Work Header

The Bureaucratic Error

Chapter Text

The last weeks before his death were among the happiest of Remus’ life. 

Amidst the suffering and the dying and the fear, he had a wry appreciation for the irony of it all. 

He reflected on the world in which they found themselves as he sat in a rocking chair staring at his sleeping son one rainy spring afternoon.

The proverbial writing had long since been on the proverbial wall. There was going to be a showdown between Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter. Probably it would be at Hogwarts. Certainly, Remus would be there at the side of the boy who was the last remnant of his old school friends— the young man who had been grown enough to demand that Remus face his own fears and return to his wife and child.

Thank Merlin for Harry, for so very many reasons. 

He’d worried a bit when Lily had announced that she was pregnant with Harry. He’d worried that this was the first step in his friends moving on to adult lives with careers and families of their own while he would be stuck in time, forever hemmed in by the specter of the wolf. He’d worried that James wouldn’t want him around the baby (though he’d been aware enough to know that James would have been deeply offended if he had ever, ever voiced that fear aloud). Most of all, he’d  worried that Harry wouldn’t like him and he would have to drift away from the new little family. Good parents couldn’t continuously inflict the presence of a despised adult on a defenseless child, after all. Childhood was hard enough.

It had all changed the moment he had met Harry. James had dumped Harry into Remus’ arms almost gleefully, proving once and for all that there was no chance that he would be following the law then in effect that forbade interactions between werewolves and young children. Remus had gazed down on Harry’s smooth, delicate face as it glowed with newness. Harry’s lip twitched in an inadvertent imitation of a smile, and Remus had known, right then and there, that he and Harry were going to enjoy each other. The unexpected rush of emotion had not just been the requisite love for his dear friends’ child or the natural instinct of an adult to protect an infant. It had been a genuine feeling of liking for the person that Harry was sure to become.

He’d never told Harry about that. He’d have to make certain that he did if they both lived through the final battle. Perhaps he’d write a letter in case Harry lived and he did not. 

He ought to be preparing for the final battle rather than gazing at his own infant son.

No. No, nothing was more important than these moments with Teddy. Not even keeping his dueling form sharp. He’d kept his dueling form sharp all his life. It was fine.

Teddy’s eyes fluttered open. They were gray today; the color of the sky. The color of the House of Black. The color of Sirius’ eyes.

You’d better hope that’s all he inherited from the House of Black, Sirius’ voice whispered into his mind. Sirius had been dead for just over two years, and if Remus occasionally imagined what he might say, that wasn't hurting anyone. He’d done it with James, too, in those first years after James’ death. Not anymore—James had been dead now for almost as long as he’d been alive, and for longer than Remus had known him. But he’d thought of James often these past few weeks. The parallels between their situations were inescapable.

James’ son had been born at the height of the first war against Voldemort; Remus’ son had been born at the height of the second war against Voldemort half a generation later. James and Lily had hidden because their son was marked by a prophecy to defeat Voldemort; Remus and Dora hid because Dora and Teddy were considered the blood traitors to end all blood traitors.

And I resent them taking that title away from me, whispered pretend-Sirius’ voice.

James and Lily had been deliriously in love with each other and their beautiful son. So were Remus and Dora.

James had always liked to use his wand to conjure circles of smoke to amuse Harry. Remus, warmed by the memory, did the same now. Teddy was still too young to grab for the circles, too young even to follow their movements  with his half-focused eyes. But when Remus tinted the smoke so it was turquoise, Teddy’s hair suddenly flashed turquoise as well. Chuckling, Remus tinted the smoke pink, then golden, then a deep blue-purple. Teddy kept pace enthusiastically.

Dora entered the nursery, drawn by Remus’ laughter.

“Enjoy it now,” she teased, a smile lighting her beautiful face. “Metamorphmagi are nothing but trouble. Ask me how I know.”

“I’m looking forward to every bit of it,” Remus returned easily. “I hoped he would look like you, and now he can look like all of the yous.” 

