Where We Belong
The silence was driving him mad.
It had been three weeks and four days and an uncountable amount of lonely heartbeats and half-smiles that disappeared as soon as they had come because there was no one to share them with.
And it was so silent.
Remus was currently residing in the Shrieking Shack, not able to think about any other place where he could be alone to think, where no one would come to look for him, enemy or friend.
There were a lot of noises originating from the old building. Drawn out gasps from the walls bending, howling whispers of the wind against stained glass, the painful creaks of rotten wood under his relentlessly pacing feet.
But none of those were alive.
Then, of course, he spoke with fellow Order members or outside contacts, having not abandoned his duty or missions. It just was not what he craved.
Her. Her voice and laughter, the calming frequency of her breath. Her absence in all things was almost physically painful.
That the fault for this lay entirely with him did not make things better. Nor did the fact that going back was harder than it had any right to be.
A bitter chuckle rose in his throat. What was he so afraid of? He probably would not even be able to see her. Andromeda would guard her with everything she had, every last bit of desperation to keep the last member of her family safe, after everyone else had abandoned her in one way or another.
And that was just the crux of the matter. He had abandoned them.
Harry’s harsh words had opened his eyes, made him accept that he had been wrong, that he was not helping anyone with running away. That he was, in fact, making everything worse.
But he had left, and he really had no right at all to just go back and expect them to take him in again. Especially considering that Dora must feel a thousand times worse than him, being the one who was abandoned, with no say in it at all, no chance to prepare for the blow, or avoid it somehow.
So, here he was, in the Shrieking Shack, pacing endlessly, staring at the walls of this well-known prison. This time not trying to escape the all-mighty lure of the moon, though he was battling himself just as much.
“Damn it all,” he whispered hoarsely, running a hand through his greying hair. Then he narrowed his eyes. “Damn it all,” he repeated. And, without slowing his pace, he turned and disappeared.
The familiar sight, while somewhat soothing the heaviness in his bones, was not helping at all with his anxiety. There was a light on in Dora’s room, small and flickering, and it filled him with new determination.
All he had longed for these past three weeks was there, within reach. Let Andromeda glare at him with disappointment and resentment, let Dora yell at him, let Ted, whenever he came back, fulfil his promise of eternal pain now that he dared hurt his daughter.
Just don’t let them turn away.
Remus did not bother with squaring his shoulders. No need to appear more confident than he was. They were all the family he had left. So they would see right through it, anyway.
Long strides took him closer to the entrance, and when the well-known magic of the wards washed over him, he felt some of the tension leave his body. This was right, no matter how things would go.
Like so many years ago, when he had visited for the first time, the door opened before he had reached it. It was not Ted greeting him, nor where there any smiles to be seen. But the door did open, and as of yet, no curses were flying at him.
Andromeda watched him coming closer, face unmoved and saying nothing until he stopped a couple feet from her. There were dark bags under her eyes, causing Remus to feel guilt rush through him again.
How could he have just left? Even more so during these times.
“Andromeda,” he said simply, voice not sure at all, but hoarse and laced with emotion.
“You –“ she started, then cleared her throat. “You’re back.”
It was not a question. She knew he would not be here if he was not sure about it. She knew he would not do this to her daughter, not on top of all the other pain.
“Yes.” Relief reverberated with that single word, a confession of things much more complicated.
Andromeda nodded once, then stepped aside to let him in. The part of him that did not sigh in eternal relief, was not surprised. Many things were left unsaid, but they had come to an understanding nonetheless.
It is not my forgiveness you need, the tired line of her shoulders seemed to whisper. Go to her. If she takes you back, I will too. And then we will talk.
The ghost of a smile flickered across her lips at his answering nod, filled with all the strength she had come to admire him for. Dora would not send him away, she knew that, and she was glad for it. Those two were good for each other, and a force to be reckoned with, one she would not want to stand against.
