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come back and haunt me

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It hadn't set in at the time; the dead body was just a dead body. He'd dealt with enough that to look at one, why, it might as well be a golum, made of clay, not someone once breathing.

It didn't set in at the funeral, or the wake; with Ginny's hand locked around his, Remus didn't have to think, he let Ginny think for him. The last of the Order was set apart from the rest of the mourners, anyway - they weren't sad, they weren't happy, they were simply shell-shocked, amazed that they could let their guard down.

None of them had.

It set in when Remus and Ginny came back to Number 12 Grimmauld place and saw his glasses sitting on the end table by the front door, in the most visible spot possible. The museum in their entry way now had a feature piece. People would come from all over to try and get a glimpse of it. Already the rumors were out of control. Harry was - and Remus saw those glasses, sank to his knees, and started to cry.

--

"Remus," and Ginny had her arms tucked around his pocked bare shoulders, "Remus, honey, he's gone. He's really gone."

--

Remus saw Harry, silvery-white and floating above the toilet, the day after while trying to take a piss. Harry looked sheepish, and alien without the glasses. "Hi," he said to Remus.

"Great," Remus said to the wall behind Harry, "I'm going crazy again."

He had seen Sirius - not as a ghost - for about two weeks after he was dead. The feeling of loss, true and utter crushing loss, that came when Remus knew in his heart Sirius wasn't there, still stung him, still sometimes kept him up nights. He knew he'd never truly give Sirius up, never get back up again.

Harry said, "You're not. I'm a ghost."

Remus didn't say anything. Ghosts were weak people, people scared to die, people who were unable to face the beyond that - Sirius had leapt into. Ghosts came back and lead a half-life, never truly happy. Harry wasn't like that, and besides, Harry deserved better. Harry deserved to disappear.

Harry said, "I guess I'm not really suited for Gryffindor." He sat on the sink, and added, "death is funny, isn't it?"

--

Harry said, "Just - don't tell anyone, okay?" He shook his head, that perpetual semi-frown he'd worn for as long as Remus could remember slipping down even more. "People are so stupid, they believed in-- anyway, don't tell anyone."

Remus rubbed his forehead. "Ginny will kill me," he told Harry, wearily.

Harry replied, "I'll talk to her. eventually." He sighed. "I just have to." he trailed off.

"Where've you been hiding?"

Harry went to push non-existent glasses up his face. "Up at the school."

Remus knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Dumbledore hadn't seen Harry. If he had, one of two things would have already happened. Dumbledore would have had a heart attack, or the ensuing yelling match would have shaken several small towns. "Why come to me?" he asked.

"Because," Harry told him, "ever since Sirius was, gone. You seemed a ghost already."

--

"I'm just going to call you James for a bit," Remus said, and tipped his glass to Harry. "Just for a minute. all right?"

A splash of liquid - some kind of multicolored, slightly steaming wizard whiskey - fell through Harry's foot and made a nice little shimmering drop on the floor. Harry rubbed his nose. "If you must," he said.

"Good." Remus stared through Harry's foot at the drop, which shimmered in its own right, and then again through the ghostly silver of Harry's foot. "Good," Remus repeated. "Good, James. good."

Harry floated away, up to the top of a dresser. "What's good?" he asked quietly.

"Us being here," and Remus gestured with the glass. A little slopped onto his hand; he was possibly more than a little drunk. "You and me, in this house. It's good."

"Why is it good?" Harry pressed.

"Because it is, James!" Remus shook his empty fist at the wall, and slouched down on the bed. "Sirius's bitch of a mother deserves it. We took it back for him."

Harry nodded slowly. "Sure we did," he told Remus. "Sure."

"I'll just call you James for a little while," Remus mumbled, and he lay on his back, careful to place his drink on his stomach, right way up. "Just a minute or two."

"Okay," Harry murmured.

Remus closed his eyes; he imagined he could see Harry, shimmering behind his eyelids, but it was just a trick of his brain, because when he opened his eyes again Harry wasn't where he thought he'd be. Harry was staring out the window. "I wonder who lives in this neighborhood still?" Harry muttered.

Remus pointed left, carefully. "They're Muggles." He added, "James and I went to Picadilly Circus once, and I forced him into a muggle photo booth." He sat up, awkwardly. "Amazed, you were," Remus told Harry. "You couldn't believe the pictures didn't move." Remus hung his head. "James never could believe it."

Harry looked away from the window; Remus watched him, his see-thru body in the dark. "I'm sorry," Harry told Remus. Remus shrugged; "yes, well," Harry said.

"It would have been good," Remus muttered. He put the glass on the night stand, and lay back down. "To have all been in this house." He closed his eyes. "She would have deserved it."

--

The sound was a car backfiring in the very Muggle street; some kind of early to mid 80s piece of junk. Remus shot up in bed, bare shoulder sweating and back sticky, wand in his hand.

Ginny put a palm on his chest. "Lay down," she whispered. "lay down."

With effort, he let the wand fall to his lap. There was nothing visible outside the window, nothing - it was too smoggy in London in the summer to see stars, and the moon was dark. The streetlamp on the corner was off. Dumbledore must be coming home.

"What did you think it was?" Ginny murmured to him.

Remus gasped, once, and flopped down. His nightmare was fading, the impression of a burning building and great whoooosh of noise, and his bitterly cold face. "Hogsmeade," Remus told her, and rubbed his forehead. He lay on his back and stared at the ceiling. "Hogsmeade in winter, when the store exploded."

Ginny said, "ah."

"Even the air burned," Remus told her quietly. He couldn't see her in the dark, even her pale skin disappeared with no light. She was laying on her side, facing him. "The air was hot. Our skin was tight for days."

"The first time," Ginny said, with understanding.

Remus nodded. His nightmares had got worse after Harry -- and he wasn't sure, exactly, why. They'd seen Voldemort's corpse. They'd seen Lucius Malfoy's corpse. They'd seen figures in masks locked in chains, wands broken, and only now was he dreaming about the Zonko's fire, night after night. "We were still at school," Remus said to the dark. "Still at school."

