Who: Harmony Abbott, Remus Lupin, Severus Snape
Where: Snape Manor
Summary: Remus meets one of the new residents of Snape Manor, and he makes a startling request of Severus
Remus was feeling particularly grim as he apparated to Snape Manor, lost in thoughts about the news of the Death Eater escape that they had learned of the day before, and about the shocking condition in which he had found Harry when he had gone to deliver the news to Grimmauld Place. Too much pain, he thought, lips twisting. Everyone around me is suffering and I can't do a blasted thing about it.
He bade Dimpy a polite, if distracted, hello as the house-elf admitted him to the Manor, glad that Severus had given him permission to come straight down to the laboratory with the formality of being announced. Making his way towards the stairs that led to the Potions Master's domain, he passed the open door to the rather impressive library. His eyes were caught by a flash of gold, and he stopped, peering in, to see a small girl sitting on the floor, her blonde locks a pretty obvious giveaway as to her identity. After all, it was not as though Severus would have miscellaneous small children running around his home. This could only be Hannah's younger sister Harmony. Hannah had spoken of her siblings, but he had never had a chance to meet them.
"Hullo," he said, standing in the doorway, making no move to enter - not wanting to startle the little girl by having a strange man suddenly seeming to sneak up on her. "You must be Harmony Abbott. My name is Remus Lupin, I'm a friend of your sister and Mr. Snape."
Harmony looked up, cautious at first, but she quickly smiled when the strange man introduced himself. "Oh! Hannah told me all about you," she said, nodding emphatically. And Hannah had told her quite a bit about Mr. Lupin. Hannah had said he was very nice and very smart and was a very good teacher. Harm stood, abandoning her baby dolls and walked to the door to properly greet her 'guest'. She extended a small hand towards him. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Loopy."
Remus smiled, the first genuine smile it felt had crossed his lips in two days. Taking the tiny hand that was offered to him, he shook it, looking into the blue eyes that were so like her older sister. Oh, she'll be a little heartbreaker when she's older, he thought. Just like Hannah.
Crouching down so that his eyes were on a level with hers he cocked his head to one side. "It's nice to meet you too, Harmony," he told her. "Oh, Hannah told you all about me did she? Did she tell you that I like to be called Remy by my friends? And since Hannah is my friend, you are, too."
Harmony shook her head, honey blond hair flying and settling in her face. "Oh, no Hannah said to call you Mr. Loopy, 'cause it's a sign of re--- re----" Her little brow furrowed and the tip of her tongue slipped out as she thought about the word she wanted to use. "Respect," she said finally. Her smile was broad and stretched from ear to ear and her eyes twinkled, very proud to have gotten the word right.
"Ah, I see," he replied, nodding gravely. "Well, we had best listen to Hannah, then. I don't want her to be mad at me for not doing what she said. She might not bake me any more cookies, and that would be very sad."
Seeing the smile of the little girl, and how accepting she was, Remus felt a bit of a pang. He adored children, it was one of the reason why he had loved teaching so much. He had few regrets about his lifestyle, but one of those few was the fact that he would never have children of his own.
Shaking off the feeling, he smiled again. "Do you like being at Snape Manor? Does Severus treat you well?"
Harmony's smiled widened, if it was even possible, and she nodded again. "Oh, yes! It's big and there's lots of book and I love books but not those silly pitcher book Hannah buys me and Misser Snape is nice and he reads to me about Potions and he says I can be a Potions Missriss when I grow up and he'll help me and...and... That's it."
Remus blinked at the sudden stream of information, parsing it as best he could. Severus... reading to her? And I thought that Hannah's comment about Candyland must have been a joke. Chuckling, he shook his head. Severus is getting soft in his old age. I suspect he never even read to Draco as a child.
"I like books too," he responded. "Maybe, if Hannah says it's alright with her, I could read to you as well. I used to be a teacher, and I miss not having children to read to. So you would be doing me a big favor, you know."
Harmony was practically bouncing from excitement. "Oh! Would you? I don't think Hannah would mind because you're Mr. Loopy and she likes you a lot." She nodded, her eyes confident, looking very much like her older sister.
"Well, I like her a lot, too," Remus said. "And yes, I will, because I like you, too." She really is a winning child. Reaching out, he brushed away the strand of hair that was clinging to her cheek. "Maybe after Severus and Hannah say that my work for the day is done, I'll come back up and we can see if Severus has any stories in his library. I like books about knights and princesses and dragons. Do you like that kind?"
Harmony stopped and cocked her head to the side. "Yeah," was all she said.