“It wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d looked like you.” Dora strode across the room and attempted to perch on the edge of the rocking chair.  She slipped and fell to the floor with a pained thud. She tried to hide it, but Remus knew— she’d hurt ever since Teddy’s birth. Her labor hadn’t been complicated, exactly, but Remus would have preferred a healer and a hospital. Those hadn’t been options; Death Eaters would have attacked the moment she’d shown her face (any of her faces) at Saint Mungo’s. 

Remus hurried to settle Dora in the chair with Teddy in her arms while he perched against the windowsill and admired them. 

“Well, I certainly hope he inherits his father’s ability to walk across a room without knocking anything over,” said Dora merrily as the color returned to her pale face. She shifted Teddy in her arms to see if he would nurse. After some hesitation, he did.

“I hope he has your spirit,” said Remus. “And your loyalty. And your openness.” 

“And I hope he has your humor. Your intelligence. Your ability to follow the rules once in a while so maybe he’ll have a shot at making prefect in school.”

“I hope he follows the rules just often enough,” Remus decided.

Dora nodded. “Agreed. And I hope— I hope he has my father’s kindness.”

“Oh, Dora.” Remus slid from the windowsill and let his arms encircle his wife and child. He’d come to the point where he was almost at peace with the deaths of the men and women he had loved, but Ted Tonks’ death was fresh and new and raw for Dora and Andromeda. “I know you miss him.”

“I just wish he could have met Teddy.” Dora blinked back a tear before catching Remus’ eye. “I wish he had had a few more months. I know it sounds greedy, demanding more, when I had him for so long.”

“It doesn’t,” Remus promised.

“How old were you when your mother died?”

“Nineteen. Barely out of school.” Lily had come to the funeral, visibly pregnant with Harry, and someone had made a comment about the circle of life and Remus had wanted to hex her. 

“What do you most hope she gave to Teddy?”

“That’s it exactly.” Dora looked at him curiously. “Hope. That was her name. Hope. And it was just the right name for her. She was a Muggle, and not only did she marry a wizard but she wound up with a werewolf for a son. She was in a world that was entirely alien to her, but she never lost hope. She did everything she could to treat my condition, and to see me educated, and she never made me feel like I was a burden. She was a beacon of energy. You and she— you would have adored each other.”

“I’m sure of it,” Dora agreed. “And when this war is over, I do want to meet your father for more than five minutes.”

“He wants that, too.”

“Maybe we’ll have my mother and your father round our house on alternate weekends so the grandparent time gets evenly distributed.” 

“We won’t want a weekend to ourselves now and again?” Remus asked.

Tonks wiggled her pink eyebrows. “That’s when we send Teddy off to one of their houses instead of having them to ours.”

“I want Harry to see him regularly, too. I don’t want godfather just to be a title. I want Harry to know that he has all kinds of family all over England.”

“Of course Harry is welcome, any day, any night, any time he pleases. We’ll keep his favorite food in the kitchen and hang Quidditch posters in one of the bedrooms. But we’ll have to invite him at first so he knows we mean it. The miserable Muggles who raised him did a number on him. So many good Muggles in the world. My father’s family. Your mother’s family. But Harry got stuck with the worst caricatures you could invent, the sort that give them all a bad name. Like it wasn’t enough that he lost his parents and was stuck with that prophecy.” Teddy, sensing his mother’s agitation, whimpered. Dora made an effort to calm herself. “Gnomes in the garden for Teddy to chase,” she cooed. “I agree with Arthur Weasley. They’re funny.”

“If that’s what you want.”

“And we’ll be close to a school so Teddy can walk or fly there every day until he’s old enough for Hogwarts. Maybe you’ll even teach there? How would you feel about teaching younger children?”


“You’d be brilliant, just as you were with the students at Hogwarts. I never hear the end of it when I meet someone you taught, you know. It’s almost sick-making, the way they all worship you and wish you'd stayed longer than one year.” 

“It won’t matter for the next few years, anyway. One of us will need to be with Teddy most of the time, and it won’t be the most celebrated Auror in Britain. You won’t have any shortage of magical messes to clean up and junior Aurors to train.”

“Will you mind? Being my arm candy house husband?”

