Remus walked through dusty, empty rooms, and finally came to rest beside the wardrobe that had, ironically, held the last of Voldemort's horcruxes; Regulus's last betrayal, his only fine act, the only thing that allowed Remus to think his name without burning. Regulus, Remus had finally decided, was worthy of being related to his brother.
His hands traced patterns in the dust on the wardrobe, gathered after so many months alone with the house itself. Remus hated this house. He hated this house and all but a handful of memories he had to cling to. The first was cleaning this wardrobe, quiet and then more and more rambunctiously, pretending not to see Fred and George sneaking Doxies into their pockets later. Remus pressed a palm flat against the ancient, noble wood, last of the Black furniture, last of the Black line, and Harry planned to auction the whole lot tomorrow.
"But, why--" and Harry hadn't understood, he hadn't wanted anything to remain of Sirius's past, but Remus couldn't let it all go without looking one last time at the entirety of what had molded the man, the pain, the joy, the desperation. He'd Apparate to Azkaban if they'd let him, he'd even-- but then, if they wouldn't let him go to Azkaban, he wouldn't be allowed in the basement of the Ministry. Not now, not ever.
Remus held back a sneeze, because of the dust. His eyes and nose were itchy, and it was just the dust. It had been a long time since anything had had the power to make him properly break down, not even physical torment.
He let his feet wander the house, finding himself in the back bedroom he'd shared with Sirius once the children weren't in the house anymore and they were allowed a few moments of tranquility. Remus had woke up from a nightmare, screaming, and Sirius had been the more terrified, but even after having all happy emotions sucked out of him for thirteen years, he'd still had the instinctive reaction to pull Remus as close as possible, forcing him still until Remus himself pressed close. It was one of a very few moments the two of them had been in silent accord over each other, and not something more important, more noble, the cause and Harry and Voldemort and everything.
Dusty, empty, dark rooms. This was what happened when you won the war, apparantly, and even if Harry had offered, had all but pleaded, with him to stay in the house once he refurnished it with anything but the Blacks, Remus had declined. He couldn't say why, except that a handful of memories weren't enough to erase everything else that came with it, and Remus could have pulled the drapes open, could have let the light in, but he chose to stand in the dark instead.
"You're really not going to stay?" Harry asked him.
Remus didn't sigh. Remus didn't tell him the thousand and one things that meant he couldn't stomach being anywhere that reminded him of Sirius, even now, because twenty three hours of the day he could smile and forget the deep well that was his entire life, but the one hour a day where nothing existed except Remus and those handful of memories that weren't ever being added to again, that hour he wouldn't spend at Grimmauld Place.
He was going to spend the hour wishing despite long years of disappointment anyway, nothing would stop that, but he didn't have to encourage it. He said to Harry, "no."
"I guess, yeah," Harry said. "why do you keep looking at the door?"
Remus blinked, and focused once more on Harry's face. he had been looking at the open kitchen door, and it was because this was that one hour, and he'd been waiting for Sirius to come through it, angry, alone, never the right man or the thing that made everything better, but familiar and loving just the same.
He stayed for the auction, perversely taking pleasure as Borgin and Burkes removed the now-safe furniture, probably to just re-curse it and sell it to someone like the Malfoys. Harry had told him he could keep anything he liked, but Remus didn't want any souvenirs from the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix; even though it wasn't official, it was pretty firmly non-verbally stated that he was out, and not coming back in.
The movers carried chaises out, covered with thick, oily cloth to protect the delicate, yellowed upholstery, they carried out a massive dining room table that Remus hadn't even laid eyes on before, one massive scratch in the beautiful finish. He suspected Sirius had taken a knife to it in very physical, non-magical, rage. He also suspected that a simple refinishing charm would take care of it.
"And the next piece we've got, very valuable - so much so that it comes with the wall it was attached to-- the tapestry of--"
Harry darted forward, muttered in the auctioneer's ear, and immediately an aide bundled it away and the auctioneer announced another item. Remus knew Harry wanted to burn the entire thing, he knew Harry wanted to tear it to pieces himself. But Harry was going to keep it.
A witch, whose only movements thus far had been to wave a little placard to bid on a set of very fine china, leaned over to him and said, "It's such a shame, isn't it?"
Remus looked back politely. "what is?"
She gestured vaguely; she had to be at least seventy. "The history that's been lost from this house." Off Remus's face, she added, "well, no, not all of it's good, but it's gone now. And I'd been so looking forward to those silver goblets that young Mrs. Black used to have."
Remus stood, murmuring an excuse and and smiling at her, and made his escape. Sirius would have flipped out at her, would have raged later, would have called anyone that wanted even the tiniest piece of his family's history evil and rancid and horrible, but Remus knew better. He'd kept nothing in his hands, but he'd kept enough from this house all the same, and besides - to her, it was just a goblet. No harm done.
"that's the last of it," Harry told him, as he'd finally unloaded the last safe contents of Sirius's mother's jewelry box for quite a large sum. Harry spun around in the hall, and finally sank to the second stair. "Nothing left."
"No," Remus answered him. "nothing left."
Nothing except the house, and the stairs, and the echoing, and the scratch in the wall in Sirius's father's bedroom, that one full moon where Remus had been too agressive and bit himself even with the Wolfsbane, and the stained blood and much larger scratches in the brick in the cellar, once Wolfsbane was no longer available. Nothing except an extendable ear under the Muggle refrigerator that Harry had installed last month - nothing except absolutely everything Remus reached for and couldn't ever have, and dust.
"You're sure--" Harry started, and then stopped. Of course he was sure. No one but Harry, possibly, could ever know how it didn't matter what kinds of reassurances or what kinds of things could be dangled in front of his nose, Remus wasn't biting anymore. He wasn't even angry; just left out in the cold. Empty rooms to wander through and haunt. Remus could haunt the rest of his life quite fine.
"Okay," Harry finally told him.
Remus shook his hand, and didn't react to the flinch that Harry gave. He wasn't yet twenty. Remus walked down the steps of Number 12, Grimmauld Place, and paused on the last step.
this was the thing - he would have given anything, anything at all, to have had the hope left that one day Sirius would have invited him to stay like Harry just had, but he couldn't even believe in it in retrospect, he couldn't even allow himself that lie. Sirius might have; they might have worked out a situation to have more than just a handful of happy memories since leaving school. But Remus wouldn't have bet on them.