"Good," Remus replied, nodding seriously. He offered his hand to the little girl again. "It's a date. And now I have to go and help Hannah and Severus, before they get very upset with me for being late. Believe me, I don't want either of them mad at me, because I might get into trouble." Then he winked at the child, and smiled, to show that he was joking. "I might get sent to my room or something, and then I wouldn't be able to read you that story like I promised."
Harmony nodded, sighing. "Okay," she said sadly, her shoulders slumping. She turned and left Remus standing in the doorway, kicking her way back to her babies. The only person young enough for her to play with was Jer... and he was mean and being punished. She turned and looked back at Remus over her shoulder. "See you later."
Seeing her dejected air, Remus sighed slightly, a rueful smile coming to his lips. "Tell you what, Harmony. To help pass the time until I can come back, would you like a surprise?"
"A surprise?" she asked, her face brightening immediately. "What kind of surprise?"
"A very good surprise," Remus assured her. "A magic surprise."
Harmony bit her lip, nodding while her light blue eyes danced. "Yes, I'd like a surprise."
"Alright then... close your eyes. Can you close your eye, and not peek?" he asked gravely.
She nodded, once, and immediately closed her eyes. Just to prove that she was not going to peek in any way, shape or form, Harmony covered her eyes with the alms of her hands. "Okay. I'm ready!"
"Good!" Remus said, smiling as he drew his wand. He proceeded to cast a bubble charm, conjuring up dozens of iridescent golden globes the size of apples. They looked fragile, but were actually unbreakable. Then, using a Protean charm, he turned them into different animal shapes - lions, giraffes, gryphons and unicorns, several different birds, and a dragon. And one wolf, sitting on its haunches with a friendly expression on its translucent face. Finally, he placed hovering charms on the winged animals, so that they floated up into the air. "Okay, Harmony... you can open your eyes now."
Harmony slowly pulled her hands away, and squealed with delight on seeing the animals. She rushed to the bubbles, laughing and jumping to try to touch them. "Thank you Mr. Loopy!"
"You're welcome, Harmony," Remus said, smiling as he tucked his wand away. "Have fun, and I'll be back as I promised, alright?"
Harm giggled and nodded, laying down on the Persian rug so she could look up at the bubble 'aminals' floating above her. That Mr. Loopy sure is nice.
Feeling far less grim than he had arrived, Remus chuckled, turning and leaving the library. He glanced back over his shoulder once, oddly pleased at having made her happy. Now I had better find Severus, before he gets annoyed with me.
Severus had been exiting his private study after gathering up some notes that were needed in the laboratory, when he noticed Remus stepping into the library.
The library that Harmony was currently playing in.
Curiosity getting the better of him, the Potions Master made his way to the doorway, standing enough to the side so neither the werewolf or little girl would notice his presence.
He'd listened with a mixture of pride and embarrassment as Harmony had told her new friend about her latest reading partner, as well as her sudden interest (and Severus' own mentioning) of a future occupation. However, the pride was soon replaced by just the slightest touch of shame at Remus' statement that he had once been a teacher.
Stop it. What is done is done. There is no need to dwell on a past that cannot be changed.
Severus couldn't help but be a bit awed by how easily Remus managed to make the girl happy. Even though Harmony had never shown displeasure with him, he always felt as if he were falling a bit short of the mark for her.
Not that I care, of course. She is, after all, a mere child.
Too bad he didn't even believe that himself.
Smirking at Harmony's continuing reference to Remus as 'Mr. Loopy', Severus listened as Remus promised to read to her later. He could practically feel the disappointment coming from the girl and had half a mind to simply step into the room and order the werewolf to leave, if only so the other man didn't have to shoulder the guilt himself.
Of course, that was before the bubbles arrived.
Oh, he knew they were unbreakable. And it wasn't as though they could hurt anything even if they weren't. But it was the simple fact that Remus had managed, with a simple charm, to make Harmony squeal with such obvious delight, that had him scowling slightly.
It certainly wasn't that simple for me. No, I had to sit on the ground and play some Muggle children's game.
This thought still running through his mind, Severus couldn't help but say something to Remus as the werewolf exited the library.
"So, Remus," he said dryly. "I see that you are incapable of making it from the front door to the laboratory alone. Or without creating a magical mess in a room full of rare and priceless books."
Remus gave the other man a sideways glance, smiling slightly. "You're absolutely right, Severus, I apparently can't. But I'll take my punishment for the crime. It's been a very long time since I have had the opportunity to do something as simple - and gratifying - as making a little girl laugh. Sort of puts everything in perspective doesn't it? Makes us remember exactly why we have to do the sometimes horrible things that we have to do."
