Who: Harry Potter, Remus Lupin
Where: 12 Grimmauld Place
Summary: Harry asks Remus some pointed questions, and isn't entirely thrilled with the answers
Watch for: A little Draco-bashing
Remus faced the familiar facade of 12 Grimmauld Place, shoulders slumped and his normal calm smile completely missing from his face. The last few days had been hard, and, quite frankly, he wasn't feeling like putting up his normal air of casualness. He was tired, he was worried, and, quite honestly, he didn't know what to expect from Harry's summons.
Raking a hand through his hair, he approached the front door, then gave a heartfelt sigh and knocked.
In preparation for Remus's visit, Harry had shaved and made his way down to the living room, where Dobby had started a fire. Settling down on a worn settee, he once more tried to come to terms with his aunt's death and his ignorance thereof. It still angered him to know that he hadn't been told of it; it was typical of the Order, which, despite all the miraculous things it had managed to pull off, had always kept things from him even if they affected him directly. As if he could just be taken out of a box when they needed him and put back in when he'd done what he was expected to. He didn't know if Remus had known of his aunt's death, but he wanted answers and Remus was the closest remaining link he had to the Order.
The knock roused him from his thoughts before he could descend into anything deeper. After the multiple wards had been disarmed, he could hear Dobby excitedly greet the remaining Marauder and Remus's reply. The werewolf sounded as tired as he felt, and it wasn't even around the full moon. What had the Order been up to? "In here," he called.
Entering the living room, Remus immediately focussed on Harry. The younger wizard looked grim, but at least he looked better than the last time the werewolf had seen him. Giving a brief smile that didn't reach his eyes, Remus inclined his head.
"You wanted to see me, Harry?" he asked quietly.
Remus's appearance reflected his voice, Harry realized as he turned to study the older man. He gestured towards a nearby chair. "I did. Thanks for coming, Remus. Have a seat."
Dobby, who had just finished redoing the wards on the door, scuttled in. "Would Master Lupin like some tea?" he asked eagerly.
"No thank you, Dobby, I'm fine," Remus replied, moving towards the chair Harry had indicated. He dropped into it with a weary sigh, then looked over at the green-eyed wizard, raising an inquiring brow. "What is on your mind, then, Harry? Is everything alright? I highly doubt this was meant to be a casual social call."
Harry had never been one for casual socialization, and he'd been even less so since the war. There just hadn't been time. There just hadn't been energy. "My mother's sister was killed by Death Eaters sometime last Christmas," he said without preamble, his gaze steady on the werewolf. "Did you know?"
Remus' eyes rounded in surprise. "Petunia? Petunia is dead?" he asked, stunned. He felt a rush of sympathy for Harry. No, Harry hadn't loved the woman - she certainly seemed not to want that love, either - but Remus knew the importance of family, especially to someone in Harry's position.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Harry," he said softly. "Very sorry. Not for her, particularly, but for you. And to answer your question... no, I had no idea."
"Then who did?" Harry hadn't intended the question to come out as accusatory as it did, but the hurt and anger that had been simmering was starting to boil over. "Arabella Figg contacted the Order. Someone knew, and no one told me."
"I don't know who knew," Remus replied evenly, understanding that the anger wasn't really directed at him, but at the situation. At the helplessness of finding out after the fact and not being able to do anything about it. "I was in and out of the country during that time. Minerva might know, but other than that... we lost a great many people, Harry. It is even possible that whoever was supposed to report that to the Order may have died before they could do so."
Far from placating Harry, the words only fueled his bruised sense of injustice. Yes, he was aware that many people died during the war, not only those that had been close to him. But how could Remus be so reasonable about this when Harry was still struggling to come to grips with a death that meant more to him than the woman herself?
He pushed himself out of his seat, too restless to stay still despite the protests of his aching body. "Figg said it was over in minutes. They found out she was the one keeping up the magic that kept me safe, and they killed her."
