“Molly.” Fleur slid into the seat next to her, and Molly didn’t spare her a glance; Fleur’s perfume washed over her in a flowery flood; tiredly, she turned her head from watching the children.
“Can I – can I talk wiz you?” After years here with Bill, Fleur’s english was much, much less of a grate on Molly’s nerves, but the accent remained. She found the girl, by turns, to be incorrigible, sweet, frustrating, well-meaning, but ultimately, guiltily,unbearable. Molly, despite feeling once that she’d never be too old for anything (and having told Arthur so) felt that perhaps she was too old for Fleur – perhaps everyonewas.
“Of course.” She turned to look at her, finally, that big blonde head uncharacteristically still. Bill was in the garden or the garage with Arthur, undoubtedly tinkering with something stupid and illegal which Molly wanted to know nothing of. The children took after their mother; blonde and blue-eyed, something Molly never knew quite what to make of. They were mysterious, the girls with tinkling laughs, their mother’s charm, but something of a boisterous, clumsy streak beneath it all that reminded her of her own boys (all grown now). Louis was an enigma of all his own; pretty, for a boy; doing magic already, at this tender age. His mother’s favourite. The three of them played in the sunlight outside the burrow as Molly – Grandma, a moniker she would never get used to – watched their shining blonde heads from her chair. Fleur touched her arm.
“I was wondering if you were… ah… alright. If you were-“ she gestured with her slim white hands. “Feeling… unwell. Some’ow.”
“You ‘aven’t said a word all day, Mollee.” Fleur looked concerned. “Bill is worried about you.”
“I’m alright, love. I’ll be alright.”
“You know we all ‘ave trouble zis time of year.” Fleur said quietly, almost like she didn’t want Molly to hear, eyes on her hands, in her lap. Molly watched her face change.
“I know.” Of course they did. How can you go through something like that; a war, two wars, the waiting – everything – and not feel it, every day? How can you let its anniversary pass, even if it has been years and years? Molly didn’t know. Sometimes she felt as if she’d spent her whole life trying to fill the spaces the war left inside them with things. With the house she and Arthur built together, with their children, with love and sacrifice and nagging and dishes and all those other things which, in the face of death, mean nothing and everything all at once. What she’d have given, standing on those flagstones five years prior, for a sink full of dishes. For a reason to nag, for something familiar, instead of to helplessly stare at her baby, watch him die.
“Can I ask you somezing?“ Molly was shaken from her reverie as Fleur spoke again. “’Ow - do you cope? Wiz all of zis? Ze memories? …Ze fear?”
Molly laughed. Fleur looked at her, worried, as usual, that she was the butt of the joke, the language barrier making her suspicious, but Molly shook her head. “I’m sorry. Sorry.” She laughed again.
He’d been locked in the headquarters’ library for days, doing god knows what. Albus either didn’t have a clue or wasn’t telling; they saw him scarcely as they went about their own business, always looking harried and untidy and sometimes unwashed. She didn’t know when (or where) he slept, because he didn’t seem to leave. He just sat at the desk, surrounded by papers, muttering to himself. She didn’t like to disturb him, but she’d heard something hit the door, something heavy, and took it as a cry for help. Standing there, though, she had no idea what she was doing. He turned, and looked at her – not red-faced, like she’d expected; not crying; but wild, unkempt, furious. He seemed to take a couple of seconds to even recognise her. “Are you alright?”
He blinked slowly. “What?”
“Are you alright?” she walked towards him, inch by inch, but kept her fingertips on the doorframe for anchorage. He looked at them before returning his eyes to her face.
“Yes. What? Yes. Of course. Did you want something?”
“I just wanted to see if you were okay.”
“I’m fine. Fine, L-Molly.” He violently shoved his forehead with the heel of his hand, and pressed it in frustrated circles at his brow. “Fine. Busy.”
She tightened her grip on the doorframe. “With what?”
“What do you mean, with what? Work.” She’d never heard him talk this way before; usually his speech was peppered with ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’, with thankyous and pleases. He was polite to a fault, always saying sorry for something or other, self-deprecating. Here he was abrupt, agitated, twitchy. His shoulders trembled.
“It’s over, Remus.”
He stared. “I know it is.”
“But it – come and have some breakfast, Remus. With the rest of us. We miss you.”
He pulled another book from the shelf – something written in Runes – and slammed it on the desk, scattering dust and paper with an almighty bang. He stood with hands planted next to it.
