Summary: Beginning from the end. Remus, in the first minutes following Sirius' death.
Archive or Notable X-post:
Warnings: Character death
challenge, 1 April 2006
For reference, the prompt"Perhaps it may be a relic of the Roman 'Cerealia,' held at the beginning of April. The tale is that Proserpina was sporting in the Elysian meadows, and had just filled her lap with daffodils, when Pluto carried her off to the lower world. Her mother, Ceres, heard the echo of her screams, and went in search of 'the voice;' but her search was a fool's errand, it was hunting the gowk, or looking for the 'echo of a scream.'"
--"April Fool." Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
"He hasn't --"
"He has, Remus," Albus Dumbledore said softly, placing a gentle hand on Remus' shoulder, steering him away from the sight of the gaping veil.
Ruffled by an uncertain breeze, the veil swooped, affording glimpses of black mystery that tempted Remus with the delicate whisper of promise, but even in his grief-shocked state, Remus knew better than to wrench himself from Dumbledore's grip. As much as he longed to hurl himself through that dark portal that kept his lover among its many secrets, he knew it would be futile. Sirius was gone, even as the echo of his lost voice was still audible in Remus' ears, even though the soft warmth of his breath still ruffled Remus' hair. He could feel Sirius all around him, feel the temptation to turn back pulling on him like gravity; all he wanted was the touch of Sirius' skin beneath his splayed fingers, to feel Sirius' mouth open, lips expectant as they met for a kiss.Just one last
, Remus thought silently, eyes closed. He begged whatever uncertain entities may hover in the Ministry of Magic, his lips moving ever so slightly, making all the promises in the world, offering frantic prayers which would never be heard or, if heard, would go unanswered. One last touch, one last kiss
, Remus' stunned mind repeated in a desperate mantra. Behind his covered eyes, he could see Sirius as he would forever see him, from now on, a swirl of robes and glint of hair, the proud light in his eyes, the last hint of a fading smile.
Covering his mouth to still a cry, Remus opened his eyes, unsurprised to find that the light stung. He winced against it, the glow Sirius would never see again, and staggered a little, clutching Albus' shoulder for support. Over his shoulder, the veil seemed to call, the shadows beyond it beckoning him with sultry twists, offering the last glimmers of hope, but Remus held his ground. One foot after another, he walked away from it, leaving behind more of himself than he carried onward, stepping forward with a numb hollow where his heart, lost forever to Sirius, should have been.
Harry met them at the door, his eyes wild with panic and dangerous, youthful hope, their stubborn glow defiant in the face of the aged Headmaster, turning gentler, more pained, when he looked at Remus. "Aren't you going back for him?" Harry shouted, anger bubbling over and spilling out as he looked, startled, at the resignation on Remus' face. "You can't leave him!"
"We have to, Harry," Dumbledore offered. "There's nothing we can do."
Pat, the platitudes that followed; they did nothing to ease Remus' suffering, and only inspired Harry to further anger. The sympathy in the eyes of their comrades, the condolences, the soft thumps on the back, silent watchful faces with nothing to say -- Remus hated all of it, and found himself turning back to face the distant veil once more. The wind around it had died down, sent it back to its watchful, waiting sleep, where it flickered in the calming draft, with just the merest movements. Wrapped within, Sirius. Remus thought he could almost see his lost love peering out from within, forlorn and expectant, but when he blinked away the tears that blurred his vision, the image was gone and the veil was still.
Harry screamed, shouted, berated the Headmaster and most of all himself, burning from within, scorched by the guilt that settled like molten lava in his uneasy stomach. Remus hovered like a ghost, unable to feel the ground beneath his feet, the heat of his body fading as his skin waited, enduring the absence of touch. He watched himself, almost from a distance, as his thoughts took flight and refused to be captured. Unable to think, he listened to the thickening silence.
"You have to go back, Remus! You have to go back!" Harry's hands caught in his robes, dragging Remus forward, violently clinging to the fabric.