"Dad died while I was still at school," Ginny told him, and didn't lower her voice.

Remus sat up again, planted a dry kiss in the vicinity of Ginny's neck. He hit the side of her face, her jaw, and kissed it. "You know who would have found this conversation hysterically funny?" Remus told her. He snorted. "Sirius would. We're in his old bedroom."

--

An unopened bottle of firewhiskey sat on the table. Harry said to Remus, "come and have a drink with me."

--

There were good times to remember, of course there were, there were definite good moments, even while they were afraid for their lives. Remus just couldn't remember any of them.

One time in Kent, a Dementor ambushed Remus and tried to suck out his soul. instead of all the horrible, truly awful, things he could have remembered - many of them things he'd done - what played through his mind was James, the day he fell off his broom.

"Only once, mind," Remus reiterated. "Only once. We gave him grief about it for two months. The great James Potter, actually falling."

Remus turned to have someone finish the story, but instead of black hair, saw Ginny on his right, it was Ginny holding his hand, her small hands. He poured another drink. Molly came in, shuffling along, and picked up- a clean glass from the draining rack. She rinsed it, held it up at eye level for inspection. Ginny's glass was mostly empty already.

"It's clean, mum," she said. "Sit down."

They had a couple of old school mates of Ginny's come to do spot cleaning of the house once a week. It was never quite enough, but they kept trying despite the expense. They had the galleons, after all. Remus owned the house.

--

Fred and Hermione came over to the house, to check on Molly.

"She's better," Ginny said. "She's out of bed, she's moving around the house." She pulled a chair out for Hermione. "Yesterday she started cleaning plates."

"Finally," Fred said. Remus was standing in the doorway, feeling a little silly in an old teeshirt and a pair of Ginny's track pants. Hermione would know they were Ginny's; Fred might, but it wouldn't register in his mind. "She speaking?"

Remus answered, "A little. Enough for now."

Fred sighed. "I never thought I'd see us like this. We won and we're beaten."

Remus swivelled his head around, and thought he saw a flash of silver out the corner of his eye. Ginny looked down at her hands. "I thought that was my line."

--

Fred and Hermione stayed the night. Hermione cooked dinner for everyone. Remus sat down, his plate of food in his lap because there wasn't enough room at the table anymore. Long gone were the days where a dozen people or more would sit around the Black family kitchen and discuss strategy.

"We have news," Hermione started, and glanced at Molly. Molly had eaten half a potato. "We, that is I. We're having a baby."

Remus knew, this time, that he saw a flash of silver out of the corner of his eye. He hoped Harry was pleased. Fred coughed; Molly looked up, and started crying.

Ginny said, "congratulations. Do you have a name?"

Fred shook his head; he said, "we're going to wait. it's not an easy decision."

Remus stood, quickly, and shoved his plate away. It wasn't an easy decision because so many names needed to be honored, and there were so few babies.

--

Harry was in the same bathroom Remus had seen him in last. "Did you hear?"

"Do you always see me?" Harry said. "I was trying to blend in."

Remus lifted the lid of the toilet. "You're a ghost, you stand out," and Remus regretted the words instantly, wanted to take them back as soon as they left his mouth. Of course Harry stood out.

He wasn't offended. In fact, Harry smiled. "I'm glad it's not Ginny," is the only thing he said.

Remus told him, "me too."

--

"How is she?" Harry asked.

Remus readjusted the flowers beside McGonagall's bed, and straightened up. "Stable," he told Harry. "She won't die." Once a week he came to change the flowers and make sure of it.

"Everybody dies."

They ended up in a corner of the St. Mungo's coffee shop at three AM. No one but a sleepy Healer was around; Harry hunched over the table, and watched Remus drink tea. They could have sat at McGonagall's bedside, but it wouldn't have brought her out of it.

"I thought." Harry coughed. "I was sure that if we just got Rabastan we could figure out what happened to her."

"He got her good," Remus mumbled. "No, Professor McGonagall is still unconscious."

Harry glanced around the room. The Healer was chatting to someone through the little window to the kitchen; the candles were burning low. "And Moody?"

"Better," Remus said. "A little."

"A little." Harry put his hand on the top of Remus's tea cup, and the steam floated through his fingers. "They took out Moody. Sometimes I still can't believe it."

"Harry, why are you here?"

Harry shrugged. "McGonagall and I, in the swamp?" Remus nodded - Harry had been the only person with her when she fell. "A bog, really, out in Wales. They ambushed her. Ignored me."

"Yes," Remus said. "Yes they did."

--

"Harry, if you don't come out you're going to wish you'd died a third time," Remus shouted, and peered into the dusty linen cupboard.

A silver face popped out of the wall beside him. "What do you want?"

"I appreciate," Remus snapped, uncurling himself from the akward position he'd put himself in to check the linen cupboard, "that you've chosen me to haunt. It's flattering in a masochistic sort of way."

"But?" Harry prompted.

Remus sighed, and sat down in the hall. Harry approximated a sitting position beside him. "But if you don't tell Ginny soon, I will."

"She knows."

"She what?" Remus goggled at him, mouth actually hanging open.

"I didn't tell her," Harry replied, annoyed. "But she's not stupid. She knows I didn't, that I wouldn't." Harry stopped. "She knows."

"Why haven't you said anything to her?"

Remus watched Harry try to push the glasses up that were always on his face; except they weren't, they were in the front hallway. Somehow, dying without them on meant that he was denied them for good. He couldn't get used to the face without the glasses. "How do you apologize for something like that?"

"Dying?" Remus shrugged. "You can't. at least, Sirius wouldn't have been able to."

"No," Harry floated up, said quietly, "He wouldn't."

Remus said, "She loved you."