Remus took each step with utmost care, caught between the urge to rush and the feeling of dread rising once again inside him. The way, while seeming to be a hundred miles, took him only a couple of stuttering heartbeats.
Then he knocked.
“I’m okay, Mum,” her voice answered at once, tired and not at all okay. “Go to bed.”
He did not know what to reply, if there were any words at all that he could say, so he simply opened the door and stepped in.
Home, he thought, only to shake his head. No, not yet.
“I said I’m –“ she snapped and froze at the sight of him. Her hair was that mousy brown he had come to hate, for it was the very product of him hurting her. The bags under her eyes were just as dark as her mother’s. And she seemed so small.
Rubbing her eyes tiredly, she suddenly laughed. It was not a happy sound.
“Merlin, why did no one tell me that being pregnant makes you go all barmy and gives you bloody hallucinations.”
So she wanted him back?
Reluctantly, he stepped a bit closer, to get into the flickering circle of light from the candle, only to freeze again, stopped by the knowledge that he was not yet welcome. “I’m really here,” and didn’t that sound insufficient at all?
“A hallucination would say that,” Dora pointed out, still not looking at him.
“We could get Andromeda. I doubt she would be hallucinating of me, too.”
“And have her cart me off to St. Mungo’s? Hell, no.”
The whole situation seemed surreal. He had thought she’d be yelling by now, hitting him, cursing; anything, really. This rather beaten person did not seem like the ever vibrant girl he had married. (And left behind.)
Remus thought frantically of something to say, to apologize, to console her. That was when she looked up, and all thoughts vanished from his mind.
Her eyes were as tired as the rest of her, but still, they were filled with the strength he associated with her. There was hope, too. And not an insignificant amount of weariness.
“Dora,” he started, trailing off again because ‘I’m sorry’ simply was not enough to express what he felt.
She seemed to hear it nonetheless. “You’re back,” she said in an exact replica of her mother.
And he, having to trust her to understand this before anything else, also repeated his earlier sentiment. “Yes.”
Blinking a couple of times, she stayed silent, then lowered her gaze and whispered, almost to herself, “Remus.”
It was as if that broke some invisible wall between them that had made it possible for him to move. Two long strides were all it took for him to reach the bed where she sat curled up in herself. He knelt in front of her, extending his hands towards hers, lingering in the air, asking for permission to touch her again.
Dora did not hesitate to lean into his warmth, and that was when he knew that they would be good again, that they would make it through this maze of hurt and doubt he had erected.
“Remus,” she said again, and then she was in his arms, clinging onto him, inhaling his scent deeply as if to fill every last fibre of her being. He mirrored her in kind.
“I’m back,” he promised. I will never leave again. Once was enough. I’ll stay. I’ll stay.
They did not talk that night, nor did they sleep. For hours they held onto each other, slowly letting go of fears and tension, their hearts beating in tact with the never ending echo inside of their minds. Home, home, home, home.
“What made you see sense?” Andromeda asked later during breakfast. She looked a lot better this morning. Her eyes, while there were still dark circles beneath them, seemed more alive somehow, less worn.
When she had entered the kitchen to the both of them cooking and setting the table, every couple moments touching each other as if making sure this was not a dream, she had smiled and surprised Remus by drawing him into an embrace.
I am not okay with what you did, and we will have a talk later, she had said, but I am glad that you are back.
“Harry,” he answered, still puzzling about how much the boy had changed. Though, with a war looming over them and all those expectations on his shoulders, it really was no wonder.
“Harry?,” Dora asked with obvious disbelief, then her head snapped up. “You’ve seen him?”
“Yes,” Remus nodded. “They are staying at Grimmauld Place.”
“But what are they doing? The Order is looking for them and they do what?”
“He didn’t want to tell, said Dumbledore told him not to,” for a second he hesitated, knowing both woman would surely understand the implication of his next words, how easily he would have abandoned them for another task. “I offered them my help.”