Watching Harry pace, Remus gave a silent sigh. There was nothing he could say to make this better, no platitudes he could offer than would assuage the pain and guilt he knew that Harry was feeling. But he couldn't let the younger wizard stew in silence. "She knew the risks when she took you, Harry," he said, sighing. "It is sad, tragic even, but there you have it. She was not exactly what I would have called a kind woman, but she didn't deserve to die. However, it is over and done. I'm sorry that you weren't told, and that, once again, you have to pick up the pieces and go on. Trust me, I know the feeling all too well." The words were gentle, but they were also firm. "The question to ask yourself isn't so much why, perhaps... but what do you want to do about it?"
Harry turned sharply to gape at Lupin. Do? He hadn't thought much beyond finding out who had kept him in the dark and why. No - that wasn't he'd already made arrangements with Sisters of Mercy to give Vernon a private room and he was going to find Dudley. There was likely nothing he could say to his cousin to garner forgiveness - nor did he want it - but there had already been enough deaths on his account. As for the killers...well, he'd first have to find out who they were.
"Arabella Figg is keeping vigilant in Muggle affairs. If the Death Eaters go back to their old tricks, w-you have to know."
Remus nodded, mouth set in grim lines. "I'm certain they fully intend to go back to their old tricks," he said tightly. "We're doing everything that can be done at this point, given how thin our resources are stretched, and how... unforthcoming the Ministry is being. I have spoken to Neville, and the Order is keeping the DA fully apprised of everything. But, I will be brutally honest with you. This time... this time they might win."
Harry's eyes narrowed. Even if the Ministry's and the Order's resources were stretched, the Death Eaters still had a lot of reorganization to go through before they could conceivably pose a real threat. Unless there was something he didn't know. The pain, which had begun to flare again, dulled to a muted throb as his mind ran through the possibilities. "What am I missing?"
The werewolf swallowed slightly, and looked at the floor. "Severus is on total bedrest at this point," he replied hollowly. "The work on the cure is continuing, but... I don't know if it will be ready in time." He looked back up at Harry, eyes bleak. "You have to be prepared, Harry. Neville knows what might happen, and... he's prepared to go on as best as he can with the defense. But leadership of the Order will go back to Minerva, and..." he broke off, shaking his head. This was much harder than he had anticipated it being.
Hell and damnation. Harry hated Snape as much as Snape hated him, but as many humiliations and revenges he'd dreamed up for the greasy Potions Master, death had never been one of them. And to die in such a way, with his own body acting against him, was an unenviable fate for a man whose life depended on self-control. Further to that, Snape was as much a part of Harry's ties to his father as Lupin was. If Snape died, another tie to his family would die along with him.
As he retook his seat to let this sink in, an inflection in Lupin's tone registered with him. He looked up sharply. "And...?" he prompted.
Remus didn't want to tell Harry what he knew that the younger man needed to know. He didn't want to see the look of pain and betrayal in the green eyes, or, worse, condemnation and hate. Not from James' son. Not from Padfoot's godson.
But Harry had complained bitterly about being kept in the dark, and it wasn't as though he wouldn't find out. Therefore Remus fought down the desire to gloss over the truth, to offer a convenient misdirection. Harry deserved to know, he was an adult, no longer a child to be coddled... but whether he wanted to know was an entirely different matter.
Taking a deep breath, he met the green eyes directly. "Harry, there is something you need to know. You've claimed you are tired of being kept in the dark, therefore I am going to tell you, even though you aren't going to like it. But you need to be prepared."
Another breath. "Harry, if Severus dies, I will die as well. You need to be ready to deal with that, in case that is the way that it happens."
Whatever Harry may have been suspecting that Remus would say, especially given the lead-up, this wasn't it. It made no sense to him, like a non-sequitur tossed in at the end of a speech.
The message fully hit him a few seconds later. Remus might die? But he'd barely recovered from that attempt on his life - "Why?" asked Harry blankly.
In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought with a sigh. "Harry, Severus and I are, well, linked. Magically. It's part of my lycanthropy, actually, and..." he paused, wondering why it was so hard to say the word to this particular person, when he had no trouble using it to anyone else. It's because of Padfoot, and you know it, he admitted to himself. Padfoot and James, and all that history...
He paused, steeling himself for the storm he was certain was coming. "Severus and I are mated, Harry. And when a werewolf's mate dies, the werewolf does, as well." He didn't drop his eyes, but in the amber depths there was a silent plea for understanding... even if acceptance was too much to expect.