Harry shook his head. "No she didn't. We didn't love each other." He gave Remus a bitter smile. "She's disappointed in me, Remus."

Remus stood. The first time, when they didn't know who the traitor was, Sirius used to get into bed with a look like he couldn't believe Remus was there, couldn't believe his nerve. "She should be, I suppose."

"You too," Harry said. It held no malice. "Neither of us got away."

"Nope." Remus looked at him. "I wonder, sometimes," he told Harry, "why we can only have these conversations now that one of us is dead."

Harry said, "no you don't."

--

It was the morning after the full moon that convinced Remus they needed to move out of London. There was a long, jagged scratch in the wardrobe, a deep gash in the wood.

"let's go," Ginny said to him, and Remus didn't argue. He didn't have the strength.

--

They took a Muggle train all the way to Scotland.

Harry complained; he had to sit in the baggage compartment, he said, or inside one of their trunks the whole way so that no one saw him, and it smelled in Remus's bag.

"you can't smell," Ginny told him flatly. "Shut up."

Remus stared out the window. The Hogwarts' train was nearly a typical train, except it went faster than the average steam engine. This train puffed along slowly, and the scenery didn't change. Rolling hills, faint clouds, grey sky.

Harry opened his mouth to reply, closed it. He sank, with a little 'puff', into Remus's trunk, arms crossed and lips thin. Ginny muttered, "it wasn't out of line."

Remus said, "No." He turned away from the window. "I hope you two won't end up acting like spoiled children for the rest of the summer," and then he leaned against the window, weary. He'd spent time in front of a classroom with both of these two dead youths, for crying out loud.

He had just been reminded of his time as a teacher; then Ginny slipped over to put a smooth hand on his, press her shoulder, her ribs, to his own. "Here," she said, "have a mint," and she handed him a box of enchanted mints. "You'll feel better."

It was an empty offer, nothing, a wisp of cloud against a thunderstorm. Remus took the box, and exhaled. He suddenly felt very light. He could just see the little town they were to get off at, in order to walk to Hogsmeade. in the distance, he imagined he saw the castle.

--

Harry met the both of them in the carriage. "What do you suppose happens," he asked them, "to hidden places when people forget where they are?"

"Sorry?" Remus asked. He noticed Ginny was staring out the window, watching the Thestral trot along the little village road. It was still summer; the carriage was on loan. Dumbledore had been grateful to give it something to do.

Remus knew that Ginny was pretending she didn't see Harry just as sure as she was pretending she didn't see that black winged horse. "Places we've put charms on," Harry explained. He was outside, mimicking sitting on the Thestral's back. "That we've hidden." He shrugged.

Ginny said to no one, "they disappear."

"They don't," Harry told her. "But they might as well."

Remus muttered, "maybe someone had best get Dumbledore to write down the address of Sirius's house."

--

Remus heard Harry say, "how can you be angry with someone who's already decomposing!" and then he turned the corner, came into the Defense Against the Dark Arts office, and it was only Ginny, sitting in the professor's chair.

"New vocation?" Remus asked her mildly.

Ginny let the chair tip down, her feet falling off the edge of the desk where they were perched. The front two chair legs made a clunk on the stone floor not unlike a wooden leg. "Since no one else will," she muttered.

--

Remus felt himself let loose, something tight in his belly release. He stiffened in Ginny's arms. It happened accidentally; he whispered, "Sirius--"

and Ginny's eyes opened, her breathing ragged. She watched his face, eyes open and obvious, and said, "george."

they cried, hot and fast and overwhelming, just like they made love. If Harry was in the room, Remus didn't see him, and he didn't speak.

--

Remus woke up, and Ginny was woven all around him, her hair in his mouth. He was aroused out of habit; her breasts mashed against his side. All redheads looked so innocent while they slept, Remus thought; no one had ever accused Lily of anything.

Harry had black hair, but as a ghost it just looked brighter silver than the rest of him. Black hair seemed to mean bad news. It was their first night in the castle, and the spare cot in this spare office was too small. Remus gently untucked one arm from under Ginny, and pulled strands of red hair from his lips.

"Am I intruding?" Harry whispered.

Remus readjusted his arms so he had one firmly around Ginny's waist, the other on her back. When he spoke, long red hair entangled itself around his tongue. "no."

--

"Kindly remove yourself, Peeves," Nearly Headless Nick said solemnly. The poltergeist dropped the inkwells he'd been juggling and swooped out the window. Nick shook his head; it wobbled on his neck. "Atrocious behaviour, sometimes."

Remus stared down one length of the Gryffindor table, and then the other. The other House tables were nowhere to be seen, just Gryffindor, lonely and empty in the middle of the summer. "Nick," Remus asked suddenly, "How many ghosts are there at Hogwarts?"

Nick turned to him, a sad look. "Far too many, my friend. Far too many." He snuck a glance down at Dumbledore and Hagrid, who were discussing the merits of lemon versus butterscotch pudding. "You know about our latest, ah, guest?"

Remus looked at his plate. It was his own, a tin plate he used to carry with him while he was out in the field. "he came with us," Remus said quietly.

"He will be taken care of," Nick said. "No one will forget him."

"not now," Remus muttered.

Down the table, Hagrid called, "Lupin! Lemon or butterscotch?"

"Whichever," Remus answered.

Ginny came into the dining hall, hair wet and dripping down the back of her very Muggle tee shirt. She sat next to Remus, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "He's in the Astronomy tower," she whispered. "No one will go up there until the new Astronomy professor comes back in September."

Most of the staff chose to live off the grounds during the summer; they took rooms in London, or stayed with relatives, or in their own houses. McGonagall and Trelawny used to keep their holidays at the school, but McGonagall was in the long term care ward of St. Mungo's to stay, and Trelawny was dead.

"And where's Madame Pomfrey today?" Ginny asked. Her plate was already full of fish and chips - the house elves knew it was her favorite. "Not feeling well?"

"Poppy went back to London for a day," Dumbledore told them. "Family."

