"He did what?"
Lupin coughed—the transformation had been a hard one, and seemed to have taken a toll on his lungs. Pneumonia was one of the chief fears of an aging werewolf, although the data wasn't conclusive. (There wasn't enough of a sample to prove anything; most werewolf researchers concentrated on the first few transformations, for the simple reason that there tended not to be any after the first half-dozen.)
"Cough drop?" the headmaster offered, reaching a hand through the floo.
"No, thank you," Lupin said, shaking his head. Dumbledore's hand looked like old copper, the fire tinting the shadows of the folds of loose skin. He closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing for a moment, ignoring the ache deep behind his ribs when he inhaled, and when he opened them, he saw Dumbledore as he would be in a hundred years—a statue, its surface studded with craters from the pollution in Diagon Alley (of course it would be in Diagon Alley) (of course there would be pollution, the ever-shrinking wizard population couldn't stave off Muggle idiocy forever), graffiti, perhaps, across his crooked nose, or bird droppings.
Dumbledore would not live forever, which was a relief. Sirius had not, which was simply disquieting.
"I know you'll be pleased that Sirius's will has been recognized," Dumbledore said cheerfully, "due in no little part to your hard work, and the Wizengamot notary's office should have the paperwork in my office by to-morrow morning. Shall we say ten o'clock? You'll need to sign with an approved witness present, and only Minerva and I are at Hogwarts at the moment."
"Ten will suit," Lupin managed to say through a throat thick with tears or laughter; sometimes, now, it was hard to tell the difference.
"He did what?" Molly demanded, the water pouring out of the teapot in a suddenly wobbly stream.
ted his hands from his lap. "It's not as if I asked for it, Molly."
"Well, of course you didn't ask for it, Remus," she snapped, "the idea never entered my head. To tell the truth, I'm rather grateful he didn't leave it to Fred or George, heaven only knows what those two would get up to with it."
Her hair was the brightest point in the kitchen; even the clean china didn't catch what little light there was in the same way.
"Mmm," Remus said neutrally, and pushed the sugar bowl across the table. He had thought of transferring the legacy over to the twins, actually, they'd certainly get more use out of it than he would, but something about the idea stuck in his throat.
"Where on earth did he think you could keep it," she said, stirring her tea energetically. Her spoon clinked against the sides of the cup, sounding like tears falling on skin. "Or didn't he think?"
"Molly," Remus sighed. "He's dead and he's going to stay that way. Do you have to battle with him even now? Because I am, frankly, worn out, and would like to drink my tea in peace and then have a lie-down."
He pushed himself up from the table, categorising the various creaks of various joints numbly. Werewolf, the Day After, Symphony for One, he thought, and picked up his cup.
"He did what?" Tonks's hair went striped for a moment before she mastered herself and it settled down into hot pink again. She continued unbuttoning her shirt; he could see the yellow lace of her bra and the freckles under her collarbone. (I like freckles, she'd said when he asked why she had them. I like when you kiss them.)
"Really, Remus? Blimey, that's brilliant. Well, 'cept for the part where Molly'll go spare --"
"Taken care of," he said.
She murmured sympathetically. Tonks was always sympathetic, it was one of the more infuriating things about her. "Well, and Kingsley'll be livid, too--"
"I'm not suicidal, Tonks," he said.
"Not telling him?"
"No, and you won't either," he said.
"Sensible of you," she agreed. "What'd Dumbley say?"
"He was very Dumbledore," Remus said. "He twinkled at me."
Her hair turned ashy grey and a beard popped out of her chin. "Well, now, " she said, although her voice was still her own. "Did I really?"
"I was thinking," he said slowly.
"Cor, Remus, you don't have to think all the time." Her beard vanished and her hair deepened to midnight blue, and so did her eyes. "Don't think," she said, and pressed her body to his. "You don't have to think with me."
He didn't have to think with her; it was simultaneously the best and the worst part of it. It was a relief to let his mind simply whir on the curve of her breast and the way she sounded when he touched her; but sleeping with her wasn't interesting in the way he had once been used to, when sex had included bad puns and leering and unorthodox uses of spells, and he could not help feeling vaguely cheated, although it had been nearly twenty years since he had last had that.
"He did what?" Harry's face had lost its childish softness over the last few years, and now, the bones of his jaw were prominent under his skin. James had had the same affect at fifteen, Remus recalled, when his body wasn't quite in proportion with itself, but he had grown out of it, and doubtless Harry would as well. Remus had promised himself that Harry would grow up to the point where he no longer resembled his father. After that, the lad could go to destruction, or not, as he pleased, but he would get Harry that much.
"Look, Harry, he left you everything else," he said, tipping his face up to the weak early morning sunlight. The backs of his eyelids spangled in red and gold—Gryffindor fireworks. Celebratory pyrotechnics, even though there was precious little to celebrate these days, for either side.
"That's not the point," Harry said.
He glanced out of the corner of his eye at Harry's trainers, nearly worn through at the toes and gaping at the instep. "Oh?" he said.
Harry sighed, a put-upon sigh that only a teenager could muster up. His hair hadn't been cut in months, when Remus saw him at King's Cross, but since then, he had hacked off the ends, and the rough, uneven strands looked like Padfoot when he needed a good brushing.