Dora looked at him, indeed getting what he left out, nodded once and continued. “Then they are fools. These are not the times to play hero. They are far too vulnerable on their own.”
Clearly waiting for him to agree with her, her face grew concerned when he did not.
“I -,” he shrugged uncomfortably. “We did not part on good terms.”
Andromeda snorted. “Then we shall thank him before we throttle him for taking unnecessary risks.”
He smiled at the familiarity of it, Andromeda's dry sense of humour, to be followed by Ted's - or not. His smile grew strained, but he kept it up, willed himself to focus on his homecoming, not on leaving. Never again on leaving.
Dear sister, the letter said, words sprawled carelessly in mottled brown colour. I am sure you will be very pleased, indeed, to hear that the filth you chose to sully your pure blood with, is no longer able to threaten your integrity.
I have to admit I am disappointed that I did not catch him myself, but rest assured that I made sure that you are free of him from now on.
You would do well to remind his spawn of just how fragile her standing in our future society is. It would be a shame if I had to come and teach her not to stand against those she will never be able do defeat.
Stay safe, sister. Enjoy your little paradise of sins while it lasts. I will not forget.Bellatrix
Afterwards, there was only silence.
“Don’t go,” Andromeda’s voice was quiet and hoarse from disuse, still it rang through the eerie silence that filled the house.
“Mum,” Dora’s head snapped around from where she stood at the door, eyes narrowed to catch a glimpse of her mother standing in the dark entrance hall. “Are you –“
Stupid question. None of them were okay, but it had, understandably, hit Andromeda the hardest. Where her daughter still had the anger of the young to keep her occupied, there was only resignation for her, loss, the frightening knowledge of their life together being over. Just like that.
It was like living the life of a ghost. Time went by unnoticed, she slept and woke, sometimes she ate what her children put in front of her, though more often than not she just stared at her plate, thinking back to calm weekends when they had spent hours in the kitchen, cooking and reading and sharing jokes.
There were no jokes anymore. Sure, there was talk. Remus did his best to get their minds off things, having refused to leave them even for a single minute. And she was glad for that, that Dora had him, at least. Because, frankly, she was not so sure she could have pulled herself together for her daughter, had it been only them.
As it was, they left her room to grieve while constantly nudging her into going on. Living. Breathing. All the things that had not seemed important since that letter nearly a month ago.
This night, though, whispered voices had snapped her out of her apathy. Maybe they thought she was sleeping, maybe they did not want her to know they were leaving. It did not matter, she heard, and it made ice spread through her veins.
They could not go. Maybe her fear was irrational but she had the agonizing suspicion that, if the door closed behind them, they would not be coming back.
“Andromeda,” Remus said, half-concerned, half-soothing. “There’s an Order meeting tonight. We’ll be back in a few hours.”
“No.” Why couldn’t they see? She wanted to voice her fears, but every breath seemed to constrict her throat further.
Dora squeezed Remus’ arm as if to stop him from something, leaving, staying. Then she made her way over to her mother, their roles suddenly reversed, with her trying to calm the older woman’s nerves.
“It’s okay, Mum,” she opened her arms and pulled Andromeda into an embrace, not caring that the quite large swelling of her belly made it quite uncomfortable for them both.
“Don’t go,” Andromeda repeated, a tiny bit of her old stubbornness shining through.
“Shh, we won’t,” Dora promised, turning her head to share a glance with Remus, who nodded and walked towards the living room, probably to tell someone they weren’t coming to the meeting.
He was not that unhappy with that, anyway, with Dora’s pregnancy drawing closer to its end. Even with her not having been on active duty for quite some time, he did not want her any closer to the war than necessary.
Also, because none of them were as emotionally stable as they needed to be to avoid possibly fatal mistakes.
When he returned to the entrance hall, both women were still standing the exact way he had left them, communicating through something far more honest than words could ever be. He gently nudged them towards the kitchen.
Andromeda was right. They should not go anywhere.Right now, they had their own battles to win.