"Bad news?" Remus murmured. He was already halfway through the list of possible fatalities, when Dumbledore shook his head, said,

"no, a birthday party. Her niece." Hagrid cleared his throat, and Nearly Headless Nick, across the table from Ginny and Remus, looked away.

--

"what's that?"

A faint rapping sound, like a cane on paving stones, or like a beak against a window, made Remus sit upright and stare suspiciously out the window. Owls still occasionally brought notes after dark; sticks still blew in the faint breeze off the lake.

"Stay here," Remus muttered. He crept to the window, raised his wand. A stone was trapped in between the shutter and the pane, and it was the breeze tapping the two against each other. He relaxed. "Nothing."

Ginny had a cup of tea, and was sitting in a cozy arm chair beside a fire. They had nearly all the windows propped open, because a fire in August made Gryffindor tower stiffling. "What did you expect?" she asked, gently.

Remus came back to sit down beside her. "It doesn't feel proper, us in here," he said to her. "School starts in a few weeks."

She shrugged. "No one will know."

The Fat Lady, it being summer, had asked for last year's password, and let them in. They didn't sleep in the tower, because some things were a little too much. Trudging down the steps back to the defense against the dark arts office, they heard another rapping.

Ginny whirled around this time, wand drawn. Remus started to pull his out as well, and then dropped his hand. "Harry, come out," he said.

Ginny squinted; "Harry?" and then she squealed as a bag of water came splashing down on their shoes. "Harry!"

"Bad aim," Remus muttered.

Harry's head popped out of a suit of armor. "Did I miss?"

"Next time you'd better," Ginny told him, disgusted. She shook first one foot, then the other. "I know a few quite nasty ways to deal with ghouls and poltergeists."

"Ghosts aren't--"

Ginny stared at him, chin thrust out. "let's find out if they work, all the same."

--

Ginny clutched her side, giggles coming in waves. "oh, oh you didn't--"

Harry shrugged, his shoulder going through the smoke coming from her pipe. "It's about time someone actually saw something in a crystal ball around here." He snorted, gliding up to the little fan whirring around in the middle of the ceiling. The blades - going ever around in circles - appeared to be cutting his head off every other second.

"But your face!!" she gasped, trying to reign in the laughter. "The poor old bat must have nearly had a heart attack."

"I just waved at her." Harry looked affronted. "It's not like I predicted a third war. Gave her a good end of interview."

Ginny looked off to the side for a second, face still, then she turned back and grinned. "Next time you should. People shouldn't get too--"

"--complacent?" Remus said from the doorway. "Why don't you just teach Divination yourself?" he said to Harry, sitting down in the little armchair. The Defense Against the Dark Arts office had nothing in it that wasn't there before, nothing but three vague people and a little less dust.

Ginny added, "Or defense."

Harry floated there, letting the fan chop off his head. Finally, he muttered, "I don't think so."

Ginny stood. "Why not?"

"Don't think I'm qualified to teach," Harry said.

She started, "Binns--" and he interrupted with,

"is teaching something no one needs to know."

Remus said quietly, "in theory, so would you."

Harry looked between the both of them, and then put his hands over his eyes, rubbing the sockets. "I see everything blurry," he confessed. "I can't see without my glasses. You're just blobs - clearer than before, but still fuzzy. I can't see."

The fan whirred; the three of them looked at the floor, the walls, out the little window and out at the grounds. The office had accumulated dust over the summer, and Ginny and Remus had done their best to preserve it for whoeever would take over. Harry floated through the ceiling, leaving nothing in his wake. He didn't need to worry about dust.

--

It was a sudden wind that blew up from across the lake and stung their eyes, whipping Ginny's long red hair about. She said, "I'm thinking about cutting my hair."

"Really?"

"Mum wouldn't have liked it short," she mused. The wind made Ginny's red and gold Gryffindor scarf - packed for years under a bag full of sugar quills and practical joke items in the attic at Grimmauld place - stream out behind her like a long, colorful ribbon. "She would have hated it short."

"Molly thinks of you as her little girl, still, Ginny," Remus murmured. "I don't even think she knows what's going on between us."

Ginny snorted. The scarf, and the sugar quills, were two items out of many that she'd hauled out of the attic before they came to Hogwarts. She said she didn't want people to have to pack up and deal with her own belongings once she was gone; she'd gone through enough people's stuff to know that it was unkind to expect someone else to do it. Remus had paused a moment, and then opened his trunk to show her how little he had left to pack.

"Does anyone really know what's going on with us, though?" Ginny asked him. Remus shrugged. His luggage on the train had consisted of a bag, and two trunks; the first was full of cobwebs and the second was full of other people's things. He didn't want to leave anything to someone else to sort through either, and so he'd lay claim to the rest of the Order and all of their physical remains.

"Do you have any more of those sugar quills you dug out of George's things?" Remus asked her.

"Why d'you want them? They tasted rotten, like ash," Ginny said. She fished around in an inner pocket of her muggle jean jacket, and handed him one. "They were awful," she repeated.

Remus put it in his mouth. The spell that was cast on it was obviously faded, to the point where he could nearly taste feather. It sucked the moisture out of his mouth, made it dry. "It's the texture of these that make them awful," he told her. "They're dry as dust."

"dry as bones," Ginny said. In the distance, the wind blew trees around, bent the smaller ones over nearly double. This early morning was a taste of fall. Later in the day it would warm up, become a balmy August afternoon.

Ginny pushed hair out of her face, and Remus draped an arm around her shoulders. His skin felt chilled, refridgerated almost, numb from cold. "Dry as bones," Remus answered.

--

"You've forsaken your right to argue," and Ginny whirled around, her new boots clicking on the ancient stone underfoot. "You don't get to argue," she repeated.

Harry continued to hang, upsidedown, from the rafter of the classroom, like a macabre fixture or some extended lesson. Remus was sitting on the teacher's desk, not quite brave enough to sit behind it. "Ginny," he started, but she was already gone.

