Stories Of Old
“Why are you sad?“ a young voice ripped Remus out of his bitter musings. Looking up surprised, he found Andromeda’s daughter watching him expectantly. He never noticed the ceremony being over, but people were standing around in small groups, talking with serious faces and important voices, but altogether quite relaxed.
“It’s a sad day,” he answered finally, not bothering to wipe away the tears that were still running down his gaunt face. There was nothing to be ashamed of.
“But everyone else is happy,” the girl offered. And she was right. A lot of the people present only came to honour those who had helped end the war. They weren’t grieving.
Whoever were James and Lily Potter, anyway?
The remaining members of the Order had opted for a small, private ceremony, but then the Ministry had come and made an official affair out of it.
“Most of them didn’t know Lily and James.”
“But you did?” she looked slightly confused, twirling one of her blond pigtails – which, surely, were Andromeda’s doing – around a finger.
“Yes,” Remus smiled and it hurt but that really wasn’t the time for another breakdown. “They were my best friends.”
She cocked her head at that, maybe a tad unsure. “Then where is the rest of your friends? They should be here when you’re sad.”
He clenched his eyes shut, trying hard not to think about Peter’s finger and Sirius’ mad, barking laughter that still echoed in his mind. “They,” he finally croaked, “They couldn’t make it.”
She frowned. “And instead, everyone else came? That’s stupid.”
“Yeah,” Remus chuckled. “But my friends did something very brave and this is the Ministry’s way to thank them.”
“That’s stupid,” the girl repeated. Then she looked at the two new graves and back to him, as if contemplating something. “Mum said they are heroes. Maybe you should thank them, too.”
“Nymphadora, right?” Remus asked, ignoring her grimace and indignant ‘Noo, Tonks’. “You know, I’d rather had living friends than dead heroes.”
Her eyes widened slightly, but still she continued. “Maybe they like being heroes.”
He nodded. “Maybe.” Because he knew they wouldn’t change a thing, having somehow managed to not only take down Voldemort, but assuring Harry’s survival, too. “To be honest, to me they’ve always been heroes. There was no need to die, only to prove a point.”
Shuffling closer, she asked with curiosity in her tone, “What happened?”
“It’s not a good story to tell.”
She waved his argument away. “Dad always tells stories with lots of bad things happening.”
“Those are fairy tales. They always have a happy end.”
She pondered that, with a serious expression on her young face. “But everyone is happy about this ending.”
Remus flinched, but before she could say anything else, he looked up and stopped her with the sheer intensity of his gaze. After what seemed like an eternity, he nodded. “Okay then, Dora,” she didn’t protest at the name, so he took it as a good sign. “You get your story. Sit down.”
The girl didn’t hesitate and chose the seat right next to him, watching him expectantly. He took another couple of moments, taking in the graveyard, eyes lingering on two particular names on mortal grey.
“Not so long ago,” he finally started, voice hoarse, “In a kingdom not so far away, lived a brave prince in a big, old castle, spending his days with mindless adventures alongside his friends and a beautiful princess he had come to love. His parents ruled the kingdom with a gentle hand and everyone who set eyes upon Prince James knew that, one day, in the far away future, he would be a just king, too. But no one lingered on that thought, because they had peace and he was still so very young.” Remus smiled at the memory of their Hogwarts days. How careless they had been, how happy, how whole.
“One day, though, there came a big, evil monster to their castle and declared a war. ‘I am the most powerful being in this world, and you will fall before me like everybody else. And I will be the only king.’
“The King and Queen had promised to keep their people safe, so they looked the monster squarely in the eye and said: ‘Never. We will fight you, and we will win, because light will always triumph over darkness.’
“They gathered an army and fought many a battle and although they won some of them, they were steadily pushed back. Many people lost their lives, many more their hope, but all knew they would never stop fighting.
“One day, Prince James decided that he could no longer stay in the safety of the castle. He too had a duty to protect his people and his home. His parents protested, of course, not wanting to see their only son hurt or even lose him, but they knew they could not keep him away, and they needed all the help they could get.
“So Prince James and his friends took up their weapons and joined the battles. They were young and invincible, so they pushed back against the monster and his dark forces. And so, their hopes were high.
“To spread this hope, they gave their people something to celebrate, and Prince James married the love of his life, Princess Lily. They were truly a royal couple, James with kind eyes. Lily with fiery hair. Proud and unrelenting, a picture to ignite courage in everybody’s heart.
“They fought valiantly, side by side, and whenever they met the monster, they told him, ‘We will fight you until the very end.’