"Why would you be mated?" asked Harry uncomprehendingly. "Isn't that for--" His mouth dropped open. He couldn't have looked more shocked and confused if Remus had gotten up and sucker punched him in the gut. A myriad of fragmented thoughts and reactions ran through his head, but the only one that found voice was the disbelieving and explosive, "SNAPE?!"
"Yes, Harry. Severus," Remus confirmed softly. Despite the difficulty he had experienced initially in confessing his union with Severus, he was not ashamed of it - he had only been agonizing over Harry's feelings about it in particular. Now that the truth was out and open, he felt more centered and focused, and able to cope with Harry's reaction - whatever it was going to be. "It's a long story, but suffice it to say that it all started before the Death Eaters broke out... before we knew that there was another war headed for us."
Harry kept staring at Lupin in bewilderment. It couldn't be...the last of the Marauders with Snape? He'd never really thought much about Remus's personal life; he barely comprehended the relationship Lupin had had with his godfather. But of all people, Snape? How could Remus be sitting there so calmly when he'd just dropped something so unfathomable to Harry? "He hated my parents! He got you fired from Hogwarts! He was going to give Sirius to the Dementors!"
"Yes, he did all of those things," came the quiet response. Remus wasn't going to try to justify anything, because there was no point in arguing the truth. But the truth was not so cut-and-dried when one was thirty-eight as when one was eighteen. "He also saved your life. He tried to save Sirius' life. And he did save mine." Remus shook his head slightly. "You can't let the past rule your life, Harry. Or at least, I can't let it rule mine. What Severus did he did for reasons that are complex and difficult to explain. Yes, he hated your parents... but they hated him as well. Can you tell me who started the hate? Or is it more important that we end it?"
Remus always did have a way of derailing Harry's ire with his calmness and his common sense. Common sense, however, was rare in any encounter between Harry and Snape. "But it's SNAPE! How could you--" He stopped right there, biting back the rest of the accusation before it was completed, but it was too late; the notion had been voiced.
Raising a brow, Remus gave the younger wizard a lopsided smile. "Do you really want to know?" he asked lightly. "It's simple. I love him." The werewolf shrugged then. "And before you ask, yes, I loved Sirius too. And if you can't see the similarities between the two of them, then you don't have quite the amount of insight I have always credited you with, Harry."
"Maybe I don't," Harry said hollowly. Sirius and Snape were nothing alike. Sirius had been exuberant and passionate; he'd never wavered from the side of the Light, even given his upbringing and his stay in Azkaban. Snape was just an embittered old man and a former Death Eater. That Lupin would even taking on Snape as a - as a what? Replacement for Sirius? A mate? Well, it was as inconceivable as...as Hermione fraternizing with Malfoy. Had the world gone mad? Harry let his head fall into his hands. "Sirius would have hated it," he said harshly, still unable to come to terms with it.
"Yes, he would have," Remus acknowledged gently. "But if Sirius were still alive, the situation would not have arisen. War changes people, Harry. So does losing people you love, as you well know."
He paused. "No one could take Sirius' place in my life. Nor would Severus be at all pleased to think that were the case. Severus has his own place with me, which is unique to what he and I have been through together. The fact is that Sirius and I decided not to become mates, and we did so in order that you wouldn't lose both of us at once, if anything were to happen. But... I'm alive, Harry. And I won't apologize for loving where I do. I hope you can accept that. However, you are no longer a child, and you no longer are in need of me. If you can't or do not wish to accept my choices... well, I will understand. I won't be happy, but I will understand."
Harry was trying. He was trying, for Remus's sake, to overlook seven years of being picked upon and picked apart by a man twice his age just because of who his father had been. He was trying to argue with himself that saving his and Remus's life during the war - saving countless lives with reports on Death Eater activity - somehow made up for the fact that he was willing to let an innocent man get the soul sucked out of him. He was trying to remind himself that Remus had undergone persecution and suffering for so long that it would be churlish to begrudge him a relationship that brought him joy. But even if Harry had managed all that, one thought stood out clearly in his mind: that if Remus hadn't been mated to Snape, he wouldn't be in danger of dying along with him. "I'm sorry," he said shortly, looking away. "I can't."