Remus laughed. “Not at all.” Once, it would have bothered him. He wouldn’t have been able to believe or tolerate Dora’s insistence that she found him attractive. He would have burned with anger and shame at the thought of letting his beautiful young wife support their family financially. But Teddy’s birth had endowed him with something solid, something stable, something peaceful. He had never believed that having a family of his own was a realistic possibility, and when Teddy had been born happy and healthy and without a trace of the werewolf curse, something inside of Remus has shifted.

Besides, he reflected as the dark thoughts crept back to take their place alongside the bright ones, he knew perfectly well that there was very little chance that this flight of fancy would ever become a reality. He would fight. He would fight to stay with Teddy and Dora. He would fight to support Harry, Ron, Hermione, and his other former students. He would fight for his fallen friends and colleagues who had already made the ultimate sacrifice for their shared cause. He would fight for the ideals of light magic.

But he was on borrowed time. Almost all of his classmates and colleagues— witches and wizards far braver and more skilled than he— had died in either the first war or the second. Most of the warriors left to fight were children, and he wasn’t about to let them march like lambs to the slaughter without an experienced veteran of the first war against Voldemort to take the lead.

He would protect that army of children if it cost him his own life. He would hope that one day someone else would do the same for his own child. Better yet, he would hope that no one would have to.

It was with a strange blend of of optimism and resignation that he answered the call late that night.

He thanked Andromeda for all she had done for him.

He cradled Teddy’s warm, fragile head with one hand and told him that he would always be loved.

He kissed Dora and reminded her that she had not yet recovered from childbirth and that she was in no condition to fight. He promised that he would take down enough Death Eaters for the both of them. He swore to her that he would do everything he could to come home in one piece because he adored her and was not stupid enough to make the mistake of leaving her twice.

Then he forced the tears out of his eyes and got himself to the rallying place.

Remus nodded to Kingsley Shacklebolt, half a dozen Weasleys, and a collection of his former students as he strode into the Room of Requirement. Being at Hogwarts had a way of making him feel in control. 

No one seemed to know quite what was happening until Harry appeared at the top of the stairs. “Voldemort’s on his way. They’re barricading the school. Snape’s run for it. They’re evacuating the younger kids, and everyone’s meeting in the Great Hall to get organized. We’re fighting.”

The moment had come at last. 

Or, the moment would come just after Percy Weasley tumbled into the room, loudly confessed his sins, and was sobbingly embraced by his family. It was good, Remus knew. None of them would die estranged. 

Fleur Delacour, bless her veela heart, tried to distract the rest of the group from the Weasleys’ dramatic reunion by demanding an update on Teddy. Remus picked up on her cue and obligingly waved about the photograph he had planned to carry into battle as a talisman. He looked like a madman, but there was no shame in it; Teddy was the most wonderful baby on the planet, and really everyone should have had the opportunity to admire him before the fighting got hot. 

What followed next was a rush of arguments and tears as the younger students begged to be permitted to fight and their parents and professors ordered them to vacate the grounds. Remus quietly helped to convince the younger witches and wizards to save their own lives, all the while knowing that, back at her mother’s house, Dora was growing more and more impatient.

Dora couldn’t be ordered to stay put like an errant child.

Dora was going to rush into the thick of the fight and make herself a particular target for Bellatrix Lestrange.

Dora had trained all of her life for this, and her inability to sit on the sidelines was one of the things Remus loved about her.

It was why he had asked her to stay behind, but hadn’t extracted a promise. He hadn’t wanted her to know on her deathbed, or his, that she had broken a promise to her husband.

He assigned himself the most dangerous task— leading a group of fighters onto the grounds— to little argument. They all agreed that the professors should stay in the school and defend the towers. It was Remus, Kingsley, and Arthur who divided up the twenty most knowledgeable, level-headed volunteers and walked straight into Voldemort’s attack.

The battle began suddenly, as battles so often did. There was always a long moment of boredom before the instant of sheer terror.

