Epilogue: That They Lived
"And while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived."
Ever After (1998)
"Today," said a smooth, precise voice, "we will study werewolves. Turn in your books to page 394."
"But Professor Snape," a girl objected, "I thought werewolves were extinct!"
"Not quite yet, Miss Kettleburn, though certainly that end is within sight. However, the photograph you will find on page 394 was taken more than eighty years ago, when lycanthropy was still an active and deadly threat. If you will turn to it, please."
The Headmaster of Hogwarts smiled to himself at the lesson on which the castle was allowing him to eavesdrop on this cool and rainy day in March, and leaned back in the armchair behind his desk. I know now why Albus and Minerva enjoyed this chair so much. It's charmed to keep its user comfortable, aching bones and all. Godric's work, I'd imagine, with Rowena to help him, to be sure Helga didn't have to battle her own body as well as holdouts from Salazar's forces and well-meaning but foolish parents…
"Here we have a photograph of Remus Lupin, the first man to ever successfully bring his curse of lycanthropy under control," Professor Snape announced as the rustling of turning pages subsided. "As you can see, although the photograph was taken by the light of the full moon, he remains entirely human in both appearance and nature."
"He's sleeping," said a boy's voice, sounding disappointed. "How come he's sleeping?"
"Some people, Dobson, consider nighttime appropriate for sleeping." The Professor's tone was quite acerbic. "Others, as I'm well aware, would rather be caught exploring forbidden areas of this castle, and lose points for their House and Clan. If we may proceed?"
"Clan". Another word like "Pack" or "Pride", that began as a joke, and has come to mean so much more.
"The little girl you see sleeping on Lupin's chest is his daughter Nadia, the first child ever born to a werewolf, and an important part of the series of treatments which have become known as the Black Treatments," the Professor went on. "Unknown to Healers for hundreds of years, the key to helping werewolves control the transformations which ravage their lives if left unchecked is neither a wanded spell nor a potion, though both of those can be and are involved. It is, instead, an act of deep magic, which must be performed by the werewolves themselves, and involves the acceptance of certain wolfish instincts and the denial of others."
"How does that work, Professor?" asked another girl's voice curiously. "I mean, aren't instincts very strong and hard to fight?"
"They are. And yet we, as human beings, have learned to combat those of our instincts which conflict with the lives we have built for ourselves with our minds. For instance, Miss Weasley, if one of your brothers irritates you, your instinctual response would be to strike him or push him away. Your learned response, in contrast, is either to ignore him or to engage him in conversation. The instinctual response is more satisfying, it feels better, and its results may be quicker, but it might also spark a violent conflict between you, and such conflicts can be damaging to all involved. The learned response is more difficult to maintain, and often feels futile and frustrating, but its end results will be far more productive."
"But some instincts are good," the same girl persisted. "Like the ones that tell us not to eat spoiled food, or tease a hippogriff."
"That is certainly very true," the Professor agreed. "One of the greatest challenges for any human being is discerning between those instincts which are helpful in a given situation and those which are not. For werewolves, the challenge is even greater, since they have both their human and their wolfish instincts in play, and the curse of lycanthropy was designed to invoke specifically the predatory instincts of the wolf. Fortunately, potions and spells have been developed which help, as Remus Lupin said himself, to 'level the playing field', to allow all sides of the argument an equal say."
"All sides?" This voice was a boy's, and deeply skeptical. "Wolves are killers! What other side is there?"
"True wolves do hunt and kill, Smith, but their hunting is almost exclusively for food." The Professor's tones turned to ice in an instant. "They attack human beings only if they are desperately starving, or if they perceive a threat from the human involved. Healthy wolves are dignified creatures, but also have a playful side. They form strong bonds to their mates, and they defend their pack and their cubs with their lives. And it is precisely these wolfish instincts, coupled with similar instincts in the human mind, which allow for the alteration of the werewolf curse into a form so much less harmful to both its victim and other people that it amounts to a cure for lycanthropy. If you will turn the page, please…"
More rustling of paper, before the Professor continued her lecture. "Here we see photographs of some of the other early werewolves to follow the steps of the Black Treatments. Maya Jordan, the first female werewolf to bring her curse under control, with her husband Lee and their son Graham, and Brian Li, with his wife Corona and their son Andrew, as well as their daughter Ella—you know her today as Professor Runcorn, your Transfiguration teacher and the Head of Ravenclaw House."