Remus felt his breath catch in his chest, and a feeling of incredible sadness and loss stole over him. But there it was. He would no more blame Harry for feeling as he did than he himself would apologize for loving whom he chose. "I see," he said, voice still very gentle. "And I understand."
Rising to his feet, he looked at the son of his friends, realizing Harry was definitely more like James than Lily, and not just in looks. "If you ever need me, Harry, you know where to find me. And if... if I don't see you again, just know that I still love you."
And with that, Remus moved to the door.
"Remus." Harry was on his feet too, and he stood with the careful balance of one who found himself at the edge of a void, about to fall in. This could very well be the last time he saw the man he respected so much, who'd truly introduced him to Defense of the Dark Arts and who'd given him so much about his parents. He hadn't had a chance to properly say good-bye the last time and he wasn't going to let it go so easily this time. He didn't want Remus's last impression of him to be disappointment, even if he couldn't do what the werewolf could have hoped for. But when he looked upon the battle-weary man, his voice didn't work even if he'd managed to find anything to say. So he crossed the room and, for one of the first times since he lost Ginny, reached out to the older man and pulled him into a fierce embrace.
A look of surprise crossed the werewolf's face, before he sighed and hugged Harry back, his throat feeling thick. "I really do understand, Harry," he said softly.
"No, you don't," Harry rasped, feeling the back of his eyes sting. "You don't know...you don't know what you've done for me, who you are to me. And I can't-I can't tell you, because I don't think I'd ever be able to count it all or fathom its depth. But I want you to know this: if keeping Snape alive means keeping you alive, I am going to do whatever I can to make sure that happens."
"Thank you," Remus replied, sighing with something that was achingly similar to relief. "You mean a great deal to me, too. A great deal."
Pulling back, he looked at Harry, feeling another of those pangs he often felt when seeing Lily's eyes set in the face that was so achingly similar to that of James. Then he chuckled slightly. "Well, I hope it all works, and that everyone lives. Because if you think you were shocked..." He shook his head again, eyes crinkling wryly. "Draco didn't even know his godfather was gay. That young prat apparently went into a case of blue-nosed, pureblooded shock at the thought. Unfortunately, however, it wasn't fatal - or so Severus told me. I wish I had seen it, though."
To be honest, Harry knew exactly how Malfoy felt. He would have been quite happy to have lived his life without knowing any details about Snape's sex life (or Snape and sex in the same thought at all!), and to have it linked with his father's friend just made the revelation all the more harder to swallow. Still, it was a chance to laugh at Malfoy and with Hermione around and Ron out of the house, he hadn't had much of a chance to do so. More than that, it dispelled the tension that had been there since Remus had arrived. "If only," he said ruefully, not quite managing a chuckle. "That would have helped me put up with his presence here."
Remus shook his head ruefully. "I don't know if he's more offended that I'm a man, a werewolf, or a Gryffindor... and all three combined must make it just totally intolerable. If you want to perturb him, just mention my name."
Sighing, he drew back, resisting the urge to ruffle Harry's hair as though he were a child... or as though he were James or Sirius, even as adults. "I need to get back. Hannah is still working on the cure, with the questionable assistance of myself and the strait-laced Mr. Malfoy. If... if anything changes," he said, striving to keep his voice light, "I'll make sure they know to let you know."
"Yeah," Harry said, as he walked the older man to the door. The anger was coming back, but this time it was directed at himself and his circumstance, his inability to help. "Thanks for...everything." There was so much more he wanted to say, so little time.
"For cluing you in to far more details of my, er, intimate associations than anyone other than Rita Skeeter might ever want to know?" the werewolf responded, arching a brow at Harry in amusement. Then he grew slightly more serious. "Thank you, Harry. For everything. I hope to see you later."
With that, Remus gave the younger wizard another smile, and left Grimmauld Place... part of him wondering if he would ever see the house again. He turned briefly, staring up at the grim stone dwelling for a moment, remembering everything that had happened there, both the good and the bad. Then he pulled his wand and apparated back to where his dying mate awaited him.