Why was the hall always this cold? Despite his accelerated heartbeat, Remus was shivering under his thin, shabby cloak.
I'm doing it again. That's not Sirius. Sirius is… gone. I saw him go. I must stop this, this is what, the third time this week?
Remus Lupin watched the tall, bald stranger hold up his hands in a curiously soothing gesture and step back from the mouldy curtains that covered Mrs Black's portrait.
It's the eyes. That must be it. The man's eyes, that strange colour, like molten lead, and their expression… empty, black pits, eyes, not unlike Sirius' eyes when I saw him first in the Shrieking Shack, the day he tried to kill Peter. I must stop that, stop seeing Sirius everywhere or Arthur will sic Molly on me again.
He felt the irrational spark of hope he had nurtured since he had read Harry's letter die.
"I have made some tea and there is some Firewhiskey for you as well, Alastor. I suggest we talk in the kitchen. If you please."
Remus' shoulders sagged as he turned and simply walked down the stairway to the big old kitchen leaving it up to his friends and the tall stranger to follow.
He could feel their gazes on his back. Tonks would be worried again. Sweet Tonks, always trying to cheer him up, her soft doe-eyes on him, watching him, trying to get him to "talk about it". As if that would help. Kingsley's eyes, always watching too, but discreet. A good man who respected people and their grief and did not intrude and prod, prod, prod like young, idealistic Tonks. Kingsley had lost enough friends to know when not to prod. Thank God, at least Mad-Eye would be too busy watching the man walking behind him to pay attention.
He took a few steps into the kitchen, turned and nearly jumped with surprise.
The stranger's steps, (Riddick?) were so silent that he had not noticed how closely he walked behind him. There was something in the way he walked, no, not walked, prowled. It was painful to watch him, watch him walk like that, walk to the chimney, sit down, prop up his feet.
My god. His feet. Up. There. Just where…and now, what is he doing, he takes Sirius' cup, SIRIUS' CUP, why did I put that on the table, I was going to throw it away, three sugars, he does not stir the tea. NO, NO, NO, it can't be, he even drinks like Sirius, how many times have I told him not to gulp like that, the tea is hot, he'll burn his tongue again, how many times-
Remus watched the man's head jerk up and around, the gesture painfully familiar, his alien dead eyes rising to him, watched him set the cup down in slow motion on the table. Saw the concern brighten those empty eyes, bring them to life
"Shit, Moony. You look like hell warmed over."
Such a deep voice, unfamiliar, but the words, the words were. Too familiar. He had heard them before, when was it their third year, after a full moon, that awful day, the day they had found out. Somehow he had got out of the Shack, woken up on the grounds, his friends standing over him. He remembered James' exclamation, "Sirius, your cloak, we have to cover him, damnit he's naked, and hurt, looks like something bit him!" and Sirius, Sirius looking at him with that same expression, he knew, yes Sirius knew he had bitten himself, Sirius telling him that he looked like hell warmed over before covering him with his cloak.
He could not move, he heard a cup shatter on the floor, heard Tonks shocked curse, nothing mattered, he could not breathe. His mind was empty, he wanted to disappear, he wanted to cry. He was finally losing it. Hallucinations. He wondered if somebody, anybody would come and visit him at St Mungo's.
Paralyzed, he watched the man stand up and walk over to him. Watched those big, toffee coloured hands rise, felt the grip on his arms. Felt himself engulfed in a bear hug, felt the shaky breath shudder through the unfamiliar, wide chest. Wrong. The man smelled so wrong.
"It's ok. I've got you. Moony. I'm really here."
The voice too was wrong but the accent, that familiar aristocratic accent. He heard his own voice, a broken whisper ending in a sob, much unlike his usual hoarse, collected tone. Pathetic. He was pathetic. Pain was stabbing in his temples, a familiar headache building, the moon was nearly full.
He could hear Tonks crying something, a name, his name, Moody warning her off, constant vigilance eh?
What was that moisture on his cheeks, was he weeping? He inhaled the unfamiliar smell once more.
"Get a grip you wimpy werewolf, don't make me jinx you to prove it. It's me and I'm here to stay!"
That was so typical for Sirius, the Sirius back at school, the Marauder, that it startled him into shaky laughter. He stepped back, stared wonderingly into his dead best friend's eyes.
"So how much time before it's wearing off?"
"Before what is wearing off?" The silver eyes narrowed, puzzled.
Was he supposed to ask that stupid question?
"Don't be daft. The Polyjuice potion of course! How much time? I want to see you, I need to see it's really you,"
The man stepped back, he actually stepped back from him.
Suddenly Remus was afraid of the answer, afraid of what he was going to hear. He felt the wary curiosity of his friends, the sudden rising distrust in the air. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Moody's grip on his wand tighten. He shivered.
"I didn’t take Polyjuice potion. I'm afraid it's a bit more complicated than that."
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