"She never did stick around very long," Harry said. Remus's shoulders sagged. It was like Ginny had de-aged, and he'd aged, each a hundred years. He didn't feel free and easy anymore. The weight of responsibility - he was a teacher - was ever-present.

"I think," Remus said, "that I've grown to hate it here."

Harry replied, "That makes two of us."

--

Ginny didn't come to bed.

Remus searched the castle, high and low, narrowly avoiding running into Dumbledore by using a version of the tracking spell they'd modified to identify non-traceable elements of a wizard's clothing. Once he stepped behind a suit of armor, pretending to be examining the brickwork. Sometime recently Dumbledore had given up meddling; perhaps he finally knew he couldn't really win.

Eventually, Remus gave up. He went down to the kitchens and snuck up on a group of house elves arguing about what to serve for tea. He went to the Arithmancy and Transfiguation classrooms, and trailed his hands over the chalkboards, on the ledges full of chalk dust. He climbed up to the Astronomy Tower, and stared up at the nearly full moon, down at the lights burning in Hagrid's hut.

Remus went to the Owlry, and found Ginny sitting in a little chair, holding Hedwig carefully on her arm, and feeding her bacon. "She's lonely," Ginny told him. "She misses Harry."

"Everyone misses Harry," Remus said.

"Nearly everyone," Ginny said, and for a minute, looked angry.

"Nearly everyone," Remus agreed. He didn't miss Harry. He didn't miss McGonagall, he didn't miss Dedalus. He didn't miss Ron or Arthur or Bill.

"Why'd you come looking?" Ginny asked. She let Hedwig go, and the owl flew away. Remus didn't watch her flight.

"I don't know," he said. "I missed having you there."

Remus realized, suddenly, that it was true; he missed having Ginny, a solid anchor of, something, at his back. She rolled her eyes, standing up impatiently. "Come on then."

--

Remus nearly stumbled into Amelia Bones, one of the few Ministry officials they'd succeeded in protecting. She was obviously at the school for a meeting with Dumbledore, since he ran into her outside his office. "Lupin," she said.

"Amelia."

They shook hands like strangers; she said, "how are you?"

"Surviving well, thank you," Remus replied. "You?"

"Susan's going to make me a grandmother," she replied.

Remus nodded, and choked on his next words, a lump in his throat. The secret was, he still missed Lily and James.

--

Ginny woke up, tears streaming down her cheeks and nails pressed into her palms so deep that when she unclenched her fists there were lines of blood welling up. Remus rubbed her fingertips with his own thumb. "What was it?"

She struggled to sit up, heavy blankets tangled in her legs. They had four quilts on and sweat through the night, windows open to catch the breeze. "I don't know," she said, and sniffled. "I can't remember."

Remus took a corner of the sheet and wiped her cheeks, the tears running down. Now that she was awake, her face wasn't crunched up, she wasn't moaning. Ginny was just puzzled, eyes red. "it's okay," he said.

"That's so weird," Ginny said, and wiped her eyes. "I don't know what I was dreaming."

Remus remembered nearly every single nightmare he had, he could describe them in the morning down to the size of the werewolf's teeth and the crunch of bone. Ginny was adament she never dreamed; Remus never told her differently. "It's nearly dawn anyway," he said.

She sighed, and kicked a few quilts off. "We can stay in bed all day if we want, you know." She pushed him gently, with her toe. "You don't have to be responsible anymore, no one's here."

Being up at the school was changing him, Remus knew that - perhaps it was reverting him back to the quiet teacher he thought he could once be. "Accio robe," he muttered, wand pointed at the door. He still slept with his wand in his hand. That hadn't changed, not even now, when he was sharing a bed.

"You're not getting up," she said, and stretched out, flat on her back and cosy looking. "It's not even half-five yet."

"Sirius and I," Remus told her, "in our flat. We nearly jinxed each other in our sleep one night because we both had a nightmare."

"It's a good thing I don't dream then, isn't it?" Ginny's wand was tucked under her pillow, handle sticking out ever so slightly to the middle of the bed. It was one of the few things they'd argued on - Remus didn't feel safe with her dreaming and a wand in her hand.

--

"So this one time," Ginny slurs, and Madam Rosmerta looks over, clucking. "This one time, we were in Bath, and we didn't have more than five minutes--"

Hagrid coughed, and set his bucket posing as a tankard down. His 'hem!' cut Ginny off. "Ginny, luv," he said, "we best not be discussing things of this nature. Yer mam wouldn't approve, now would she?"

Ginny snorted, and slapped the table. "All mum approves of these days is babies."

Remus stiffled a sigh. Hermione was due any day now, her and Fred having kept it a secret for so long. That they could have kept a secret like that for so long was criminal, it spoke of the neglect the Order was going through. "At least she's speaking to Hermione," Remus said.

Ginny snorted again. "Wait until she finds out the kid will take Hermione's last name, and then say that."

Hagrid blinked blearily. "Y'think they won't name the little mite-- I mean, it'd only be proper, carryin' on such a fine wizarding family, Hermione must know--"

Ginny stared at him with such pity in her eyes that even Hagrid, drunk, caught on. "Do you think," she mumbled, "for a second that Fred would allow it?"

"But," Hagrid blustered, "I'd think he'd be happy, seein' a baby--"

"Oh for pity's sake," Ginny said, and shoved her stool back angrily, "let us Weasleys die in peace, already!" She stumbled to the tavern door, wrenching it open.

Remus found her outside, shivering a little in the summer night. "You forgot your coat," he said.

"How could he be so!--" she said, and then stopped.

Remus held her hand. She twined her fingers in with his, relaxing her arm unconsciously, jaw still clenched. It didn't mean Remus had managed to offer a bit of comfort, any comfort - far from. Ginny had just managed to separate herself so completely into parts that her body and mind could function apart from one another.

