Kingsley remembered when he’d first joined the Order. As it happened, it had been just before the war ended.
He’d known Remus in school — not well, Remus was a few years above Kingsley and in Gryffindor (whereas Kingsley was in Ravenclaw), but he’d helped him with an essay on werewolves once, and Kingsley had found he was the most approachable of his group. You could even say that for all intents and purposes, they’d been friends.
The Remus he knew in the Order was different. He didn’t laugh as often, and was more withdrawn. When the war ended and Kingsley saw Remus at the funerals of James, Lily, and Peter, he did not speak a word to anyone, responding to every “I’m so very sorry, Remus” with a curt nod. He had the look, Kingsley recalled, of a man who had finally, after a long and painful endeavour, lost everything.
Kingsley understood that now.
Alice and Frank, still mad from the torture they’d endured all those years before. Sirius, shock on his face as he disappeared behind the veil. Amelia Bones, the crucial voice of reason in a corrupt Ministry. Emmeline, killed refusing to back down, because she’d never been one to do so. Sturgis, never quite right between Azkaban and losing Emmeline — Kingsley’s old friend was angry and bitter anymore. Dumbledore, so much more than anyone could explain. Alastor, who went with Mundungus so no one else might be left to die. Severus, the ally they’d given up all hope for. Remus, killed helping a former student fight Dolohov. Tonks, fighting Bellatrix Lestrange.
It was all well and good to be named Minister; Kingsley took the honour gladly. He could be a Minister. He could write and give speeches, push for new laws and regulations, get rid of barbaric ones, write up decrees to find the missing and assist those now without anywhere to go. Those things weren’t easy, but were nonetheless workable because they had functions and means, an exact process that would be followed.
Being human was much harder.
The burial was performed by the Fat Friar. It was an agreement Remus and Tonks had come to — although Kingsley imagined they’d had old age in mind. Having been a Hufflepuff, Tonks held the Friar in great esteem, and both of them had been fond of taking the unusual route.
Lyall and Andromeda Tonks were standing together, holding hands; as Kingsley understood it, they had scarcely left one another’s side since receiving the news. Harry and Ginny were standing close them, already accepted as members of their odd little family. When the grave was formed, Kingsley thought he heard Harry whisper, “Expecto Patronum.” Perhaps to everyone’s surprise, Lyall very quickly placed his free hand on Harry’s shoulder and squeezed it.
So many faces… Hermione was leaning against Ron’s chest, both of their faces long. Molly and Arthur, dear friends of them both. Hestia, Bill, Charlie and Fleur; they were among a few others around the same age. (Hogwarts friends, maybe?) Dean Thomas was staring at the grave with a vacant look in his eyes.
There wouldn’t be a reception — at least not one Kingsley was invited to; Andromeda had apparently arranged a brunch with Lyall, and he supposed the others also had private arrangements. Kingsley wasn’t sure Remus and Tonks would have wanted that anyway.
Everyone said their good-byes to one another, and Kingsley made his way to the Ministry. His Ministry.
Kingsley knew things would have to be returned, so he walked into the Auror office, and began to clear her desk. He was surprised the Death Eaters hadn’t desecrated it. A few new Aurors saw him, but said nothing. There was nothing to be said.
Kingsley looked up; Hestia had walked in from behind him. She must have heard him tell Arthur where he was going.
“I figured you’d need some help,” she explained. Her ordinarily pink cheeks lacked colour.
“I’m okay. You look like you could use some rest.”
Hestia laughed. “Really? You’re okay? Kingsley… you’ve barely spoken to anyone, and don’t you dare say you’re busy. Anyway, they were my friends, too. I’ve known Dora since we were kids.”
“I realize that. I’m very sorry.”
“You don’t have to be.” Hestia sighed. “I heard they won the Order of Merlin.”
“Lyall and Andromeda won’t accept Remus’s plaque, nor Dora’s. They say it’s too late.”
“Can you really blame them, after everything the Ministry put Remus through?” Hestia asked. “Not to mention Sirius.”
Kingsley shook his head. “Not in the slightest. But Teddy should have them.”
One by one small things were put into a box; old pictures, Tonks’s Auror certificate, Tonks’s Auror badge, paperwork, other miscellany. The last thing that caught Kingsley’s eye was a picture of Remus and Tonks around the time they would have first started dating, sitting in a couch laughing hysterically.
“That was them,” Hestia said softly.
Thinking about Remus troubled Kingsley once more. Of all the people who understood what Kingsley was going through… Kingsley had never asked Remus how he did it without losing his mind.
“I think that picture’s supposed to make you happy,” Hestia joked wryly.
“It’s just….” Kingsley stopped, and put the picture in the box, “I reckon we’re done here.”
“Oh, no, you don’t. You may be the Minister, but you’ll always be Kingsley to me. What’s on your mind?’
“I just wonder how they did it. How Remus did it, losing all of his friends. “
“I’ve wondered that myself,” Hestia admitted. “We never discussed it. There’s a lot of things we never…” She trailed off.
With no preamble, Kingsley and Hestia embraced. He realized that he didn’t want to let her go.
After a minute, Kingsley picked up the box and head out the door with Hestia in tow, still staying close to her. Or was she staying close to him?
“I think you should keep the plaques,” Hestia said suddenly as they got on the lift. “Then you can give them to Teddy yourself.”
“Because I’m the Minister for Magic?”
Hestia rolled her eyes. “You’re already that full of yourself? No. Because in the end, you were the one who shielded Sirius, who was a close friend of them both, who led the Order in Dumbledore’s absence before and after his death… they would’ve wanted it to come from you.”
Kingsley was taken aback. “Thank you, Hestia. You’re very wise, you know that?”
“Only with the help of some friends,” Hestia told him. “Well, I must dash, Bill and Fleur are hosting a gathering for the Hogwarts crowd.” She paused. “If you want to come, you’d be welcome. They know who you are, Dora’s talked about you at length.”
“That’s very nice, but unnecessary. I understand that you need your own time with them.”
Hestia smiled weakly. “At any rate, don’t disappear on me.”
“I won’t,” Kingsley promised.
And he meant it. They wouldn’t have wanted him to make their mistakes, to withdraw from the people who cared for him, to let someone he’d fallen in love with slip through his fingers. They would want him to do what it took them too long to do. To instead take comfort in those closest to him, to experience the joy they’d felt, to aim for a little more love in the world.