“I told you he was-“
“I KNOW WHAT YOU TOLD ME!” He shouted, jerking his head towards her, and she shrank back to the doorframe she touched her stomach instinctively. “You’re not helping.”
“Sorry. I didn’t have to say that.”
“It’s –“ he sighed deeply and the breath travelled his whole body, his knees seeming to buckle with the release. “It’s alright. It’s true. I’m sorry too. I haven’t been sleeping. It’s made me a bit of a beast.” He laughed ironically. She didn’t join him.
“Come for a cuppa, Remus. I’ll let you come back, just – come for a cuppa.”
He collapsed into his chair, slumped so he was hardly on it at all, but for his back and shoulders. He looked at her and the despair in his eyes was a physical blow. “How do you do it, Molly? Keep going? Keep on? How do you stop yourself from giving up, how do you wake up every morning? I haven’t slept because I don’t want to face another day. That doesn’t even make sense.” He grabbed fistfuls of his hair and tugged on them. “I’m going mad. He’s gone, and I’m still going mad. Molly. How do you do it?”
She didn’t know; but then, she was lucky. She still had Arthur, still had their babies, still had the baby coming. Despite the death and chaos there was hope present, still; but Remus had none of these cushions. She helped him the only way she knew, knowing it would hardly make a difference. She let go of the doorframe finger by finger, crossed the room, and gathered him in her short arms all she could. She tried to take the pain by pressing his face into her shoulder, by holding his thin bones together, by not crying at the state of him. At the state of them all. They should have been celebrating, but no one really was. James and Lily and Peter were dead, and Sirius was a criminal. Frank and Alice were mumbling in a hospital, and their son would never know them as they were. Her children had been born into a newly free world that was wracked with ruin. She felt Remus choke a sob against her jumper and squeezed him tighter. After endless time, she felt him sigh.
Muffled, he said “I think I’ll have that cup of tea. If you’re offering.”
She drew back and looked at him. She nodded.
Molly reached out and took Fleur’s hand. “We don’t cope, love. We just keep moving. That’s all we can do.” Fleur looked at her in surprise, hand slack in Molly’s grip. “Just keep moving, and try not to forget, and count ourselves lucky.”
He’d been in the dark library for days, emerging only to smile momentarily at the kitchen full of people and then disappear again. At full moon he recuperated alone, asking Molly not to help. He did the dishes in the dead of night, as a sort of apology. He was silent, like a fog, carrying with him that tangible sadness. Molly was no longer as timid as she had been in the first Order, though; no longer was she scared of Remus because he was intellectual and quiet and a mystery. She stood over him as he sat on the floor in the centre of the library, surrounded by books, and books, and books. She knew he was looking for answers. She wished that he wasn’t.
“You always did know where to find me.” He laughed bitterly. She saw his shabby clothes, the way he had aged. Remus had always been old, though, in a way. An old soul, Sirius told her. She now knew what he meant.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
He continued to sit, facing away from her, on the floor. “Not particularly.”
“Yes. Alright.” He still did not face her. “You told me he was bad news.” He laughed. “Like something out of a romance novel. You didn’t like his motorbike, his attitude. You knew there was something wrong about him. Correct?”
“You know that’s not what I’m asking you.”
“I know.” He paused, thumbing a page of the book in front of him absent-mindedly. “He was my best friend. He was all I had left. I loved him. And now he is gone.”
“You know you can’t,” Molly wondered why she was always the one with the hard truths, when all she really wanted was to take each and every one of these sad, lonely people she knew and keep them safe, “don’t you? You know you can’t bring him back.”
“Even if I could, there would be no use. He wouldn’t want to be here. He’s with James now, and Lily, and everyone else we lost, and he doesn’t have to deal with wars and children dying and all this – this bullshit anymore. He’s lucky. He probably knows it.” He made a noise, half laugh, half exasperated sigh. “The git.” He turned to look at her, finally. “I’ll be alright, Molly. It’s happened before. I’ll survive.”
“I’m so sorry, Remus.”
“Don’t be.” He stood and embraced her, a foot taller than she was, and she could feel his ribs – she fought the urge to scold him for letting himself go to waste. “We have to have to accept the things we can and cannot change, and have the wisdom to know the difference – as my mother would say.” He sighed. She felt it flutter against her face. “Carry on, carry on, carry on.”
Fleur held her hand, squeezed back eventually. Molly looked away, tears in her eyes, the memory of Remus and all of her memories whispering “Carry on, carry on, carry on.”