Ginny said, "he doesn't understand-- why wouldn't they just let us die in peace?"

Remus told her, "it's very irresponsible, having a child." She nodded. Remus added, "they really are different people than you or I, though."

Ginny shuddered. "No one else can know about Harry. Can you imagine if Hagrid found out? Or Hermione?"

Remus stared up at the sky. He was incredibly tired; it was too close to the full moon for drinking. "Ginny, what are we doing here?"

She shuddered again, and didn't answer for a minute. "A child. A child. How could they possibly--" She stopped.

Remus said, "I don't know."

--

What the full moon meant, though it wasn't quite apparent to Remus, was that they'd already been at the school for a month. It didn't matter much while he was tearing at his own flesh, or in the morning when Ginny came to fetch him from the shack, not Pomfrey. It was that afternoon, as he was sprawled out in bed, that Ginny dropped the real bomb.

"Did you know," she said offhand, "that the students start arriving tomorrow night?"

Remus blanched; every fresh wound started aching in time. "They don't."

"They do," she said. Ginny was facing the mirror over the night stand, brushing her hair. "Tomorrow. The rest of the teachers arrive tonight."

Remus felt himself sink into the mattress; teachers. They were in a teacher's office. "What time?"

"Oh, maybe half five?" She still didn't turn around. "Dumbledore mentioned it at breakfast, which you happened to sleep through."

They'd seen a few of the teacher interviews, Ginny and Remus spying on the table in Hogsmeade through a hole in the floor James had found as a sixth year. Over the years, Hogwarts had gained - and lost - quite a few teachers. They needed another new Transfiguration professor; the last one was useless, or so Remus had heard.

He started, "what," and then swallowed. "We'd best get going then," he said. "Whoever is getting this office will probably want it unoccupied."

Ginny turned around for that, put the brush down. "He didn't hire anyone," she said.

"What?"

"For this office." She stood. "For Defence Against the Dark Arts."

"They aren't teaching it this year?" Remus said, biting his cheek. "That seems a bit rash--"

"No, they're teaching it," she answered.

Remus stared at her, and suddenly saw - not for the first time - what Alastor Moody had in the youngest Weasley. Ginny made sure she always won. He sank into the pillows again, feeling that unending weight on his body. "I won't," he said. "He won't."

"Fine," Ginny replied shortly. "Fine."

--

As soon as he was able, Remus charmed his trunks to follow him and moved into an unused pantry. He transfigured a few old crates into enough of a cot that he could sleep, and did. He slept through the teachers' arrivals, he slept through the students' arrivals, he even slept through the Welcome Feast. Remus forced himself to stay asleep, and he didn't wake up until Harry found him. It was after midnight.

"In hiding?" Harry asked.

Remus blinked in the dark. Harry's ghost form illuminated a little bit of his cupboard, but not much.

"I spent the first eleven years of my life in a place like this," Harry said. He peered around. "Not all eleven, I guess I spent the first year with mum and dad. And my cupboard had more spiders."

"Harry--"

"What are you hiding from?"

Remus rubbed his eyes; Harry was sitting on the foot of his cot. "You know very well."

Harry fixed him with a look of pity. "She's not going to come looking for you, don't worry," he said. "You're perfectly safe. She probably won't speak to you even if you do see her."

"Won't answer you?" Remus asked him.

Harry shrugged. "I have roughly forever to wait for people to get over a grudge," he told Remus. "It really doesn't matter anymore."

--

That evening, Remus took five galleons out of his trunk and slipped out the back entrance to walk to Hogsmeade. He decided that, if there were going to be students around, the least he should do is buy a new set of robes.

--

"An' where've you hid yourself, Lupin?" Hagrid called across the pub. Several faces looked up; Remus recognised all of them. "Come an' have a pint."

"Evening," he murmured. His sack held brand new robes. They were some of the first he'd ever bought - for most of his life, he hadn't had the money to afford anything proper and new, and once he inherited the Black fortune, there was such a need to stay undercover that he couldn't have worn brand new robes, even if he wanted to.

"Here," and Hagrid waved for a pint. "Come an' sit down. We hardly see you up at the castle anymore."

"yes," Remus said, and then, "ta," to Rosmerta, who brought him a pint over.

"Where have you been?" Hagrid asked. "An' why aren't you in yer classes?"

"My classes." The beer was a little flat. People had already dismissed him. The witches and wizards in Hogsmeade probably all knew who he was by now; he'd been a fixture as a teacher and a common guest as a soldier. They didn't trust him but they paid him no mind.

"Ginny's a right sight better'n anyone else we've 'ad coverin' Defense," Hagrid said, "but she said you'd be better for the proper teachin' parts." He smiled fondly. "Amazing girl, Ginny. Course she is, she's a Weasley."

Remus said, "yes." He sat. Hagrid surely had no idea how angry he was right now. "Ginny said that, did she."

"Well, the two o' you were gonna take those classes together, weren't you! Course she said you'd be better at the actual teacherin'. Kids loved your classes, Lupin."

He was going to kill her. Even with all of Moody's special training, and handling, even after seeing Harry die and come back - Remus was going to kill her. He probably had a good chance of succeeding and surviving, too. Ginny was good but she wasn't that good. "Ah," he said to Hagrid.

"Are yeh feeling a bit peaky?" Hagrid asked, suddenly. "I know it's still pretty close to the full moon."

"Ah, yes," Remus said. Perhaps she was still sleeping in the Defense Against the Dark Arts office. He'd have a definite advantage there. Maybe. "I think," he told Hagrid, "I'm going to head back."

"Where you stayin'!" Hagrid called out, but Remus was already moving rapidly to the exit. He'd remembered to put a Sickle down for his drink - far too much money, but then, money was the only thing he ever had enough of.

--

he decided to just go to bed. Back in his pantry, there was a whisper of magic across his skin. Remus smiled, and then realized he was bound to the bed. "Evening," he said to Ginny.