"Well, yes," Remus said, "there is that."
Harry shoved his hands in his pockets, hunching his shoulders.
"I suppose, but I can't help what he did and I didn't know about." He hadn't thought about what he would have done if he had known, he realised, and tried not to imagine the conversations—arguments—they likely would have had. He had enough real ones to remember; he didn't need to make up ones that had never happened.
"He loved --" Harry said, and Remus gripped his forearm tightly.
"Harry, I don't care what the object of that sentence is going to be, I don't want to hear it. Not now, and possibly not ever. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go sign various legal papers about my late best friend's bequest," and Disapparated before Harry could respond.
"He --" Dumbledore began to explain, holding out a peppermint imp, which twitched in his palm. Lupin shook his head and Dumbledore popped the sweet into his own mouth.
Minerva had already glanced up from the papers she was sorting through at her desk when he arrived, and nodded, but now she stood, and was squinting at the intricate type on the page before her. "Did --"
"What?" Lupin brushed a loose strand of hair off his temple and leaned forward to pluck the sheet from Minerva's hands. The writing before him squirmed on the page, looking like nothing so much as those horrible coconut things that Peter had loved, what had they been called, and then settled into recognizable shapes.
"He put an Illegible Curse on it," Dumbledore said. "No one but the recipient of the bequest or the executor of the estate may read it."
"Did he," Minerva said, frowning and crossing her arms. Her glasses slipped a little further down her nose. "Damned irresponsible of him. What if --"
"What if we'd both died?" Lupin finished for her; at least she had the tact to look apologetic, he thought. "I imagine no one would much care, Minerva, and considering the damned thing's fairly close to illegal as is, it might be better all round that way."
"The will's perfectly legal," she objected.
"Oh, yes. He had practice. He drew up a first will at fifteen, and it would have stood up in court, I've no doubt."
Coconut Centipedes, that was it, with their disgusting, wriggly legs, and the heads that went squish when you bit them; Peter had given them up when it became apparent that girls were not as enamoured by the idea of eating realistic coconut insects as his housemates were.
"At fifteen?" she said, raising an eyebrow. "Rather morbid of him, wouldn't you say?"
"At fifteen," Lupin said, handing the paper back to her, "he ran away from home. With only the clothes on his back and his broomstick, true, but he wanted to be certain that Regulus wouldn't get the broomstick if Bellatrix hit him with a curse when he wasn't --" He drew a breath. "The broomstick went to James, as I recall, and it was duly witnessed and signed."
"Then it was very responsible of him," she said solemnly.
"He'd be terribly hurt to hear you say it, Deputy Headmistress," and for a moment, it almost felt as though everything was going to be all right.
"Just sign at the bottom, please," she said, and the room felt colder abruptly. He took the quill and scribbled his name where her finger tapped the parchment.
Well. Some things, having been done, could not be undone, and the ink sank into the page like blood.
"He did," Lupin said softly. She was a '75 Vixen, and his hands were black with filth by the time he'd finished cleaning her. The shed was full of spiders, but he had never minded spiders; only minded mashing them for potions at school and practicing painful curses on them in the early days of the Order.
"What," he murmured, and didn't bother finishing, didn't bother asking nobody what did you do.
He wasn't sure if he meant the bequest, or what he had just discovered, so perhaps it was just as well that there was no one to ask. Under the left handlebar of the motorbike, there was a discreet sentience charm; Sirius had talked about it, in the last months of school, wondering what a motorbike would think like, wondering if it would be right to be able to turn thought on and off—"kind of like Imperius," he'd said, "only not with the intent to, to, you know."
But Lily, who had helped him redesign every broomstick enchantment available to the public, had never mentioned this. He wasn't sure if Sirius had had the necessary skill for the delicate charmwork that he could sense webbed over the leather, or if he'd bought it, or bribed someone into it. There was no doubt that sentience charms were very close to Dark magic, and very difficult, and if Sirius hadn't done it himself, he'd almost certainly used a Black family connection.
It was probably lucky he hadn't known, really, because it would have been far closer to any proof than he had had that Sirius had been in Voldemort's inner circle.
"Pergamo," he said, and his wand sliced through the air around him as he'd been taught, sitting next to Sirius, nearly thirty years before.
The air crackled and sparked. "Well," he said, softly, rising from his knees, where he had finished polishing the hubcaps, "let's go for a spin, Baby."
He smiled faintly, realizing for the first time why Sirius had insisted on giving the bike a name. "I take it you're female," he said, "since he always said she, and, er, you do remember me, right? Otherwise I'm going to feel a right fool, talking to a motorbike. I'm the --" he brushed his hand against the odometer. "The werewolf. The one who thought you were a terrible idea. I'm still not sure you're not, to tell the truth."
He threw a leg over the seat, and began to laugh, almost hysterically, at the phrase. Gonna go get a leg over, Sirius would say, grim lines circling his mouth, rain in his lashes, and it had been one of the not-quite-proofs that he had had.
He had had so much; he'd just never realised it. And now, all he had left was a two-decades-old motorbike, and not nearly enough memories.