A ripple of laughter and a few awed whispers went through the class at this.
"Yes, Miss Davies," said Professor Ariana Snape. "You had a question?"
"What are the Black Treatments, exactly, Professor?" asked Selena Davies, who had been named for her great-grandmother. "I mean, we know they're for curing werewolves, but how do they work?"
"Very well, thank you." The Professor chuckled over the groans of her class. "But that is certainly a fair question. In simplest terms, the Black Treatments cure werewolves by giving them the tools to cure themselves. Those tools include the various formulations of the Wolfsbane Potion, which allow werewolves to retain their human minds on the full moon; training and tips from other lycanthropes on resisting such wolfish instincts as responding violently to provocation; and assistance from existing family and friends, as well as encouraging the formation of healthy new friendships or relationships. The better instincts of both wolf and human are strengthened by the existence of such bonds, and the worse instincts weakened."
"But what does any of that have to do with having kids?" another boy objected. "And what about the parts where they almost die?"
"Becoming a parent changes a person, Wood. The physical changes involved in a woman's pregnancy are well-known, but certain elements in a man's body also shift when he sees or touches a child he has fathered. The emotional bond between parent and child adds further factors to these changes, to which werewolves are especially susceptible, since true wolves defend their cubs so strongly. And in those werewolves who have undergone the Black Treatments, who have used both Muggle and magical means to subdue their harmful instincts, and who have accepted help from friends and family, the positive changes induced by the birth and nurturing of a child are usually enough to make control of the lycanthropic curse possible.
"But bear this in mind, students. Possible does not mean easy."
The silence seemed to ring with the echo of these words, and the Headmaster nodded in approval, his mind drifting into the far past, recalling a rocky seaside mindscape and the tight clutch of silver chains, his struggle to free himself from their grasp in time to save the woman he loved better than life, as she fought to defend herself and their daughter from the embodiment of his curse.
"All Healing involves risk. Risk of the treatment failing to work, risk of its making the ailment worse, risk of its introducing some new element and creating a fresh problem. And the Healing of the mind and the soul is often even riskier than the Healing of the body. Some werewolves enter the last stage of the Black Treatments less ready than they think they are. Others have unexpected troubles crop up at the last moment. It is, often literally, the final battle of a war between human and curse, and the human who loses that battle may well die. But I think you may also have meant the more preliminary stage which involves a risk of death?" After a pause, most likely for young James Oliver Wood to nod, the Professor went on.
"One of the physical attributes of lycanthropy has long been the inability to conceive a child, and this is indeed addressed in the Black Treatments. However, the cure is dangerous in and of itself, as the potions which must be used to restore a werewolf's fertility are so poisonous that they can only be administered on a body which is not currently functioning—that is, in the general meaning of the term, dead. And while Healers can, in the vast majority of cases, preserve the integrity of the brain and safely restore the body to working order after the potions have been administered, there is a small possibility that the body will not respond to those spells."
"How small?" asked Brianna Weasley.
"As far as I am aware, out of the several thousand people to undergo this procedure in the last eighty-three years, fewer than fifty were unable to be revived. Look up the exact number for next class, if you would, Miss Weasley. Now, werewolves who fear this outcome may pursue what has become known as the Corling Option, after Alexandria Corling—her picture is on the next page in your book, if you turn the leaf over—the first werewolf to successfully control her curse without conceiving a biological child. Instead Ms. Corling adopted the children of her partner, becoming both legally and emotionally a mother to them, and a potion was brewed for her which induced the necessary physical changes…"
And once we had that potion available to us, we were able to stretch the magical definitions enough to include big brothers and sisters as parental figures, and that handled the werewolves who weren't ready for children of their own, at least among the Clans, murmured a voice which was not Ariana's, though it bore a distinct resemblance to hers. We seldom have a shortage of little ones who need taking care of.
Awake, are you, love? Headmaster Remus Lupin sent a caress through the much-worn mental link between himself and his wife. I'm never sure these days.
Just listening to our baby girl talk about the reason she's alive. Danger's mind drifted sleepily through time, from the day she'd borne Ariana and her twin Alexander, back to the birth of their older brother John, then forward through the growing up of the Lupins' four biological children, side by side with the Blacks' Marcus, Ruby, and Liam. Though I should hardly call her a baby anymore, when she's well past seventy—and that reminds me, you owe me a kiss.