"I'm tired of waiting," she said, and crossed her arms. "You haven't left the castle yet, so obviously you're going to teach again. Just give up whatever routine you're going through and get over it." She paused. "Harry's dead. The end. Move on."

Remus sighed. "Can we please have this conversation tomorrow?" and she nodded, and then released him, and then she got into his bed.

--

Harry was sitting on his trunk when he woke up. Ginny was snoring gently, tucked in the crook of his arm. It was still odd to wake up with her. He supposed that, in some ways, it would always be odd. "Good morning, Harry."

"You have to do something for me," Harry said. "And then I'll leave."

"You can't--" and Remus swallowed. "You mean leave the castle, don't you." Harry nodded. "You don't have to leave."

"I would prefer not to stay," Harry said. "But I won't leave until you promise to do something for me."

There was no window in his pantry, just a faint kind of diffused light coming from a little square of magic he'd conjured up to simulate morning. Remus said, "What?"

"Get Dumbledore to take all the magic off Grimmauld Place." As Remus sat up, trying to pull himself free of Ginny and not wake her at the same time, Harry added, "I'm serious, I want people to be able to go into that place, to see it."

"Harry--"

"No." He floated up. "I'll go back there, but I don't want people to end up--" he paused. "I don't want no one to see what people left behind, there."

Remus stilled his arm, which had been trying to disentangle Ginny's hair from his watch. The front hall of Grimmauld Place, it still had Ron's broom, and a toilet seat of George's, and Percy's head boy badge, and Dedalus's hat, and now it had Harry's glasses, and if there was any place in the world that Remus would like to never have to go back to--

"You stay here," Harry said. "Just make sure that Grimmauld Place, and that fucking tapestry, doesn't simply disappear."

Remus said, "okay."

Harry nodded. "Good." He tilted his head, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I'm tired, you know. Do you think you'll end up a ghost?"

Remus said, "I don't know."

--

"He's gone," Remus mumbled to Ginny at breakfast. Sitting at the staff table was, odd, to say the least. McGonagall's place was filled with a wizened little wizard who wore glasses; the Divination teacher's place, currently being a centaur, was empty. Snape's chair, empty for a year now, had a very young witch sitting in it. Remus had never seen the head table missing McGonagall before.

"Of course he is." Ginny was having hashbrowns for breakfast; some time during their stay, Remus didn't know when, Ginny had taught the house elves to make them. "You don't think he'd stay while I was so angry with him, did you?"

"You might be a bit more charitable," Remus said calmly.

"He wasn't--" and then Ginny lowered her voice. Dumbledore, five feet away from them, was avidly discussing a performance of some piece of music with the Arithmancy teacher. Flitwick was talking to Hagrid about the new lessons. Twenty feet away, the entire school was eating breakfast. In a more normal voice, Ginny said, "you don't look entirely well."

"I'm not, then, am I?" Remus replied. He picked apart a piece of bacon. "We have to get Dumbledore to stop protecting Grimmauld Place."

"You do it," Ginny said, and stuffed her mouth. "I have to get today's lesson ready, since no one else will do it."

Remus stared out at the Gryffindor table. "Give him two weeks in that house, alone, and he'll come back to teach." Remus sighed. "I promise."

--

The first lesson Remus wandered into was the second years'. Ginny was trying to explain the fundamentals of wand care to a group of twelve year olds. Remus smiled in the doorway, he couldn't help it, as one little redhead in the front row put her hand up, timidly. "Please, ma'am, did you fight against You-Know-Who?"

He said, "Yes, Ginevra. tell us of your adventures." Remus walked up to the front of the classroom.

Ginny nodded to him, a pleased gleam in her eyes. She said to him, "shut up."

--

It was going to work, at least for a time. Most of the children were awed enough that their professor was a real Auror, or a real werewolf, to wonder why they were both teaching. Some of the seventh years even recognised Ginny from her last year, from being Head Girl and the only student to be admitted to Moody's training before she graduated. "At least they seem interested," Ginny said.

"Children are interested in rumors, well enough," Remus told her. "Give us two weeks and they'll be back to writing dirty jokes in class."

"Do you blame them?" She dropped an imp into a jar. "They're only getting to learn about Hinkypunks - they don't know how to counter a fatal blow, they don't know how to avoid being caught on the Floo line, and they don't even care how to sneak up on someone, take them out and Apparate away." She dropped a beetle in with the imp.

Remus told her, "I hope they never do."

--

Ginny said, "I wonder how many of our students are orphans?"

Remus paused in putting out bloody chunks for the Red Caps. "Why don't you ask them?"

Ginny looked up from the sixth year papers she was grading. Remus hadn't figured out her particular system, only that she used a red quill fairly consistently. Ginny, it turned out, was a very hard teacher. "Maybe I will," she said.

Remus watched the red caps fighting over the meat. "Don't," he told her.

"Why not?" Ginny flipped parchment; Remus caught a glimpse of the words 'Crucatius' and 'impossible'. "Just because Voldemort is dead doesn't mean they're much safer."

"Don't say that, either," Remus said sharply. He bit his tongue, moderated his voice. "When do you think Harry will come back to the castle?"

"When Dumbledore is dead," Ginny said. "You?"

He looked around their little bedroom. The Defense Against the Dark Arts apartment was always fairly sparse, at least whenever he'd seen it - no one ever stayed in the position really long enough to make it a home, not like McGonagall's cheery rooms. The position also tended to attract, for the most part, those who had a habit of not collecting too much. Remus said, "I'll give him until Hallowe'en, at most."

"You really think?"

Remus closed the lid on the red cap tank, and went to their pixie cage. "He's a ghost, but he's only been dead a few months," Remus said. "He'll get used to it eventually, but until then, he'll be bored."

Remus didn't say 'depressed' because he wasn't sure ghosts felt depressed about the crushing sense of eternity; none of the ghosts he'd ever had conversations with tended to discuss the fact that they'd seen students live, die - that they'd seen hundreds of years pass and they themselves never changed.

