He hadn’t known how much Harry’s regard had meant to him, not until he’d lost it. He almost wished it really had been a Death Eater meeting where he had apparated first. It certainly felt like there was nothing left for him.

*

Dudley was getting bored. He’d always thought wizards were freaky, because that was all he’d ever heard from his parents. But when he watched them use their ridiculous sticks – wands, as he had come to refer to them more reverently, and had seen what one could do with them – he was awestruck. The few children around the house – he had no idea where they actually where because they weren’t allowed outside, which only contributed to his boredom – seemed to be making an effort, and when he had asked why they didn’t use their wands like the adults did or if they could show him how to do it, they had brushed him off. It had taken him some time to recall that although Harry had threatened to hex him, he’d had received an official warning when he had. Did that mean one had to have some kind of licence? Because the adults clearly did it all the time.

The boy realised he didn’t really know anything. Everything his parents had ever told him about that strangely fascinating world was derogative. Questions over questions overwhelmed him. Why hadn’t he ever asked Harry about it, back when his cousin was home for the summer holidays? Everyone seemed to know his scrawny little cousin, and spoke highly of him. He wasn’t used to that. He was used to his parents’ admiration, and cowering from his peers. As Dudley’s self-confidence had taken a hard blow during those first weeks when that had changed so drastically, he’d started thinking. What else was there to do, really?

Back home, he had been in school – or at least he had left the house when it was time for school, but didn’t always make it there – and had bullied his peers until no one dared oppose him, he’d been the leader of his own select group. If he didn’t like someone, he didn’t have to deal with them. Now, it seemed, he was the odd one out. No one to back him, and relying on his superior physical skills, they still all had wands.

Furthermore, now that he was stuck with his parents for most of the time, he realised how stuck they were in their own ways. Was he headed in the same way?

It all came back to the same thing: Why hadn’t he made peace with his cousin, had asked him all the questions he only realised he had? Who was he and what were his strengths, underneath his big, threatening posture? He wasn’t even that smart, he admitted as he wallowed in his self-pitying thoughts; he hadn’t really tried that hard in school. And he’d certainly never spared a thought for his future, he’d naively assumed he’d be able to go on like this forever, spoilt and everything nasty taken care of, and strangely, that picture had included Harry with them during the summers.

Some of those thoughts had started taking root in his mind after his experience with the dementi-thingies. No one could really explain to him what they really were. The days immediately after the event during last summer, he’d been to out of it still to confront the only wizard he knew – Harry. And then his cousin had been gone again, sooner than all the summers before. And during this last summer, there had been an air of determination and serenity about his cousin, he hadn’t dared approach him. He’d left him food in front of his door, a cup of tea here or a sandwich there, because he had always chickened out at the last second to actually go into the room. And now, everything had changed. Would he ever see Harry again? Would he ever go back to Little Whinging? Did he want to?

Dudley retreated from the window, when the sun peaked over the surrounding hills. The man called Dedalus had appeared out of thin air, and striding towards the house through the morning mist. As he had done many mornings before. Maybe he should start getting to know those wizards at least. If they let him.

*

Percy kept his head low, bent over his desk. Since Thicknese had been declared Minister, he had been demoted. The change had brought a lot of new Ministry personnel also, and not of the kind Scrimgeour or even Fudge would have hired. They hadn’t been bad men, for that he would stand. But could they have averted the current situation, had they taken action? Or – he couldn’t believe he was saying that – if they had listened to Dumbledore? Did he himself have a part in it?

One thing was for sure – and it was purely egoistical on his part – he’d bet on the wrong broom, and it hadn’t played out. He’d only lost his family. He hadn’t known that would even matter to him as much as it did, not too long ago he would have sacrificed everything for his career. Now, he even missed the tricks they used to play on him. Ambition and perfection had always been his little niche, his way of standing out amongst his brothers, and of course his sister, the first girl for generations, who for that fact alone had always been special.

His desk was tucked away in a corner. He worked diligently and without causing a fuss, watching and keeping his ears pricked. There had been many incidents when he had been halfway out of his chair to intervene, before sinking back down. It was the easier thing to do, to keep one’s head down and hope for the nightmare to pass. His Gryffindor spirit was rearing its head, was warring with his more rational side. And still, he hesitated. He did not support all those new measures, was suspicious of the glazed eyes of some of his superiors, and watched with an extremely uncomfortable feeling how former co-workers did not return to their desks, or the leaflets that were now flooding their world. Yet, there was nothing really tangible to go against.