“The monster was furious when they continued to defy him, and it knew it had to strike them at their hearts to take them down. So it came, stomping and roaring and breathing fire, right to the castle where the King and Queen lived. It tore down their walls and shattered their swords and when it killed the King and Queen it spread fear throughout the whole kingdom.
“Prince James heard the monster’s laughter from miles away, and was devastated because he had loved his parents dearly. But he took the crown with his head held high and when he raised his sword, all his friends followed him. They told the monster, ‘You will never win’ and charged anew.
“Those days were long and dark and desperate, but with King James leading them, they held the line. Then Queen Lily gave birth to their son, Prince Harry, and James was filled with new courage and fierce love.
“The monster knew it had to do something, so it started to take down King James’ group of friends, one by one, and then it roared, ‘Next I will take your little prince and watch you despair.’
“King James stood tall and answered, ‘I will never let you harm him.’
“But fear was growing in his heart and he knew he had to keep his family safe. So he took his queen and his son and told only his best friend where they were going to hide.
“But he was not the only one afraid, so this friend doubted and wavered and fell, and when he went to the monster, he said, ‘I will tell you where the king is, if you let me keep my life.’
“The monster laughed and roared and celebrated his victory even while he was on the way to his bitter enemies. ‘See, little king, it spoke when it was at their door. ‘See how fragile friendship is. I will enjoy killing you. But first, your son.’
“King James was terribly afraid, but he had lion’s blood running through his veins, so he never hesitated to stand in the monster’s way. ‘Never,’ he whispered and he fought bravely, but he was alone and the monster defeated him laughing. It stepped over the body and searched for its prize.
“Queen Lily kissed her son goodbye and stood before him as his shield. ‘Never,’ she declared and fell at the monster’s wrath because her only weapon had been love.
“’Now it is only us,’ the monster laughed, but when it raised his hand to struck Prince Harry, the boy looked up at it with James’ face and Lily’s eyes and the love of all those who had gone before him.
“The monster screamed, ‘No, I cannot be defeated by you. I was to be king.’ But it died and Harry lived. And thus is the peace we are living, built on the loving hearts of two people who would sooner die than let evil win.”
After Remus had finished, his throat dry and with new tears burning in his eyes, they sat in silence for a while, Dora’s wide eyes hefted onto the graves in front of them, while he himself saw the ghosts of four young boys, ready to take on the world.
“I always liked Sirius,” the girl commented into the silence. If not for the sudden stab of betrayal running through him, Remus would have smiled at her deceptiveness.
“I did, too,” he almost choked on the words. “But fear does strange things to men.”
Sitting up, she declared, “I’m not afraid.” Then she leaned in closer, whispering almost conspiratorial, “I’m going to be an Auror. And I will lock up all the bad people, so you don’t have to be sad ever again.”
He smiled at that, sadly but honest. It was good to see that, somehow, life went on, even if his own had come to a sudden stand-still.
“I am sure you will.”
Dora nodded, then turned serious. “Thank you for the story. And don’t be so sad. They loved you, too.”
Her innocent serenity took away his breath. Ever since that fateful Hallow’s Eve, he had been numb inside, like he was drowning and his lungs had already given up the fight. But that simple statement had opened a dam. Pain flooded his system, fury rose in his heart, loss settled into his bones.
But on the outside he remained calm as he looked at that girl who had all her fights still ahead of her.
“Yes, I-“ he began, only to be interrupted by Andromeda’s irritated voice. “Nymphadora.” – Don’t call me that. – “I’ve been looking for you everywhere. What did I tell you about running away?” She cast a worried glance towards Remus. “I hope she didn’t bother you?”
He smiled reassuringly. It even felt real. “Not at all. We’ve been talking a bit.”
“He told me a story,” Dora threw in, causing her mother to sigh impatiently. “Can he come visit us?”
Andromeda looked up surprised. “It seems you’re one hell of a storyteller.” She waved away his sheepish look and turned serious once again. “But you can come over, of course, whenever you like. I suspect it won’t be easy now with –“ She trailed off, but Remus’ smile was still in place.
“Thank you. Maybe I will.” He planned on leaving Britain as soon as possible, but he didn’t say that. “Wouldn’t want to disappoint Dora here,” he added jokingly, but his eyes were sincere.
“Well then,” she nodded. “We’ll better go.” Remus knew she still didn’t feel safe with her family out in the open. Even more so since that attack on the Longbottoms. “And… my condolences.”
Both of them were surprised when the little girl threw herself at Remus to hug him goodbye. “Stop being so sad,” she whispered into his ear. “I’ll be your friend.” His heart warmed at that, and the raging storm inside it calmed a bit.
They were halfway gone, when she turned around again. “And do call me Dora. I like it.”He laughed.