"I don't think he'll come back until everyone who knew him is gone."

Remus told her, "He just needs to grieve his own death, then he'll be sick enough of Grimmauld Place he'll never want to go back."

--

The first Hogsmeade visit of the season corresponded with Hallowe'en. A windstorm had picked up the night before, stirring leaves and branches along the paths. Ginny delighted in stomping up the leaves, leading two of the second years that she'd taken a liking to in a fierce charge against them. "Come on!" she yelled to Remus.

He shook his head. He was wearing a Gryffindor scarf - and why not? Ginny was head of Gryffindor right now, a temporary position since the Transfiguration teacher was ill. Remus knew she'd keep it for this year, maybe for the next. Maybe until she was dead. He might as well show his alliegence, put it out there for everyone to see.

"Grouch," she said. The two second years giggled, and then immediately covered their mouths, eyes wide as they realized they'd laughed at a teacher. Remus moved on, leaving Ginny to the leaves.

--

"I should think," he heard someone say, "that they'd be able to find someone more suitable." The voice was disapproving. "Living together, teaching together - she's barely twenty years old!"

"They're both more than able," someone replied - Remus thought it was Flitwick.

"Their behavior, though, it's simply not something you should see at a school--" and then Remus got up, turned around to face the table. It was a witch, a parent of one of their third year students. Remus remembered her husband; they'd arrested him for collaborating with spies, and later released him on evidence presented of coersion.

"Lupin," Flitwick said, but Remus interrupted with,

"Ginevra Weasley is head of Gryffindor house for a reason." There was a breeze in the pub as someone struggled to open the door and close it again. "And children are not usually stupid. I would like you to find someone better suited than her, behaviour or no, for her job."

The witch huffed, but Remus didn't really care. He needed to stop saying what he meant so often, but then again, he didn't have any more to lose.

--

At the Feast later, Ginny was gracious enough to say, "okay, what do I owe you?"

Remus would have answered her, but he was too busy watching Harry float through the stone wall to hover beside Dumbledore. Remus didn't know what he wanted to happen; he didn't know if Harry was going to be angry, a hint of that justifiably resentful youth shining through, he didn't know if Harry would crack a joke. He didn't really expect Dumbledore to react much at all.

"Well would you look at that," Ginny mused, and leaned around Remus to stare at the headmaster.

Remus stared at his plate. He should have felt glad; Dumbledore was letting tears slide down his papery cheeks, unchecked, as Harry floated there motionless. He should have been glad, he should have felt justified. Instead he just felt tired.

Ginny added, "serves him right."

--

He caught Hagrid, drunk on butterbeer if anything, taking a swing at the bucket hanging from his roof. "It ain' fair," Hagrid muttered.

Remus said, "I know."

It had taken Remus nearly three hours to get up the courage to visit Hagrid once he'd raced out of the hall, giant feet booming along the stone. Hagrid hadn't taken the news well. Of course he hadn't, no one could expect anyone to take this kind of news well. The fact that Remus was unfazed, was calm and normal and not out of place, didn't mean he was any more eager to console the grieving.

Hagrid said, "It ain' fair." He cradled his hand, which had rebounded off the wooden bucket and clumped against brick. "After all a' that, it--" and Hagrid kept talking, but Remus didn't listen. He stared up at the sky, and wondered when he'd get to go home, and then realized that home was a museum full of junk that used to belong to people that were dead.

--

Hagrid passed out in his cottage, and Remus sat outside. The stars twinkled as Ginny came to find him. "Come on," she said, "at least two of us have to stop treating this as a surprise or a gift or a momentous occasion."

That was the surprise; that it wasn't a surprise. "I would have given," Remus told her, "anything if Sirius had decided to stay."

Ginny nodded, sadly. "I know," she said.

"I would have."

"I know," Ginny repeated. "But not all of us would."

--

Compared to Harry, Ginny and Remus were second rate teachers. He swooped into the classroom and commanded the attention of every child, from first to seventh year - and not only that, but they learned.

"Why do we bother?" Remus murmured to her as Harry explained the most effective way to take care of the kind of curse that can suffocate you.

"Because he can't do everything," she snapped, and as Harry looked back she stepped forward to demonstrate the spell, wand ready. On Harry's face was a look of, apology, possibly shame; it was reserved for Ginny only. Remus knew the look meant he needed someone live.

--

Harry didn't sit through meals and he didn't show up outside the classroom. "People pester me," he complained. "As if I have the secrets of the world."

Ginny rolled her eyes. "That's a laugh," she said.

Remus stirred his tea - milk, two sugars. Sirius had got him drinking tea with milk and sugar while they were still in the flat together. It was too sweet, too sickly, and always had been, but he still drank it. "Where do you go?" Remus asked.

Harry said, "here and there," and then, "mostly near the lake, it's quiet out there."

Remus looked out the window. Somehow, Hogwarts hadn't changed since the days he'd been studying here. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair. It was a time capsule, holding them hostage. "I'm thinking about going back to London," he said.

Ginny's hand - poised over an essay - stilled. Harry glanced at her, and then at Remus. "Really," Harry said.

"It's about time," Remus said.

"No." Remus turned to Ginny. She stared at him, mouth a thin, angry line. "No."

He was so tired; the moon was coming up, ever-closer. It was time to retire and let someone else in. He'd earned the right to leave, and he'd earned the right to fiddle around in a small vegetable patch, maybe buy a cat. He'd earned the right to settle down somewhere quiet and tranquil.

"Well?" Ginny demanded.

London at the heart of rush hour seemed to Remus to be a slice of peace and quiet compared to the sounds of students, of classes. If he never saw Dumbledore's face again, it would be too soon.

"Let him go," Harry said quietly.

Ginny rounded on him, papers spilling out of her lap to flutter to the floor. She said, "over my dead body."