How To Be A Hero

Aftermath Of Fate

Remus did not look up when she entered, though a slight, and perhaps involuntary, inclination of his head showed that he had noticed her. He was almost sunken in on himself, sitting at the cluttered desk of his room. Tense fingers lingered inches away from some parchment lying innocently in front of him, twitching every now and then as if afraid to close the short distance that could have been miles, too, for his inability to allow himself to touch the words he knew by heart. They pained him, but he had always been one to disregard that for the low undercurrent of joy it brought.

Not quite sure how to break the silence clouding her friend, Dora stepped closer to him, stopping when she reached the desk. Moony, the parchment read in the elegant if somewhat impatient script of her cousin. Feeling a rush of helpless sympathy, mixing unpleasantly with her own grief, she raised her hand, not quite touching his shoulders in a mocking irony of his reaching out for Sirius’ words.

It made her want to laugh, she, who always put her foot in her mouth at a loss for words, she with no sense of personal space unable to touch the man she claimed to love. Yes, that was laughter bubbling hysterically in her stomach, but she carefully swallowed it down.

“Remus,” Dora said, trailing off again, eliciting no reaction other than the smallest twitch in his fingers – away from her, she thought, ignoring the stab of irritation. It only strengthened her resolve to break Remus out of his stubborn grief for the past, back into the reality where his family still breathed and lived and hurt alongside him.

“Mum and Molly said you’ve skipped every scheduled meal with either of them,” she tried to keep any chastising tone out of her voice, but her worry was blatantly obvious. “You didn’t come to me either.” No reaction. “Remus –“

“Dora,” his voice was rough from disuse and raw emotion. “Please, just leave me alone.” When he did not look at her, did not move at all, Dora felt her irritation grow.

“No,” she snapped, a bit harsher than she had intended. “You have to get out of here, Remus. Get some air, eat something, meet people –“

That got him moving, though now definitely away from her. The motion looked painfully abrupt, and his back that was now facing her was tense, ready as a shield to guard him from any blow she might direct at him.

“Are you ser –“, Dora started, only to stop herself hastily when she realized what her angry mind had been about to say, though his violent flinch indicated that it was too late.

“Please,” he rasped, somehow making himself even smaller than he had been when she entered. “I just can’t do this right now.”

“Then when can you? It’s been a month, Remus,” she pleaded, a desperate kind of urgency in her voice. But to no avail.

He merely repeated “I can’t,” his words caught between a plea and refusal. Refusal to accept this loss and her help and the fact that he of all people had made it so far – something so ridiculous he just could not wrap his head around it.

Stepping around the chair, she knelt in front of him, not willing to let herself be shut out any longer. “You have to.” There were a thousand things she would have liked to tell him, to scream at him to make it go through that thick head of his. But she settled for this. A simple truth, and a goal that seemed impossible to reach from where they were now.

The first days after the fight in the Department of Mysteries had been hard, but more physically exhausting. They had just not had enough time to sit down and reflect on what had happened, the finality had not yet registered. Harry needed to be consoled, all the children had to be checked over by Madam Pomfrey, who kept Hermione in the hospital wing for five days, fighting against the curse that just kept doing damage to her body. Someone had to inform Mr. and Mrs. Granger why their daughter missed the train and had a new scar adorning her chest.

Dumbledore had chosen Remus for that task, probably because he had been her teacher once and very good at words and diplomacy. Though Dora was sure it was partly to keep the werewolf’s mind off of the loss of the last of his old friends.

Then of course, there was Voldemort. Not even the Ministry could deny his resurrection anymore, now that he had appeared in their very own atrium, mocking the powerful by trespassing right into the heart of their realm. And, naturally, they reacted with panic. The Order had all hands full, trying to keep building the resistance, as well as avoiding public chaos.

Soon, though, it all became their new reality, routine, so to speak. And with that bit of calm in the eye of the storm, came realization, grief.

“It’s not fair,” Remus said, finally raising his head, though his eyes, dull and dark, a far cry from their usual amber, still avoided hers.

Dora snorted in response. When had life ever been fair to him? Turned into a werewolf, cast into a war, betrayed by his friends, survived said friends, denied any kind of permanent job that would do his intelligence justice. No, fairness had definitely never been part of Remus’ life.

She did not tell him that, however, knowing that he would have hated the very thought of her joining his pity party. Well, at any other time, he would not have allowed himself to wallow in self-pity like that. So she merely nodded. “I know.”