Do I, now? Remus smiled. And why might that be?
I bet you one on our wedding day, that we'd make it five times sixteen years together. Five times sixteen is eighty, and that was eighty-four and a half years ago.
Never forget the half. With a soft laugh, Remus levered himself slowly out of the chair. Would you like your forfeit now, madam, or at some later date?
Pay up, slacker, Danger retorted. Or I'll come and get it.
On my way. Turning to his right, Remus stepped through a small door which the Headmaster's office had opened for him nearly two years earlier, when Danger's health had begun to fail alarmingly. The Heirs of Ravenclaw, led by their patriarch Marcus, had placed a gentle spell of sleep on their Clan-mother's body, which lay in this room in what any Muggle child (and most magical ones, these days) would have recognized instantly as a glass coffin like Snow White's.
Only I prefer Sirius's version of the story, where Snow is under the Imperius when she bites that apple rather than being stupid enough to open the door voluntarily, and the prince is a wandering Healer who takes her on as an assistant after he saves her from the curse. And then they fall in love. Danger sighed silently in contentment as Remus lifted the coffin's lid with his wand, bent carefully, and lifted her hand to his lips. Reshaping the world, piece by piece, through happy stories and happier lives.
"It's been an eventful little ride," Remus agreed, sitting down in the cushioned chair by his wife's side. "Do you remember just after Camelot first opened, when Fox had the idea of using some of the money from the Death Eaters' vaults, the ones who didn't have any heirs of their own, to sponsor immersion trips for young purebloods into the Muggle world? Three months' preparation, living with a mixed Muggle-magical family, and then six months to a year where they had to live exclusively as Muggles. No magic whatsoever, except for emergencies."
We'd help them get a job to start with, but if they lost it, they were on their own, and the same went for housing, food, and the like. Danger laughed mentally. A few of them tried to stretch the definition of "emergency", but not many, not when there was a cash prize at the end if they could prove their wands hadn't been used for the time period specified…
"And while some of them had a miserable time and ran away as soon as they'd won, or tapped out early and forfeited their prize, a surprising number of them discovered the truth in what we'd been saying all along." Remus closed his eyes, calling up memories of the Pack's earliest days in London. "Muggles and wizards, by and large, are far more alike than they are different. We ended up with quite a lot of friendships out of that program, and not an inconsiderable number of marriages, either."
Thus, the growth of the Clans, as these young purebloods realized that the society in which they grew up wouldn't accept the people they now loved, and looked around for something else to replace it. And we were the only game in town. The image of the banquet hall at the Manor Den, filled almost to bursting at a Christmas party a few years after the end of the Second War with Voldemort, came to Danger's mind. Not that we were a game with many rules, to begin with…
"More and more people keep wanting to come to these little get-togethers of ours," Harry's voice rang out clearly over the laughter and talk of the crowd. "It's like a gathering of the clans!"
"One has to wonder just how many cultures can say they were launched by a joke." Remus took control of the memory image, hanging the walls of the banquet hall with colorful banners. "And how many have then been perpetuated by a literal game."
We had ourselves an entire generation whom we'd trained and drilled to fight, Danger retorted. If we hadn't come up with some way to harness those skills for peacetime, they probably would have started inventing reasons to go back to war! Fortunately, Lee and Maya, with help from Crystal and Ron, were able to reproduce Fred and George's plans for those dye-squirting wands, and potion pieces shoot whatever you load in them…
"And thus was born the Society for Combat Approximation." Remus allowed his lady to take over the summoning of images, since her memory for fine details was better than his these days. Figures in robes, belted in or tucked up to allow for better movement, stalked one another through corridors, ambushed one another in fields, laid siege to one another's homes while shouting outrageous insults. "Very rough-and-ready teams at first, just groups of friends or people who'd fought together in the actual war, but then it began to solidify, building from Harry's little quip about clans…"
People love to feel they belong to something, and the war games the Society plays are fun. Not to mention, the weapons may be magically created, but they require no magic to use them. So it's something Muggles can do just as well as wizards or witches, though I admit it helps on a scouting run to be able to Disillusion oneself or cast a quick Banishing Charm to knock a few things over for a diversion.
