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Published: 01/13/2008Updated: 01/13/2008Words: 1,971Chapters: 1Hits: 550
A Black Register
- Story Summary:
- A month has passed since the death of Lord Voldemort. A chance meeting on the street forces Remus Lupin to confront questions he cannot answer.
Chapter 01 - A Black Register
- Author's Note:
- Originally written for the
It had not occurred to him that the worst time of year might be Christmas. He had walked all the way to the front of Dervish and Banges with a toy Puffskein for Harry before he realised there was no way to give it to him. Well, thought Remus to himself, at least I didn't actually buy Prongs that bottle of Firewhisky. It was scant comfort.
With a small sigh, he set the toy down and left the shop. Chatter and laughter filled the street and he had to step to the side to avoid an impromptu snowball fight that had started between five or so boys who looked no older than fifteen. Once, that might have been them. He allowed himself a brief moment to watch them, a wistful smile flickering into being and fading just as quickly. He turned and started to walk again.
No, by far, this was the worst. Even having to retrieve the bodies from the local Muggle morgue had at least had a haze of unreality, a sense that he was dreaming and that any moment he would wake up and the world would be as it was. As it ought to have been. He had sat in his room for days and waited while the cheers and celebrations heralding the death of Lord Voldemort had filled every street in wizarding Britain. He had waited for someone to tell him it was all a lie, but nobody came.
And now here he was in Hogsmeade for the first time in months, and aside from the lack of Aurors patrolling the corners, it truly did seem as though nothing had changed. On the surface, at least. Before, Christmas had implied a sort of determined merriment, as though they were spiting the Death Eaters by being happy. It had made everything more precious somehow.
Or perhaps that had just been because his friends were alive then.
It took him several seconds to realise he was being watched, and found himself gazing across the street at a handsome brown-haired lady in burgundy-coloured robes. It took him several seconds before it occurred to him who she looked like, if only superficially, and by that point she had reached his side.
"Remus Lupin, isn't it?" Her voice was low-pitched, the accent polished. One expected no less from a Black, former or otherwise. "I don't suppose you remember me."
"I do, Mrs Tonks," he replied with an inclination of his head. "It's been a long time."
"It has." They barely knew one another, really. He'd seen her at school where she'd been Head Girl during his first year, and then a handful of times after she left Hogwarts--and her family, within six months. It did not help that both of them were dancing around the only connection they had. "What brings you here? Christmas shopping, I assume?"
Remus shrugged. "I had thought so, but it seems not. My parents don't need toys," he gestured vaguely toward Dervish and Banges. "Well, I suppose Dad might want something that explodes, but Mum would object."
"I can understand why. Thank goodness Nymphadora isn't interested in explosions. Not yet, at least," she added, crossing her fingers. "Although she wants to dress up the cat for Christmas."
"The cat?" Remus echoed, somewhat alarmed. "That's an awful idea, if you don't mind my saying so."
"Of course it's an awful idea. I've tried to convince her otherwise but she's insistent that a black cat simply isn't...well..."
"Christmas-appropriate?" Much to his surprise, Remus realised he was on the verge of laughing. "You could just put a bell round his neck."
Andromeda Tonks studied him for a moment. "I do think you've hit upon something, Remus! Maybe some red ribbon and a bell. That ought to do it." She laughed. "Poor Puck. The indignities he must suffer."
The cat's name brought Remus back to earth with a thud, but he managed a smile. "If that's the cat I remember, he didn't have much dignity to begin with."
"No, I don't suppose he did." Her laughter had acquired an edge. "Does it help?"
"Not saying his name. Does it help?" She was no longer laughing, something glittering in the corners of her eyes. "Nymphadora asks about him, you know. I keep making up stories but sooner or later they'll run out. I can't tell her the truth, can I?"
Remus opened his mouth but nothing came out.
"How do you tell a child something like that?" Andromeda turned away. "Forgive me. I shouldn't even have brought it up."
"You haven't said his name either," he observed softly. "But no, it doesn't help. He still betrayed them and they're still dead. All of them. I'm the only one left."
"I'm so sorry." It was Remus' turn to look away. She looked so much like her cousin that it hurt. Although his apologies had never been so quietly accepting. "I still don't understand how it could have happened."
"The way it usually happens," Remus remarked, bitterness staining the words. "They offered him more than we did. I have no idea what, but they'd offer the sun and the moon if they thought it would get them what they wanted. They even came after me once..." he trailed off. That was not the sort of thing one discussed in the middle of a street. "But it doesn't matter now."
"No, I don't suppose it does. The ending hasn't changed. I only wish I knew why."
"Well, he's not telling anyone, that's for certain." At least nobody who would listen. Dementors weren't known for that.
"I saw him," Andromeda was saying almost to herself. "'Cissa and I, we both saw him, when they took him away to Azkaban."
"Did you?" Remus was curious in spite of himself. "How did he look?"