“He was –“ Remus trailed off helplessly, but Dora, seeing her chance to break him out of his misery, cut in resolutely.

“He was a drunkard and a miserable escapee who could not listen to those who had his best interests in mind. He was an idiot and jumped at the first sight of trouble. He blew all caution into the wind and,” she took a deep breath. “And got himself killed.” Ending her little rant, Dora fervently hoped she had not gone too far. She had loved her cousin, but her words were true and she needed to get Remus out of his self-imposed stupor.

His eyes shut tightly, something akin to a whimper crossed Remus’ lips, as his head sunk down onto his chest. Dora leaned forwards on her knees, her gaze softening as she reached out. This time there was no invisible barrier keeping her from touching him. His arm beneath her hand was tense, almost to the point of trembling.

“It’s not your fault,” she whispered, painfully aware of the inadequacy of these words.

“I should have kept him from going,” Remus rambled, denying her words. “I should have been by his side, when Lestrange –“

“Shh,” cupping his face with both her hands, she lifted his head, waiting patiently until his eyes flickered to hers. “Remus, you were there. But he did not want to be saved.”

That stilled him, knocked the breath out of his lungs, as he sorted through the racing thoughts in his mind.

A small eternity later, he looked at her. Really looked at her, clearer than he had done in weeks, seeing more than his recent losses and the imagined failures he loaded onto his shoulders.

“That’s true, isn’t it?” Remus mused. “It was – we were not enough anymore. Without James, after fourteen years of regrets –“

“I think he searched for death as much as it searched for him,” Dora stated softly. Sirius had been like a caged animal, drowning in all the ways he could not help. Being reunited with his old friend and his godson had not been enough to erase the overwhelming presence of the bars surrounding him, reminding him of past mistakes and miseries. “He needed to go home.”

Some glint appeared in his eyes, making him seem more alive than he had since the fight in the Ministry. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he snapped, drawing his head back, out of her hands, but held it upright on his own. “He wasn’t supposed to be a bloody coward.”

Not giving her a chance to answer, he continued with his voice slightly raised. “He didn’t even try. He had all of us and he just pushed us away.” Shaking his head, Remus looked at the chaos on his desk, nearly growling when he took in the letter that had kept him captive earlier. With an angry motion, he swept it from the surface, several parchments and pictures following in its wake, turning the ground around them into a battlefield of fallen memories.

“I made it,” he shouted, then lowered his voice to a whisper. “I made it. And I was alone. I had no one.”

“You had me.” Dora spoke softly, claiming his shaking hands. ”You had me to make new memories. He had only ghosts of his past.” There was certainly truth in that. Being locked up in the hated house of his family, with only Order members to come by, his friend and his godson, who looked like his dead best friend, constant reminders of what he had lost. He was twelve years out of his time, cast into another war, and one he could not end any more than he could the last.

“I had you,” Remus agreed half-dazed as if still not able to believe that wonder. And, in truth, he was not, catching himself at dreading the day she would finally decide that she could do better than him, that the whole world was open to her, not only one old werewolf, damaged beyond his years.

“And you have me, still,” she insisted quietly, knowing full well what was going on inside him, wondering herself when he would ever accept that he was stuck with her for good. That she would not leave him for anything. Not only because he had been her best friend for most of her life. But getting into that – love as her inner voice so helpfully contributed, both giddy and exhausted – was a battle she would have to fight another time.

Resurfacing from her musings, she found Remus staring at her intently. “I do,” he admitted and there was a small smile gracing his lips, gone almost as fast as it had appeared, but it was echoed in his eyes. “Thank you.”

Dora squeezed his hands in response, not sure what exactly he was thanking her for. Stumbling onto him during the Potter’s funeral, insisting on him becoming her friend, being there for him now or for loving him so unconditionally. She did not think he knew it either.

“Don’t thank me just yet,” she said cheerfully. “I still intend on getting you out of here. Grimmauld Place is not the right place to get over your mourning.”

Remus did not answer her, but when she got to her feet he let her pull him up without resistance. Once they were standing, she pulled him into a hug, conveying all she could not find the right words for.

“Let’s go then. I told Dad to cook for four.”

And Ted had taken her words to heart. Maybe more than that. The table in the living room bent under all the plates waiting for hungry souls to devour them. All healthy and filling food, just right for someone who had spent a month starving himself due to utter negligence of his own well-being.

Andromeda had already been sitting there when Dora shooed Remus in to take his usual place, looking up at him with a raised eyebrow.