"Or take wolf form and slip up on them that way." Remus nudged at the image Danger was casting, and she obligingly shifted it, moving it from a mock battle in the twists and turns of a maze (grown on the Manor Den's Quidditch pitch for the occasion) to the feast which had been held in the banquet hall afterwards. "And then the purebloods began to weigh in, suggesting things from their own heritage. Teaching everyone the pattern dances, for instance, as part of the celebrations after battles. Rediscovering heraldry, personal coats of arms, to be able to tell people apart on the battlefield. From there it was only a short step to heraldry for the Clans as well."
At which point it got settled that there would be six main ones, and someone had the oh-so-charming idea to name them after us. The disgust in Danger's tone made Remus chuckle under his breath. Oh, don't you dare laugh. You were just as embarrassed as the rest of us when those kids marched forward with that bright red banner and announced that henceforth they would be known as the Clan of the Lion!
"More startled than embarrassed, but I take your point." Remus returned the focus of the memory scene to the banners which lined the inside wall of the banquet hall, hanging in the order of the rainbow, Lion Clan's red to the farthest left and the violet of Wolf Clan on the other end. "Though when they started working up rivalries with each other, we had to step in and place limits on the feuding before it got out of hand."
With the result that nowadays, a proper young Clanner would consider it unspeakably gauche to settle an argument in any other way than trial by combat. Like the challenges the cubs used to offer each other, only far more formalized, and with all sorts of "weapons" available to the competitors. There've been joke-telling competitions, displays of skill in art or music—Deer Clan's always had a fondness for dance-offs, and one of the ways to gain rank and honor in Cat Clan is to prove you've read more books than your rivals!
"Whereas in Fox Clan…" Remus summoned the image of the young man of that name dressed in robes of his Clan's foresty green, his hat ornamented with a living feathery decoration, his gray eyes wide and guileless as he steadfastly denied all knowledge of it. "'What owl?' has practically become their Clan motto, and they get along better with the goblins than any other Clan except Wolf. I don't think that's coincidence."
Of course it's not. They think alike. And for the same reason, Deer and Horse Clans have strong ties to the beings who live outdoors, the centaurs and merfolk and the like. The banquet hall melted into the Forbidden Forest, where a fully adult Neville nimbly disassembled his potion piece for the edification of a small herd of centaurs, while two little boys who bore a strong resemblance to Meghan, their robes hanging open to show rather dingy golden-yellow shirts and blue jeans underneath, romped happily with the centaur colts nearby. Which leaves Cat and Lion Clans to be affiliated with the indoor types like house-elves, and with the ones who started out standard human. The vast majority of the former werewolves out there wear orange or red at gatherings, and that's no more a coincidence than the rest of it…
"You're getting tired, love," Remus murmured. "You should rest. We both should. Tomorrow's a big day."
I know. The feeling of a blown kiss drifted past Remus's cheek. Sleep well, and I'll see you in the morning.
Silence fell over the small chamber, as the touch of Danger's mind slipped away once more into dreams. Remus held to wakefulness for one moment longer, letting his thoughts spread out through the castle, through the busy and the bustle of the living, breathing entity that was Hogwarts. His children, grandchildren, great-grands and great-greats were here, more of them even than usual, as they planned to surprise him and Danger with a family party tomorrow.
They know I prefer to celebrate my actual birthday quietly, without a lot of people around. We used to hold a party for just the original Pack and Pride on that day, but by some bizarre quirk of fate, or maybe that should be sheer contrariness, we're the last ones left of the twelve who stood against Voldemort. He smiled to himself. The last ones left here, at any rate.
And that brings it full-circle beautifully. A celebration of the lives we've built, and the legacy we'll leave behind, before it's time for our next great adventure.
What could be more fitting than to embark on it one hundred years to the day after our first one began?
The party to celebrate the one hundred twenty-third birthday of Remus John Lupin, Head of the House of Lupin and Founder of the Clan of the Lion, lasted until two in the morning and was filled with laughter, story, and song, as the descendants of a man who'd once thought he would never have children rose one after another to share their memories of him, to salute him and thank him for his gifts to them, to listen raptly as he told them, once again, about the way the world had been when he was young. At last the final toast was drunk and the merry revelers speeded on their way, leaving Remus alone in the banqueting chamber with Nadia, John, Ariana, and Alexander.
"You're leaving tonight," said John in his usual direct way. "Aren't you?"
"That was the plan." Remus permitted his smile to surface, and felt Danger laughing in the back of his mind. "Since when do you four understand us so well?"
"Since we learned from the best." Ariana stepped up to hug him. "Both of you watch out for Uncle Padfoot," she murmured into his ear. "He'll probably have something special set up for you."
