One windy, overcast day, Remus Lupin died.
Harry had been in his little office at Hogwarts, entertaining a seventh year student, Euan Abercrombie, who wanted extracurricular Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons to help him tackle his NEWTs.
Euan had big ears and wide eyes that gave him a permanently surprised look, but when the owl flew in through the window with a black letter tied to its leg, his expression bore only one emotion: absolute terror.
Harry took the letter with one hand; the other held a tea cup. Two metres away, his favourite student stood up from where he had been sitting. He continued to flick his eyes from Harry to the black letter, his panic and apprehension almost palpable in the small room. Harry ignored this and frowned at the curved, official handwriting. It did not make any sense - what were they talking about? Honestly, Remus was fine; Harry had only spoken to him three days ago. And things were always so uneventful these days, surely Remus was okay, he was healthy, there was nothing wrong with him at all, why are they lying?
The teacup fell and smashed on the stone floor.
It was a loud, tinkling sound. Euan watched the teacup fall as if its procession were in slow motion - and then, and then, there were shards of china spread across the ground, and the brown tea splashed over them and poured into the gaps in the stone.
Harry croaked out a command to Euan, telling him to leave, and the student needed no more encouragement than this - he mumbled something about getting Headmistress McGonagall, turned and ran, flinging open the door and slamming it behind him.
Okay, so, first things first, Harry thought. He grappled behind him for his chair. Finding nothing he sank to his knees instead, and what was left of his tea soaked into his robes. So, fine, this was normal, people kneeled on the ground all the time. Fine. Why can't I breathe? Crying, tissue, okay, that I can do...
He had questions, too many in fact, scurrying through his head like a cupboard full of noisy, chattering house elves. Oh, he thought, SHUT UP, this was not helping one bit! And he thought about summoning Death, because if anyone or thing knew about Remus it would be the Grim Reaper. He would ask it things like, How? Why? Why now? Which plane of existence has he gone to? that sort of thing.
Because, truly, it made no sense, did it? It was the Peace Time, for Merlin's sake, people never died in the Peace Time unless they were very old, and Harry knew Remus was not old, he had seen, he had memorised Remus's face and there were not many lines there at all. And Remus's body certainly wasn't old, it was smooth and gorgeous and Remus was too beautiful to die. If he had died during the Voldemort War, okay, yes, that Harry could understand. If war was a mother it would beget death numbly, as if giving birth were no harder than falling in love.
Now the thing was, Remus had been keeping secrets from Harry. Things like, the Wolfsbane Potion was no longer effective. Things like, it was getting harder and harder to recover from his transformations. Things like, in the last few months, he had been admitting himself to St Mungo's for treatment.
Remus never said to Harry, I need help. He never said, I'm very sick. He only ever said, Don't fall in love with me. And Harry, being Harry, completely ignored these last words.
The black letter fell from Harry's fingers. It caught the light breeze from the window and twisted itself though the air and across the room, and danced the last dance of hope.
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