“Ahh,” she said, and beneath the sarcasm was something else that he could not quite name. “The lost lamb has returned home.”

A warmth spread in Remus’ chest that he had not thought could emerge ever again after the loss of Sirius had settled like ice inside of him. But here he was, not even a minute after entering the house and he felt again like be belonged somewhere.

“Andromeda,” he croaked, feeling like an utter fool.

“How did this miracle come to pass?”

Shuffling his feet, certain that his cheeks were turning red, he answered sheepishly. “Dora made me snap out of – it.”

Andromeda nodded matter-of-factly. “She has a talent for that. Well, I hope you’re not going to disappear on us like that again.”

“I don’t plan to.” Now that he was here, he wondered how he could have stayed away for so long. As much as Sirius had felt like family to him, the Tonkses were the Black scion’s family. In blood and everything. Of course Remus would have been welcome here, especially while grieving. He could have done that in much better company than a battered, baleful house elf in a house he had come to despise nearly as much as its former owner.

“Sit down,” Andromeda ordered, which he did, far more at ease now. “Judging on Nymphadora’s obvious worry, I don’t really have to ask how you’re doing.”

Shrugging uncomfortably, he answered somewhat evasively. “It is hard. Some might think this being the second time I’ve lost him would make it easier. But –“

“It doesn’t.”

Shaking his head he agreed with her. Then he chuckled bitterly. “I somehow expect him to just miraculously come back again. I mean,” he looked at her helplessly. “He did it before. I thought him gone. I wished him dead. But he came back and I was wrong and everything would be easier if he could just do it again.”

Andromeda regarded him silently, before sighing. “He won’t.”

“I know,” he rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. “Doesn’t make it better.”

“I suppose not.”

On a closer look, Andromeda looked exhausted herself. She held herself with the usual grace, her back straight and her face schooled into a carefully built mask to not betray her underlying emotions. But over the years he had gotten good at reading her – or maybe she had relaxed enough around him to allow him glimpses at her true self. Now, there were dark rings under her eyes and her posture was a bit stiff. She might not have let herself go, like he had, but she was mourning her cousin. All of a sudden Remus felt very selfish for isolating himself like that. She might need someone to share in her grief just as much as he did.

“How were you faring?” he asked, and the sharp glint in her eyes told him that he was right.

“It helps to have my family around,” Andromeda replied, chastising him subtly.

A smile flickered over his lips as he inclined his head. “I shall remember that for the future.”

“See that you do.”

Their impromptu therapy session was interrupted by Ted’s cheerful greeting from the door, where he appeared with another plate filled with steaming food. “Look who’s here,” he called. “That’s five galleons for me, darling.”

“You bet on this?” Dora asked incredulously as she followed her father to the table, pouring them all a glass of wine. Twin amused glances met her from her parents, causing her to roll her eyes. “Of course you did. So how is it that Dad won?”

“Not in this tone, young lady,” Ted mock-scowled. “I’ll have you know that I’m not always losing.”

“Please,” Andromeda chimed in, her tone decidedly patronizing. “If we weren’t married, meaning that I can’t have you run around ruining my reputation, I’d have won your last shirt ten times over. And if you, my dear Nymphadora, had waited one more day to retrieve Remus here –“ she trailed off, shaking her head as if disappointed at her daughter’s near betrayal.

Her husband though, grinned widely. “Well, darling, you might be a sneaky Slytherin, but you can’t beat me in these matters.” When she merely raised an eyebrow at him, he leaned over, patting her hand. “You know, emotions. Love. Things you can’t fight with all your cunning and logic.”

“Dad,” Dora laughed. “You can really be glad that you’re married. Mum’s making her ‘I’ll murder you in your sleep if you say one more word’ look.” And, indeed, Andromeda was smiling sweetly, her right index finger trailing her steak knife innocently.

Ted gulped audibly, then tried to hide behind his wine glass. “Well,” he retraced hastily. “Let’s drink to Dora finally getting Remus home. No matter who managed to make some profit of it.”

They drank, and Remus, despite believing himself unable to do so ever again only hours earlier, smiled and laughed with his all-but-family, the tension slowly leaving his shoulders and his mind letting go of some of its burdens, deciding instead to look forward again.

Later, while he and Dora were washing the dishes, he touched her arm gently. “Thank you,” he said, then echoed Ted’s toast. “For bringing me home.”

Sneaking an arm around his waist, Dora hugged his side. “That’s my job.” And he had never been more happy about her being so hopelessly Hufflepuff.

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