Remus raised his eyes from the floor, surprised at the weight, the sheer strength that burned away from that slightest of movements. He shook his head ever so slightly, exhausted, unsteady, and bit his lip, tasting the metallic salt of his own tears on his mouth. "Sirius is gone," he heard himself saying, and struggled not to utter a panicked scream of his own, so real did the words make it. "He's not coming back, Harry. There's nothing we can do."
"He's gone," Remus repeated, a short phrase he would find himself saying on many glowing mornings, when he awoke refreshed from cheerful dreams to a crisp, clear morning lit with golden sun, only to discover himself in his lonely bed, the expanse too wide for one man to fill, no matter how he stretched out his limbs. Too many sheets, he would have to note, too many sheets for one, remembering as he did the way Sirius always managed to take them all, twisting his limbs in and out in a silken tangle, leaving Remus shivering in his own still body until he awoke enough to press himself to Sirius' warmth.
Shaking his head, Harry gaped, open-mouthed. "I'll go back myself, then!"
"You cannot," Remus heard Albus announce, the weight of age and sorrow heavy on the Headmaster's words. His voice was like dust, but with the strength of steel beneath, and it was enough to silence the frantic, giddy beat of Remus's heart that had responded to Harry's defiance.
Nodding softly through the grim gleam of tears, Remus placed a hand on Harry's shoulder. "It's too late, Harry, to late to help Sirius. We don't know what happens beyond the veil. It would be a fool's errand."
They left a bitter set of three. Harry, energy and anger crackling through his limbs, led the way through the Ministry's twists and turns, his long legs scissoring down the immaculate hallways, charging as if to battle, jaw set, eyes bright. Next walked Dumbledore, his robes softly swishing around his ankles, his eyes, those old, old eyes, which had seen so much, staring straight forward, as if he could already see the next challenge, the next death.
Remus, for whom everything was lost, came last, his fingers trailing against the walls for balance, his gait slow, as if he was not pulling his own weight but something else entirely, which of course he was. He should have been lighter, with a cracked soul instead of a whole one, his heart, his hopes, his dreams, his very life abandoned in a certain chamber to which many never gained entrance, but to the contrary, he felt the weight of the world pressing on those tired shoulders, and crept accordingly.
When they came to the end of the hall, and began to ascend the stairs, Harry ran ahead, his thoughts on those in his company, his student-friends who had risen to the challenge, admirably, and followed him into the hell of his own making, the destruction they would all have been spared had Harry operated on brains instead of emotions, though none would ever blame him. Dumbledore, who had seen enough death to identify a thousand Thestrals, shifted out of grief like only the ancient can, convinced of the futility and aware of the secret offerings of the beyond, half able to see the silver glow of the next life themselves.
Last came Remus, who paused with one foot on the lowest stair, too tired for the climb. Wearied, he thought of the things that always brought him joy, of chocolate and the taste of Sirius when they kissed, of stars and friendship and brilliance, of school and long, languid afternoons spent with books. Nothing cheered him though, and he hovered unable to move for the longest time, his eyes on the stairs above him, his thoughts on the room below, where a gateway beckoned and the thin fabric of the world tore, where time and life and death were all in question. Where Sirius was.
He thought he took his last look then, when he paused, hand on the bannister, and turned to look back at that distant place where secrets and mystery reigned, unknown even by wizards, who claim to control the very essence of magic. To the veil, which flew and fluttered beguilingly, offering chances he would never take, concealing love he would never know again. But it was not his last look, even though he finally turned away, gritted his teeth the way only a werewolf can, with the taste of blood below the surface, the stain of loss spreading, almost visibly, over everything he saw. He would see that veil in his dreams nightly, and nightly would travel to the place of confusion and stolen souls, to the darkened room into which only a few were admitted, to wait and wish and bide his time, half-tempted, nearly daring, to venture beyond sight and into the black, only to turn away at the last possible second, from the temptation of the fool's errand.