"We'll miss you, but you're not going far," said Alexander, the easy insouciance which had somehow transmitted itself from his namesake to him lighting up his grin. "And it never hurts to have an in or two with the authorities."
"I hope they know better than to cut you any breaks." John shoved his younger brother lightly, then embraced his father in his turn. "Safe crossing, Mum, Dad."
"Goodbye, Daddy," Nadia whispered as she held him tightly. "Goodbye, Mummy. I love you."
"We love you, too, baby." Remus stroked his fingers along his cheek, then traced a rough circle lightly on his daughter's forehead with them, repeating the sign on each of his children. The Pack and Pride's original scent-touch had been modified by the Clans so that Lions signed one another's faces with a stylized mane, while Cats used two outward brushes of the fingers to denote whiskers. Deer symbolized hooves with two touches of those same fingers, slightly separated, while Horses drew the simple curve of a horseshoe. Foxes swiped their fingers to one side, like the plume of their namesake's tail, and Wolves sketched a line down the center of the forehead which could have been either pricked-up ears or a scar like a bolt of lightning…
Speaking of which, said Danger as the door closed behind their children. Time to break the spell, wouldn't you say, love?
Yes, I would. Remus started towards the fireplace, then stopped. From a spot high in the air above his head came a song he hadn't heard in more than eighty years.
"Hello, Fawkes," he said, lifting his arm to welcome the phoenix. "Come to see us on our way?"
Fawkes landed gently on Remus's proffered wrist and peered into his eyes, then half-spread his wings and sang one penetrating note. Remus braced himself as he felt flame, wilder than any he could conjure for himself, rising up all around him—
And then he stood in Danger's antechamber, Fawkes ruffling his feathers back into place.
"Well, thank you. That was very kind." Allowing the bird to sidle onto the back of his armchair, Remus crossed to Danger's side and bent over her. "I married you last night," he murmured, and touched his lips to hers, feeling her stir as words and gesture worked together to banish the spell she lay under. "Are you ready, love?"
"Wake up, it's time to go to sleep." Danger sat up slowly with Remus's support, the side of her glass coffin vanishing so that she could set her feet on the floor. "But then I suppose that makes as much sense as any other part of our lives."
"No part of my life has ever made as much sense as loving you." Remus drew her close. "One hundred years today, since while it may not have been love at first sight precisely, it didn't take me very much longer than that…"
Holding one another, the Lupins rose and moved to the middle of the room. Fawkes spread his wings and lifted off from the back of the chair, flying tight circles about them and beginning once more to sing, streamers of fire trailing from him and closing in around them—
With a rush of wind, the flames dissipated, Fawkes turning on a wingtip and settling onto a tree limb. They stood now in a quiet cluster of trees, with a moss-softened slab of rock at its center, just the right size for a human being to lie upon. Remus helped Danger to take her seat on it, then accepted her help in return to sit down himself. "It's been quite a hundred years, hasn't it?" he asked, his hand twining with hers. "But I wouldn't change a single day of it for anything."
"Are you sure?" Danger's eyes danced. "Not even for another thousand years together?"
"We get that anyway." Remus tapped her chidingly on the top of the head with two fingers. "Stop trying to confuse me, woman. I'm old."
"And how is that my fault?" Danger paused, frowning. "Other than my being the one who insisted on saving your life all those years ago…"
Laughing, the Lupins lay down side by side, and still smiling closed their eyes, as Fawkes crooned them a lullaby.
Far away, in the Clanhall of the Lions, the pair of names at the head of the first clan tapestry changed from warm red to soft, pale gold.
Remus came awake all at once, Danger's breath warm against his neck. The sun shone high overhead, birds were singing nearby, and he felt…
Good, he decided after a brief mental inventory. Surprisingly good. One tends to forget just how many aches and pains one has collected over the years.
You may forget, but I didn't, mumbled a sleepy voice from beside him. Where do you think you were shunting everything you didn't have time to deal with?
Was I? I never realized. Remus sat up, arching his back with a groan of pleasure. I'm sorry.
Not your fault. Danger opened one eye to regard him, squinting against the brilliant sun. You still had work to do, and I was napping most of the time anyway, so I didn't mind. She adjusted her posture so that she could use both eyes, frowning slightly. "You look about fifty or so," she said, sitting up herself. "Which would put the cubs in their late twenties, if we're maintaining the same differences we did before."