Then the terror gave way to a perverse delight. That delight was what ruined some witches and wizards (and Muggles, too) when a war was over. There was nothing quite like the exhilaration that came when the air was thick with life and death. The world was all at once everything and nothing. His wand cut through the air with joy and pride and power. He moved in concert with the others as if they had never been apart, as if they never would be apart again. There was no past to regret and no future to dread. There was just the moment. 

He flung a masked Death Eater away from one of the others with a simple Knockback Jinx, and that was when Antonin Dolohov stepped into his line of sight.

He wasn’t sure how he knew Dolohov instantly. It wasn’t as if they were old chums, or even old enemies who had spent much time together.

He took a defensive stance. Often, otherwise brilliant duelers could be made to defeat themselves by an opponent who wasn’t too proud to start with a retreat. Remus was all too happy to go backward to go forward.

Sweat soaked Remus’ clothes and dripped from his face. His breathing quickened.

But he advanced.

The tiny part of him that was aware of anything beyond curses and jinxes and counter-curses and moving bodies began to think that he was going to win. That he would take down one of the best duelers in history: the infamous Antonin Dolohov.

And why not him? Why not him, as much as he had learned about the Dark Arts in his life? Why not him, with as much reason as he had to live? 

The battle raged around them, but for Remus and Dolohov there was nothing but their duel. Remus took hits and avoided hits and stayed on his feet. He hit Dolohov and missed Dolohov and watched Doholohov stay on his feet.

He saw the curse he wouldn’t be able to block long before it hit him in the chest.

Like Sirius, he laughed. He laughed at the irony of it all. He should have died as a small boy when Fenrir Greyback had climbed in his window. He should have died when the transformations ripped him limb from limb. He should have died when the some of the cures his parents sought turned out to be worse than the transformations themselves. He should have died when he and his friends had betrayed Dumbledore’s trust. He should have died in the first war against Voldemort. He should have died of grief and poverty when Voldemort had fallen, leaving Harry an orphan and Remus friendless. He should have died so many times.

Instead he died now, with the end in sight, with a beautiful future awaiting him.

It was funny.

He blinked through a flash of light to find himself in his childhood bedroom. He was fully grown, but nothing hurt. Not only was there no blood from the battle that had ended his life, there were no scars from earlier battles against himself. His skin was smooth. His hair was light brown without a trace of sliver. His face was all but unlined.

He knew, somehow, that he had never become a werewolf.

The room was just as he saw it in his earliest memories. It was beautiful and welcoming and, above all, safe. When he looked at the window through which Greyback had crawled, he saw only a window looking out on a garden full of flowers and trees. There was no threat. There was no desperate father fighting with everything he had to save his doomed son.

The bed was covered by a quilt stitched for him by a Muggle relative. Beside the bed was a chest full of toys. On the walls hung beautiful pictures of happy scenes: kittens tumbling over a ball of yarn, a mist rising from an ocean, a unicorn nuzzling a human child, broomsticks dashing through clouds, a sparkling print of the Hogwarts emblem. The bookshelf strained with volumes both wizard and Muggle. Everything in the room had been chosen with love. 

“Why am I here?” he asked aloud.

“Because this was a place of great transition for you,” came his mother’s clear voice. He hadn’t seen or heard her for twenty years, but when she sat beside him on the bed it was if they had never been apart. “And now it is time for another transition.”

He sucked in a painful breath. So one could feel pain in this place after all.

“Only if you allow yourself to feel pain,” she said as if he had spoken aloud.

“You can’t be here,” he told her. “You were a Muggle.”

She shrugged gracefully. Everything about Hope Howell Lupin had always been graceful. “I am a part of you, and so I can be here.”

“I’m still inside my mind.”

“And will be until you move on. Or refuse to move on.”

He wanted to linger. He knew it was dangerous to let himself be lulled by the warmth of his own creation. He wanted to linger anyway, to see his mother, to see this place…

Then he felt the call. 


Harry was doing what he had been foretold to do, and Harry’s very essence was crying out for the people who had given him, in his too-short life, a modicum of what Hope had given Remus. 

“I love you,” he told Hope. “I wish I could stay with you. But I will move on.”