"Hmm," he replied. "Well, come along. Ms. Abbott is waiting for us and I would actually like to get some work done before that blasted brother of hers decides to cause even more trouble."
Making his way toward the stairwell leading to the laboratory, he glanced at the smaller wizard. "I take it Potter took the news as well as could be expected?"
Frowning, Remus shrugged. "Quite honestly, he was in so much pain I doubt that it really sank in." He shook his head, and glanced at Severus. "He's much worse than he was even a month ago. And he won't ask for help, not even from Hermione."
Severus gave a slight snort. "What a surprise," he remarked in a dry tone. After a moment's pause, he stated, "Blaise took the news quite admirably. His main concern is for the safety of Longbottom."
Pausing for a moment before beginning the arduous journey down the spiral staircase, he added, "Minerva believes it would pertinent for us to meet at her office this evening. I assume you can alert Molly and Arthur? She would prefer not to begin sending any form of communication until the news has been made aware to the public."
"I'm not surprised that Blaise handled it well. It takes nothing short of the end of the world to make that young man so much as twitch," Remus said. Then he sighed. "I think it's wise for us to meet, and make plans. Certainly the five of us have the most experience, since we've all fought the Death Eaters personally. I'll tell Molly and Arthur, and bring them with me tonight, then."
Remus paused. He's not going to like this... but it must be said. We can't afford to quibble or waste time. "Severus... there is one thing, before we meet. Minerva has the school to worry about, and neither Molly nor Arthur are exactly the type to give orders. I think... that you should be the new leader of the Order, since we no longer have Albus."
Severus froze, his entire body going still. It is a joke. It has to be… However, as he looked at Remus, he had a feeling that the other wizard wasn't joking in the slightest.
"I…" He trailed off, for once completely speechless. Finally, he shook himself out of his shock and replied, "I am hardly the best person for the job." I'm not Albus. he added silently. I'm not even close.
"You are the best person for the job, Severus," Remus said, stopping the other man so that they faced each other. His amber eyes were serious, and full of a strange purpose. "Listen to me, please. Minerva, Molly, and Arthur are out of the question. Among the newer members... Bill has no gift for leadership, and Charlie has no experience. Tonks... no, I love her as a friend, but even though she is an Auror she wouldn't be the right choice. Kingsley isn't right for it, either. That leaves the children... and even though many of them are tough and smart and strong... they just do not have the knowledge for the job. So it has to fall to you."
He knew the werewolf was making perfect sense, at least logically. But emotionally, he couldn't accept it. "Be that as it may," he replied evenly, "There is the matter of my death to take into consideration. As well as the fact that I have never been a leader. And it should go without saying that my people are skills are more than lacking."
Under normal circumstances, Severus would never have voiced these thoughts out loud. He was perfectly content with everyone believing he was happy with who he was. However, these were not normal circumstances, and he had no qualms whatsoever with convincing Remus of the stupidity of this suggestion.
"You aren't dead yet, so I refuse to accept that as an excuse," Remus said sternly. "Any of us, me included, could be dead tomorrow - as I think the events of only two weeks ago proved rather handily. If you die, we will deal with it as best we can, but otherwise, it is a moot point."
He placed a hand on Severus' shoulder, looking into his eyes earnestly, knowing that he had to make him see reason and agree. "As far as people skills... we don't need a diplomat who can negotiate with the Ministry - or, if we do, you delegate it to someone. We need a person who can make hard decisions and give orders. Orders, Severus. Not make requests. Someone who can see what has to be done, and do it... even if it means ordering people into harms way. I'm sorry, Severus, but you have to do this, for the good of everyone."
Severus gave a slight sigh, a scowl crossing his face. Ignoring the feel of Remus' hand on his shoulder, and how reassuring it felt, he stated, "Well, seeing as how I clearly cannot change your mind on this ridiculous notion, I suppose I am left with little choice but to accept. Provided, of course, that Minerva, Molly, and Arthur agree."
With any luck, Minerva will have enough common sense not to allow this. Or, at the very least, Molly will object out of some motherly duty for the fair treatment of her children…
Remus smiled, squeezing the other man's shoulder briefly. "Thank you, Severus. I know you don't want it, but... really, it's best for all of us - including you." Then he released Severus, and inclined his head towards the laboratory. "Shall we get to work, then?"
Severus nodded slowly, his mind still whirling with what had just taken place. The best thing for me. Yes, because ordering former colleagues and students to their deaths is precisely what I need at the moment. However, he kept his thoughts to himself, not wanting to get into another argument with Remus. After all, we have work to do.
And with that, he made his way down the stairs and into the laboratory.