"We were far away. It was difficult to tell." Her eyes seemed far away as well, probably recalling that day not so very long ago. A bare few weeks, even. "He didn't fight them, not at all."
"He fought them when they captured him. He was screaming nonsense, I heard. Something about Wo---Peter. Did you know Peter?"
She blinked. "I think I remember him, yes. Shortish, blond, very quiet?"
"He wasn't always quiet," Remus said. "He'd talk for hours sometimes, if he was interested in something. And he was funny, even if he made stupid jokes every now and then. And he wasn't a coward, no matter what Prongs and Pa--" At that he stopped. "He should have brought me with him. That's what baffles me the most, really. He knew where I was. Why didn't he come to me? If I'd been there, he wouldn't have died. I know it."
And now he'd said it. The deep-gnawing guilt that he could not explain away, and the question he could not answer no matter how hard he tried. Why hadn't Peter come to him? He wasn't an idiot. He knew his abilities better than anyone, and yet he'd ventured out into the open, pitted himself against a maddened Death Eater, and for what? Surely he hadn't suddenly decided to be a hero. Peter knew better than that; he'd always been the voice of reason amidst the glory-seeking Gryffindors.
There was only one answer: that Peter, in spite of all his reassurances and the fact that he knew who was responsible for Prongs and Lily dying, had not trusted him. And that hurt more than everything else.
Andromeda laid one hand on his arm. "You can't blame yourself for this, Remus. You can't. It will drive you mad."
But the dam was broken now, the words spilling into his head and from his head to his mouth. "I should have seen it. How could I not have seen it?"
"Stop it!" She twisted his arm roughly so that he was facing her, eyes wide with surprise. "Do you think I haven't wondered that too? Wondered how on earth my cousin turned to the Death Eaters and kept it from the world? The number of times I've left him alone with Nymphadora, and who knows what he might have done? We are all responsible, Remus, but there is nothing to gain from tormenting yourself about it."
"Isn't there?" The question emerged, broken and tired.
"No, there isn't." She shook her head, loosening the grip on his arm. "I would know as well as anybody. Bellatrix Lestrange is my sister, after all."
At that, Remus shuddered. He couldn't help it. "They make an unlikely pair, don't they?"
"More than you know," murmured Andromeda. "He idolised Bella when he was little, but she wasn't always like this. I don't suppose you could call any of us normal, but she was, at least by our standards. It was when she met...Lord Voldemort," the name spat with the force of an epithet, "that it all changed. Her family ceased to matter. She betrayed all of us and I don't think it even occurred to her to think twice. Even Sirius..."
They both stopped, looked at one another. Andromeda took a breath. "Even Sirius didn't go that far."
"What do you mean?" The name was ringing in his head. Sirius, what have you done? James and Lily, Sirius, how could you? "What do you mean, he didn't go that far?" He couldn't say it aloud. Maybe that made him a coward, but Remus didn't care.
"He knew where we were hiding, Remus. All along, he knew. He could have handed us to Bella and her Dark Lord, but he never did." He'd handed over the Potters instead, James who had been dearer to him than anybody in his family...or so they'd all thought. "That's the bit I don't understand at all. The pieces don't fit. But I can't think of an alternative either."
"We'll probably never know for certain. The only person who survived that night is too young to remember anything," Remus said softly, as much for his own benefit as hers. "I don't think the pieces will ever properly fit."
"Maybe they aren't meant to fit," Andromeda mused. "You know what they've said, of course. About how Lord Voldemort died." A slight shudder accompanied the name, nothing more. "The pieces don't fit there either, and yet..."
"And yet." He managed a smile, a weak, faltering thing, but it was there. "I want to believe it's worthwhile. I do, truly. But I can't stop thinking of the price they paid. The price we paid, all of us."
"The price paid to stop living in shadows?" She pursed her lips. "For Nymphadora, I would pay it a thousand times over. For myself...what I wanted for so long has ceased to exist."
"Your family." It was not a question.
Andromeda nodded briefly. "What I would not have given to have them understand...but it doesn't matter now. There is no more Noble and Ancient House of Black, or there won't be for very much longer. Their world has ended."
"Not with a bang, but a whimper," Remus murmured, though he could not recall where he had heard the words before.
They were silent for a few moments, the scattered laughter and snatches of conversations washing unheard over them. Then Andromeda straightened and shifted the bag over her shoulder. "It was nice seeing you, Remus."
"And you." He held out his hand to her, and was surprised when she leant close and kissed him on the cheek. "Give my best to your family."
"I will do." She half-turned, about to make her way down the snowy street, when she glanced back toward him. "Happy Christmas."
At that, he did smile. "Happy Christmas to you. Try to convince Dora that cats are not Christmas ornaments."
Her laughter drifted back to him and he realised, much to his astonishment, that he was laughing too.
Title comes from John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (Act IV, Sc. 2): 'A guilty conscience / Is a black register, wherein is writ / All our good deeds and bad, a perspective / That shows us hell!'