“Go to your Harry,” she said. “He needs you. Let him feel your pride in him as you feel my pride in you.”

Another flash of light, and Remus was back in the forest. He was younger, now, and close beside Lily and James and Sirius. They were as welcome a sight as his mother had been, but he hadn’t the chance to tell them so. This moment was only for Harry.

“You’ve been so brave,” said Lily as she gazed into her son’s eyes, so like her own.

“You’re nearly there,” added James. “Very close. We are… so proud of you.”

“Does it hurt?” asked Harry, sounding like a child younger than his years. The child he had never had a chance to be because as a toddler he had been marked for this moment.

“Dying?” asked Sirius lightly. “Not at all. Quicker and easier than falling asleep.”

“And he will want it to be quick,” Remus put in with all the reassurance he could muster. “He wants it over.”

Harry’s gaze was fixed on Remus now, and it hurt. It hurt his heart to know that this boy had spent his scant seventeen years of life shoved into a cupboard, unloved, unsupported, battling all nature of demons. He wished for more time for himself, yes, but beyond that he wished for peace for Harry. “I didn’t want you to die,” said Harry. “I’m sorry. Right after you’d had your son, Remus, I’m sorry.”

“I am sorry too,” said Remus, because anything else would have been an obvious lie. “Sorry I will never know him, but he will know why I died and I hope he will understand. I was trying to make a world in which he could live a happier life.”

He found some comfort in the words as he spoke them, and fancied that Harry did, too. 

“You’ll stay with me?” asked Harry.

“Until the very end,” said James.

“They won’t be able to see you?”

“We’re a part of you,” promised Sirius.

They stayed until there was a flash of green light and Harry was gone.

Without the tether of Harry, Remus found himself once again in the bedroom in his parents’ house. Child to Lyall and Hope Lupin, not father to Teddy and in-loco-parentis to Harry. He was moving backwards.

He was ready to move forward. He’d faced his fears. He’d faced his death. He could not understand why he was stuck.

“Mum?” he called.  

She returned, but she didn’t feel as bright or as real as before. “Remus. Rest. You’ve had a long day.”

“Yes, what with dying and all,” he agreed. “And watching a teenager for whom I care very deeply die before he ever got a chance to live, I didn’t especially enjoy that.”

She paused as if listening to a voice heard only by her. “Harry lives.”

Remus’ heart leapt in his chest. “How?”

“Voldemort destroyed the Horcrux. He didn’t destroy Harry.”

Remus wanted to jump and cheer and make a fool of himself in a way he had only jumped and cheered and made a fool of himself once before: the day of Teddy’s birth. 

“Harry lives?” he repeated, disbelieving.

“Rest,” Hope replied.

“I will rest when I’m dead. Oh wait, I am dead. Why in Merlin’s name would I need to rest? Why haven’t I moved on? What happened when Harry called me?”

“I’m a Muggle. You know that I am only in your mind.” 

Remus waved a hand impatiently. “Of course.”

“I am also a projection of a force beyond your mortal comprehension.”

“All right.”

“Wizards move on through a realm that Muggles do not.  This is why Muggles cannot become ghosts. Werewolves have an added complication, and the boy using the Resurrection Stone to call for you before you had properly passed through the intermediate state has caused another complication,” not-Hope reassured him. She didn’t feel like his mother at all now. “It is only a delay. You chose this place for a reason. Enjoy it.”

“If you won’t let me move on, why not send me back? Give you enough time to sort out your bureaucratic errors. There must be corpses stacked like cordwood at Hogwarts. With Harry alive, who would notice one old werewolf standing up and going home to his son?”

“Dozens of people,” she said. “I’d have to send you back to before you died, and you’d simply fall to Dolohov again.”

“So send me back to before I duel him,” snapped Remus. “Send me back five hours and I’ll practice. Or send me back five months so I can manage not to walk out on my pregnant wife. Or send me back five years, and maybe I’ll keep Voldemort from rising at all. Or—”

But not-Hope, unappreciative of his sarcasm, didn't give him another “or.”

There was a flash of light (Remus was beginning to hate flashes of light) and he was asleep.

To be continued.