"I'd certainly prefer to." Remus shook his head, looking around him in wonder. "Guardians over the wizarding world, and probably a good deal of the Muggle one as well, given how closely they're running these days. How did we get ourselves into this?"
"We made promises to each other." Danger slid off the rock and got to her feet, her hum of pleasure at the ease of her body's movement bringing a smile to Remus's face. "And we kept them."
Hand in hand, they walked through the Forest together, wending their way towards the friends and the family who were waiting for them, towards the destiny for which they had accepted being chosen. The trees around them grew gradually smaller and thinner, until in the soft light of midafternoon Remus pushed aside a final branch to allow himself and Danger to step onto the lawns of the Founders' Castle.
"Are we going to leave it as Hogwarts?" Danger wondered aloud, gazing up at the towers of her once and future home. "A link between our past and our future?"
"That seems right, and respectful." Remus nodded. "Those who come after us may choose to change it, but that will be up to them."
"Fair enough." Danger shaded her eyes to look over at her husband. "But now for the really important question. Which way are we going in?"
"Not the main entrance." Remus's answer was immediate, and vehement. "Not when Sirius has had nearly fourteen years to think about how he was going to welcome us home…"
"Well, damn," said Sirius from the top of Gryffindor Tower, tapping his wand against the tube of his Invisible Extendable Ear to coil it up. "Scratch plan A, go to plan B."
"There's a plan B?" Fox looked awed. "I didn't know there was a plan B."
Hermione sighed. "There's always a plan B," she said patiently. "Even if it's just this." She extended her hand at waist level. "Up!" she said sharply, and a broomstick snapped into her palm. With a nod to the Marauders and Warriors gathered on the tower, she mounted the broom and kicked off. "Moony! Danger!" she called out, sending the broom into a steep dive. "You're here!"
Fox, Ron, and Harry exchanged shrugs and grimaces, then one by one conjured their own brooms to follow, as Neville and Meghan emerged from the greenhouses to converge on the newcomers, as Luna swooped down from Ravenclaw Tower where she'd been perched as Starwing and Ginny hurried out of the shed where her clay and kiln were kept.
"Knut for them," said Aletha, stepping up behind her husband and wrapping her arms around his waist.
"Oh, nothing much." Sirius leaned his head back to lay a kiss on his wife's neck. "Just thinking back over all of it. Everything we've done, with the Clans and all, and everything we didn't do. Like keep the spirit of the Statute of Secrecy, even if we were always careful about the letter."
"The more intelligent Muggles who know about the wizarding world, the less likely witch-hunts are to start again." Aletha moved up to stand beside Sirius, watching as the Pride danced gleeful circles around a laughing Danger and Remus. "And especially the more Muggles who have magical relations, the better. That's why you set up that fund with the royalties from your books, to help mixed couples outfit their homes with the latest magical gadgets, isn't it?"
"You set it up. I just nodded a lot."
"You had the idea, and I helped you execute it," Aletha countered. "And just think about the people who took advantage of it. Percy and Crystal, to start with, and then Blaise Zabini with her sister Michelle. Cho Chang with her young man, Daphne Greengrass with hers—and wasn't that a surprising outcome from those little immersion tours—and that was only the beginning, Sirius. We made a difference. We left the world better than we found it."
"I'm still proudest of that prank I pulled at Camelot, couple years after it was founded." Sirius grinned. "Do you know it's still there? Everyone likes it so well that they've left it up, all these years."
"Of course they have." Aletha laughed. "Who wouldn't love a sign that says 'Welcome to Camelot, 'tis a silly place', over an archway that's been charmed to change their clothing into medieval style for five minutes?"
Below, on the lawn, the Pride had spread out to surround Harry and Remus, both of whom had their wands out. "My Clan's going to whip yours at the Midsummer War, old man!" Harry taunted, tossing invisible curses between his words, including a Jelly-Legs which took partial effect, sending Remus wobbling to one side. "Not even that alliance with Horse Clan's going to save you!"
"Are you sure about that?" Remus unjinxed his legs and began to circle left, firing his curses consistently just to one side of Harry. "There's more than one way to win a war. Like keeping all the Healers for myself."