He was only one small human being, and accusing Pius Thicknese, long-serving Ministry employee, former Head of Magical Law Enforcement and newly-elected Minister of Magic, of committing crimes against other wizards. He just had no proof of anything yet, only a bad, unshakeable feeling. The Daily Prophet’s reporting did not help either, nothing negative was being reported about the new personnel, and he’d been following them long enough to at least know that that was highly unusual.

When Yaxley passed by the open doors, he returned to his current file. He would bide his time, and sincerely hoped others were doing the same, and not just keeping quiet because they genuinely agreed with all the new politics.

*

Andromeda Tonks wandered her house in the early hours of the morning. Sleep evaded her these days. She wondered how Ted did it, she couldn’t count the times when she was lying awake, just listening to his calm rhythmic breathing.

They’d lived through the first wave of You-Know-Who’s attacks back when they were young; would they make it through another? Bella had always been on her case, but now she was backed, apparently, through the whole Ministry. The summoning to appear before the Muggle-born Registration Commission addressed to her husband weighed heavily on her mind. Already there were rumours that several Muggle-borns, who had unwittingly and full of faith in the Ministry, followed the summons, and were never seen again.

Just yesterday, Nymphadora had sent a family over, entrusting them in her parents care. Andromeda did not mind; she had come far from the Black family’s beliefs. She’d seen her fair share of grief, not least of which was caused by people she had grown up next to. She didn’t exactly know how; first they had only agreed to help her cousin Sirius’s godson, and now they were providing shelter for others who were on the run. The Creeveys, who had arrived yesterday, had two boys of Hogwarts age. Gryffindors, she thought with a mix of fondness and exaggeration, likening them to her favourite late cousin. Both seemed to have accepted, however grudgingly, that they would not return this year, but at the same time, were not ready to accept that it was the end. For anyone so young, they were quite confident that they could and would fight before all was over.

The task of preparing herself a cup of tea kept her busy, the individual steps longsince familiar since she had left her childhood home and made one for herself and her little family, she let her thoughts stray to Sirius, which had happened more frequently since Colin and Denis were dragging up similarities. Sirius had never been one to sit around either, and she could very well imagine him being right in the thick of it all. If he hadn’t died. She felt her heart clench when she thought that she had so readily accepted the reports of his betrayal of the Potters. She of all people should have known better, of all his family. And then she had not been given the opportunity to apologise, to reacquaint herself with him. It was only after his death fourteen month earlier that Nymphadora and Dumbledore had revealed the truth, and the events after his escape from Azkaban. Followed by the revelation that her only child was a member of that organisation as well. Would the same fate lie ahead for her daughter? Her fingers tightened around her tea cup. Andromeda made a conscious effort to loosen them, simultaneously chasing the thoughts away. She could not think like that, it was too horrendous a thought to follow through.

She had lost so much already. Friends from school. She had been disowned over those prejudices, and even though she had never regretted the decision for Ted, there were still those moments where she wondered how it could have been. Passionate, mischievous Sirius, lost to Azkaban through the betrayal of a friend and killed through the direct involvement of his cousin, her own sister. Who surely would not hesitate to do the same to her or Ted or Nymphadora, she had no illusions there. Bellatrix was lost to madness. Narcissa, always too compliant and approval-seeking, would never rebel against her husband’s beliefs. Ambitious, troubled Regulus, never heard of again after joining the Dark Lord.

Watching the sky lighten, the dark retreating back behind the horizon, she prayed for her husband and her daughter.

Nymphadora, who so suddenly had moved back in with them. She would only say Remus had gone away on an Order mission, refusing every other comment. Though Andromeda could not help seeing her daughter’s almost manic determination when she would get ready for work, and the expectant jerk of the head whenever there was news from the outside. It could as easily have been attributed to worrying about the success of his mission, but Andromeda felt like there was more. And she knew, if it was any normal situation, that no marriage worked without some effort put into it, and arguments could happen, and she really shouldn’t get involved. With circumstances as tight as they were, tensions were to be expected. What worried her was that they weren’t trying to work them out, weren’t even living under the same roof. Nymphadora had been too ecstatic when she had presented them with her husband to just give up like that. Even though she would have never expected one of Sirius’s old friends as her son-in-law, she could not dislike him. If Sirius had been able to see beyond the werewolf thing, so could she. But if he hurt Nymphadora, that was a different matter entirely. She sincerely hoped he would put things right again, and soon.

Draining her cup when the first noises came from upstairs, Andromeda prepared for another day. They’d have to get through one day at a time, as hard as it might seem.






dialogue from the Grimmauld scene in parts from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Bribe, pg. 166
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