"All the Heir-Healers, maybe." Harry shrugged. "We're allied to Deer Clan, and they keep popping up some pretty good wand-Healers." He winked at Meghan, who bounced in place, grinning. "Not to mention they can sneak like nobody's business…"
Remus quickly focused his eyes on the ground where he would have been walking in a very few moments' time, and sidestepped the mudpit which had mysteriously appeared there. Neville raised an eyebrow at Harry. "Giving the game away much?" he inquired. "Speaking of which—"
Harry started to open his mouth, and stopped, as the tip of Danger's wand pressed against the back of his neck. "Hands up, little boy," she murmured into his ear. "You're finished."
"Aww." Harry obediently held his hands above his head, letting his wand drop. "And I was so close, too!"
Ginny sighed. "Is he ever going to learn?" she asked Ron.
"Lemme think." Ron started counting on his fingers. "Seventy-five years down there, almost ten years up here…ah…no. He's not."
"That's what I was afraid of." Ginny shook her head. "Besides, you're all discounting the real power at the Midsummer War." She grinned over at her brother and Hermione, then across the circle at Fox and Luna. "The alliance of Cat and Fox. Brainy, sneaky, and definitely my favorite to win."
"Traitor," Harry muttered, retrieving his wand and sliding it away. "Is it too late to get a divorce?"
"Technically we're not even married anymore," Ginny pointed out. "Our vows said 'as long as we both shall live', and we've both died. So by the letter of the law, we're through."
"But yet, she'll still hex me if I try and run around on her." Harry appealed to the circle at large. "How is that fair?"
"Do you want anyone else?" asked Luna reasonably.
"Wise answer." Fox assumed a sage demeanor. "Never deny your desire for the woman who has access to the place in which you sleep."
"Yes, and that's another thing." Harry circled a hand above his head. "All of this—the castle, day and night, eating meals, sleeping in beds—we're dead. Why do we need any of it?"
"Because it keeps us closer to the people we're looking after?" Hermione hazarded. "They need those things, so we set things up to need them too, to remind us of what we have to try and make sure they get."
"Why do I get the feeling this conversation's been had a few times before?" Danger asked, coming to stand beside her sister.
"Probably 'cause it has." Ron shrugged. "We go over it every so often, but it's too much work to try and change things around, and besides, it's fun to do things like we've always done. Just a little better than they ever were before. Harry!" he called out. "Five Galleons says Cat and Fox whip up on everyone else at the War!"
"Make it ten," Fox added, jingling gold coins in his palm. "And a forfeit to be named later."
"Nothing involving nakedness, and you're on." Harry dug into his pocket. "The library's full of stories about, well, us," he said to a startled Danger. "I think it's what the Founders did when they got bored, is make stuff up about the way it could have happened. And one of them had this thing where Fred and George lost a bet and Gryffindor had to play Quidditch naked…"
As the daylight began to fade, the Pack and Pride gathered at the high table in the Great Hall, the feast which Harry, Ginny, and Danger had prepared spread out before them. Remus got to his feet at the head of the table, gazing down its length, at Aletha, Sirius, Meghan, and Neville on one side, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Harry on the other, to Danger facing him from the foot. She winked once, and the feeling of a kiss brushed through his mind.
"A toast," he said, picking up his wine. "Raise your glasses…the other ones, please, Harry."
Amid snickers, Harry restored his round-framed spectacles to his face and adjusted them carefully before joining the other Marauders and Warriors who held their goblets high.
"Thank you. Now then." Remus smiled, thinking back through the hundred years he had shared with those at this table and the thousand years to come, and the proper words floated to the top of his mind as though conjured there.
We end, as always, where we began.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Pack and Pride, friends and family all…happy damn birthday to me."
And so, after ten years, Remus has the right of it. We end where we began, only better. I think I'm a better person for writing the Dangerverse. Whether you are better people for joining me on this journey, O readers, only you can say.
My heart is very full, so I won't try to say too much more here. If you want to hear what I have to say, please join me at my blog, Anne's Randomness, the post entitled "And so it ends". There, I will give you some more information about myself and the future of my writing, as well as the heartfelt thanks so many of you deserve.
As for right here, right now, O readers, I suppose this is the proper moment to say goodbye. Except that's not really the right word, for all those who love will see each other again, and although the main Dangerverse has now ended, the adventure of my writing has only just begun. So whether you wish to go further on that adventure with me, or whether you are ready to take your leave now, I will say only farewell, and give you once again my deepest thanks.
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back;
May the sun shine bright upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields;
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Anne B. Walsh, October 31, 2014
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